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February 03, 2007

No, No Impossible

This can't possibly be true:

According to the Blacksmith Institute, a New York based environmental watchdog, three of the world's most polluted places — including Norilsk — are in Russia.

The legacy of a planned economy is massive pollution? Simply unbelievable, everyone knows that it's capitalism that rapes Gaia!

February 3, 2007 in Environmentalism | Permalink


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"The legacy of a planned economy is massive pollution?"

That's worth underlining because the fundamental arguments made in favour of the like of Fabian (or reformist and social democratic) models of socialism by, say, George Bernard Shaw (*) and kindred folks downstream were:

(i) capitalism without Socialist motivated interventions leads to unacceptable inequalities in the distribution of wealth and income;
(ii) only a centrally planned economy can internalise all externalities (or "spillover" effects) whether of the adverse and polluting variety or benign variety (eg education) and also provide for the supply of "public goods";
(iii) the business cycle in market economies brings periodic bouts of mass unemployment;
(iv) capitalist enterprise has no incentive to provide for universal social security and healthcare - hence the Elizabethan poor laws.

Note that "public goods" here relates to the special sense in which economists use the term, namely: goods and services which are non-rivalrous in consumption and where the "exclusion principle" doesn't operate.

To explain the jargon, bread is rivalrous in consumption because if I eat another slice there is one less slice available for everyone else to eat. However, if I listen to the Archers on BBCR4 (which I never do) that doesn't mean there is any less of the Archers on the airwaves for everyone else to listen to.

The "exclusion principle" is where those who don't pay to acquire or have access to a good or service can be prevented from enjoying it. In other words, "free-riders" can be kept away.

Until the advent of conditional access, public broadcasting was a typical example of a "public good" in the sense economists use the term. Another favoured early example was lighthouses to warn mariners at sea of dangerous rocks.

Keynesian economics was supposedly the answer to the possibility of mass unemployment.

(*) George Bernard Shaw: The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Socialism (1928) - but also (Nobel laureate) James Meade: The Intelligent Radical's Guide to Economic Policy (1975).

Posted by: Bob B | Feb 3, 2007 10:15:40 AM

Shooting fish in a barrel here since Soviet socialism has few defenders now.

It is backward technology that uses materials less efficiently that leaves more pollution. The true Green solution to most environmental problems is hi-tech. This does not go down well with FoI who aren't really environmentalist but Luddites under a false flag.

I will grant that bureaucratic state rules (eg replacing plastic bags with paper ones, or biofuels) make it worse.

Posted by: Neil Craig | Feb 3, 2007 3:47:56 PM

This is my main argument with the climate change alarmists. I happen to disagree with them about the science, but view that as an essentially academic argument, because, even granted that the science is absolutely right, socialism is how to make the problem worse, not better.

Posted by: Squander Two | Feb 3, 2007 11:04:20 PM

This does not go down well with FoI who aren't really environmentalist but Luddites under a false flag.

I think you're being grossly fair there. Luddites opposed technology in the interests of projecting jobs.

Environmentalists seem at best indifferent to jobs and at worst, hostile the idea of people becoming prosperous.

Posted by: Josh | Feb 3, 2007 11:19:48 PM