Monday, February 11, 2019

Ryan Bourne — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal is a radical front for nationalizing our economy

"Socialism." Cato Institute, what to expect?

At the same time, Ryan Bourne's objection that the GND goes way past what is needed to address climate change and that its true agenda is broadly imposing progressive policy needs to be addressed.

Ryan Bourne also brings up a point I often make myself. Economics is fundamentally about choice involving tradeoffs and opportunity cost. Rational choice is ruled by effectiveness and efficiency in doing so. Effectiveness is about setting goals, which usually implies choosing objectives and prioritizing them based on values. Values are normative and therefore contain a subjective element.

Policy is therefore values-based and people may disagree over values. This is the basis of political choice. The so-called "rational" solution may be illusive under such conditions.

There is also a difference between needs and wants. Needs have a higher priority than wants. So the challenge is distinguishing them first and then choosing and prioritizing objectives. 

The basic need is, of course, survival. Progress and prosperity are subordinate. Economists of the past have observed that the basic needs in a social system are survival and reproduction (long-term survival) of the system.

If global warming is an existential ecological threat that is pressing, as many now believe based on scientific opinion, then the need to do what it takes to meet this challenge to survival is indisputable.

After that, other priorities can be considered in the formulation of policy, like optimizing prosperity and progress.

Ryan Bourne is correct is stating that we need to be clear about these matters and debate the issues in these terms.

While I prefer a progressive approach, it is not a slam-dunk and needs to be carefully worked out and also compared with other approaches in open debate. Establishing a framework that doesn't bias the debate is the underlying challenge. 

This is difficult to meet since the parties have opposing assumptions, substantive and procedural, based on ideological differences that imply different value structures and different ways of organizing data into information. So it is bound to be a political tussle.
Just to ram home the absence of trade-offs, we are also told this will be financed by printed money. Ocasio-Cortez subscribes to the view that governments can apparently spend and spend forever, with the only constraint being the capacity of the economy. Yet, even under the crank Modern Monetary Theory model that recommends this, inflation will surely result from so much new government spending. 
By investing in inefficient energy sources and taking labor and capital away from productive industries, economic capacity will shrink as well — making this outcome more likely.
Ordinarily, a pitch to put society on a war footing to adopt expensive power sources, restrict people's ability to fly and eat what they want, and redistribute vast new sums of printed money would be considered politically bonkers. Yet remarkably, Democratic presidential candidates, including Sens. Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand, have endorsed this resolution...
You get the picture. Read this as an early shot.

USA Today — Opinion
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal is a radical front for nationalizing our economy
Ryan Bourne | R. Evan Scharf chair for the Public Understanding of Economics at the Cato institute

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