Archive for the ‘Bob Murphy’ Category

More on self-deception, mirror positions and libertarian reticence on climate policy

August 28th, 2009 No comments

I copy below (with minor changes for clarity) a further comment I made on the piece by Bob Murphy (“I’m Starting With the Man in the Mirror”) to which I referred in my prior post.  The comment on which I remarking is addressed by one commenter to Silas Barta:

cotterdan: I think the error in his view is that he will simply
dismiss everyone on the other side of the issue as some shill for the
oil companies. He doesn’t see the fact that it is the political elite
pushing for his ideas.

Can you see that you and your friends
have mirror positions and each think the other is wrong, when in fact
it is pretty clear that you are BOTH right – and that there are
rent-seekers behind each position?

Of course the firms and
investors that have been able to use the atmosphere as a free GHG dump
don`t want to start paying for the privilege (to the extent that they
have invested very heavily in protecting their current position), and
of course there are others who think that this poses risks to them and
what they value (and some who want government to make markets for them).

… I don’t mind what ideas you have on saving the planet. I just don’t want to pay for them.

think we all share your reluctance to see government do anything
coercive, and we share your reasons. Most commons problems are actually
much more susceptible to local solutions that would occur if
governments got out of the way and just let resource users come to
terms on them, but given that that the atmosphere is shared globally
AND there are countless other state actors that we just can`t force
from the table, there is simply no possibility of entirely voluntary
approaches arising (even though one could imagine them). Further, even
while each government will act by force of law at home, make no doubt
that any global agreements on climate change policy are in effect
large-scale Coasean bargains.

While libertarians may be entirely
unwilling to accept any state action, unfortunately the rest of the
country (and the world) does not share their compunctions. As a result,
it seems to me that the effect of a libertarian NO! is not simply to
defend the status quo ante (which in my view wrongly allows once group
of powerful rent-seekers to shift costs to the rest of society; YMMV),
but to enable the adoption of overly-costly (and heavy-handed) approaches; viz.,
cap-and-trade w/ vast pork, versus rebated carbon taxes w/immediate
capital write-offs, etc.

August 27, 2009 11:42 PM


Fun with Self-Deception and Rent-Seeking: Bob Murphy's "Man in the Mirror"

August 26th, 2009 No comments

Robert Murphy, Austrian school economist and blogger, is in my book a remarkably thoughtful and insightful commentator on current economic issues, even as I find some of his arguments on climate policy and energy to be shallow.

Bob`s balance and relatively rare introspection are on display in his recent blog post, I’m Starting With the Man in the Mirror, in which he directly addresses the way that people with differing views on health care and climate change policy tend to see their own views and actions as virtuous, while seeing “the other side” as having evil motives and acting unfairly.  Bob had started a blog post in such a vein, but then checked himself and realized that questioning the motives of all of the other side was probably unfair. 

My own thoughts are that Bob`s post is as fine as far as it goes, but that it remains partisan and fails to discuss the way that rent-seekers deliberately seek to exploit our partisan predilections. This failure is not particularly surprising, given not only Bob`s evident self-identification as a partisan, but the fact that he works for the Institute for Energy Research, a Rob Bradley-founded think tank that, along with its partner, the American Energy Alliance is a front for a particular set of rent-seekers – the fossil fuel interests.

Bob`s entire piece is worth reading, but here is the introduction:

“OK I must confess that this Wonk Room hit piece on my compatriots really ticked me off. I had originally wanted to blog it with the title, “Definition” and the comment, “If you want to know what ‘ad hominem’ means, just check out this Wonk Room piece on the AEA bus tour.”

“But then I calmed down a bit, realizing that the Wonk Room piece is really just the mirror image of what Glenn Beck did with Goldman Sachs, which I praised.”

The piece concludes in a similar vein:

“I’m just saying that, as ridiculous as Krugman’s paranoia over old people is, that’s how ridiculous some of our side’s rants against Obama fans must seem to people who know that they are really just trying to stem abuses they perceive in the health care system and so forth. They know they’re not socialists, just like we know “our guys” aren’t Nazis.”

Bob adds a brief meta-insight that I wish he had explored further:

“Don’t get me wrong, it is still perfectly consistent to think the elites in Washington are power-hungry liars. “

I left my own observations in a comment on Bob`s post, which I copy below:

Bob, on Goldman Sachs, you might enjoy this piece by Matt Taibbi at Rolling Stone.

Bob, I appreciate your attempt at even-handedness, and your implicit acknowledgment of how we are all plagued by problems of self-deception and confirmation bias, particularly with the context of battle with ideological enemies.

I hope you will continue the effort, even though it may come at a cost to effectiveness – sometimes there`s nothing like a broader understanding of the truth to get in the way of a good rant about the Truth.

The problems of self-deception, tribal division/conflict and their roles in rent-seeking are deep indeed, and you`ve barely scratched the surface.

I note, for example, that even though you try to be even-handed, you ironically identify those listed in the Wonk Room piece as your “compatriots”; if by implication the Wonk Room writers and others who support climate change action are NOT your compatriots, what country then are they citizens of?

I also note that those you call compatriots are officers of the Rob Bradley-founded American Energy Alliance, which is clearly an energy industry pressure group (and Republican-linked). You work at the free-market IER that Rob also founded, but apparently self-identify yourself with a group of fairly naked rent-seekers.

While it`s in our human nature to fall into partisanship, what`s more disturbing is the ways that rent-seekers deliberately try to take advantage of this penchant by fanning the flames of partisanship as a means of masking their own agendas while attacking others with competing preferences. This has been very clearly at work in battles over energy and environmental issues, where influence over government is the battleground.

I have made the point a number of times previously that such rent-seeking deserves much more attentions, but you have always professed puzzlement: what, ME, Bob Murphy, involved in a rent-seekers game?

To refresh your recollection, here are links to our previous discussions:

Bob Murphy, the Heritage Foundation and “green jobs” – ignore coal! We only pay attention to rent-seeking from greens/the left; and

In which I try to help Bob Murphy figure out just what the heck I`m talking about (when I say he`s entangled in a partisan, rent-seeking game).

I’m just saying that, as ridiculous as Krugman’s paranoia over old people is, that’s how ridiculous some of our side’s rants against Obama fans must seem to people who know that they are really just trying to stem abuses they perceive in the health care system and so forth. They know they’re not socialists, just like we know “our guys” aren’t Nazis.

Well said. Now how about acknowledging how the rent-seekers are busy at work trying to manipulate our partisan impulses to take everyone for a ride?

I of course am aware that rent-seeking is ubiquitous in our current political debates, and on climate and energy issues, there are many rent-seekers in addition to fossil fuel interests. My point is that it behooves us to pay attention to the manipulations of rent-seekers generally.

[Update] Gene Callahan, objectively unreal: If a blog comment is deleted, did it ever exist? And is the indignation I feel based on a moral code that has an "objective" existence?

July 16th, 2009 No comments

Your foolish reporter, having rushed in where even angels like Bob Murphy fear to tread, now reports the latest “unreal”, or at least the rather unbelievable, turn of events (and non-events), at Gene Callahan`s Crash Landing blog.

Readers may recall my earlier report regarding  Mr. Callahan`s blog post on the intriguing topic of whether “morals are objectively real”, which blog post oddly “disappeared” and was subsequenty resurrected (after my report here).

The latest news is that our philosopher king has, rather startlingly, slammed shut and bolted the windows and doorson the subject blog post, after uttering a stream of grumpy and dismissive comments,  “The Doctor Is In” sign has been yanked, and replaced with the sign

“New comments have been disabled for this post by a blog administrator.”

Comments are now closed on THIS thread – even though they remain open on ALL OTHER posts by Gene, from as far back as June 8.

That the proprietor added a parting shot (misdirected at a strawman, of course) after yours truly responded to prior comments is not particularly surprising, but what is very stunning is that my response itself has been DELETED, so that it appears as if, after being castigated by my superior,  I sinply tucked in my tail and slinked off.

[Update:  I note that I was alerted to the fact that comments had been turned off when Bob Murphy kindly sent me and email (cc`d to Gene) that indicated Bob`s willingness to take up  this subject on his own blog; when I asked why he hadn`t made this offer on the blog thread, he replied that he coul dn`t as comments had been closed.]

It was only after Mr. Callahan declined to respond to my email request for an explanation that I decided to remark here on this rather sad  state of affairs.]

This type of behavior may lead some to question Mr. Callahan`s maturity and sense of honor.  Is this how one treats “friends” or other invited guests, especially someone purportedly interested in a conversation about “truth”, simply because one does not like what others have to say?

Others may simply ponder whether Gene, fuelled not by dispepsia by by a fit of youthful good fun on a post regarding the “objective” nature of morals, has simply playfully tried to raise the questions of (a) whether blog comments, if removed by the blog proprietor, indeed ever existed, (b) if not, whether judgments as to his`s behavior can have any objective basis whatsoever and, of course (c) whether morals themselves have any objective reality.

But while others may disagree on how to evaluate such behavior (I have my own conclusions, but insist there is no objective moral order that makes me right and Gene and others wrong), I am confident, at least, that my now non-existent comment was objectively real.  For the benefit of others, I post below my complete comment (typos and all), in precisely the form I received it in my Inbox from “”, Gene`s blogging platform (one gets these little messages by suscribing:to the comments on particular posts)..

This、I hope, demonstrates that thoughts, however evanescent, are real.

Which leaves inquiring minds to ponder just what, if anything, Mr. Callahan hope to accomplish or demonstrate by his apparently petulant and ungentlemanly behavior, and whether he is satisfied with the results.  (Discussions of whether there is an objective moral order – one not relative to man or to particular societies and individuals – will have to be left to another day and, alas, a venue other than Crash Landing, which sems to be crashing and burning.)

Here`s the comment (which was initally posted before Gene`st last word); readers can check the blog post itself for context.

from TokyoTom <[email protected]>
to [email protected]
date Wed, Jul 15, 2009 at 3:09 PM
subject [Crash Landing] New comment on Morals Are Not Objectively Real and Neither Is….
TokyoTom has left a new comment on the post “Morals Are Not Objectively Real and Neither Is…“:

“As thoughts?! And thoughts consist of mass and energy?”

There are no diembodied thoughts. “Thoughts” is a word that describes
our perception of physical activty in our brain. We might record or
communicate our thoughts, which communications also have a physical

“No, Tom, he’s speaking of mental age”

Is he your sock puppet, or are you dissing me on your own?

“most people get through their materialist stage by about 20.”

I disagree – most people never seriously think about thinking. And all cognitive scientists are older than 20.

“”discussion” doesn’t exist since it’s not made of matter and energy”

says? Not me. Discussion and dialogue – communication – definitely
exist and have a material basis. Is the “freshman philospohy BS” I`m
parroting so difficult that even you can`t follow it?

“I know, there is no “point” to anything, as it’s all just a bunch of atoms colliding”.

might know this, but I certainly don`t. I appreciate the helpful
attitude, but maybe you can let me put my own thoughts in my own mouth?

really is no sense trying to “discuss” … things with “someone” …
who can keep such rubbish in their head is really quite “pointless””

get your drift despite the grammar, but if all of this is so easy AND
pointless, why do you have such difficulty actually describing what I
say (that freshamn philosphy BS), why didn`t you dispose of it months
adgo on your peaen to Danny Shahar (who seems to agree with me, BTW),
why did you even bother with post, and why have you still, after all of
this time, failed to respond to my questions above (about whether the
objective order is something that exists apart from mankind, and is
universal to all men and all life)?

Too easy? Too boring? Too pointless?

I had thought that if I came here, I would get to kill the English. Have I come to the wrong place, then?

“I hope your electrons thrive in the future, Tom!”

thayks; that`s the nicest thing I`ve heard all day. Not to look a gift
horse in the mouth, but electrons don`t thrive – and even though they
may be get excited, they never get disappointed!

Post a comment.

Unsubscribe to comments on this post.

Posted by TokyoTom to Crash Landing at 2:09 AM


A further remaining question is whether Charlie Brown will ever again accept Lucy`s invitation to kick a proffered football.


Bob Murphy on James Hansen and the "Civil War on the Left" over Waxman-Markey; where is criticism of pork for coal?

July 15th, 2009 No comments

James Hansen, a leading climate scientist at NASA (head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies) and Columbia University, last week`published a scathing criticism of the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill in the Huffington Post, and Bob Murphy noticed.

Bob offers a rather schizophenic view, expressing both:

  • admiration of (a) Hansen`s insistence – despite pressure from others on the left to dampen his criticism – that, given the risks posed by emissions of greenhouse gases, the Waxman-Markey bill is far from adequate and (b) Hansen`s criticism of the driving role provided by rent-seeking fossil fuel interests; and
  • amusement at the “fireworks” on the left that Hansen`s criticims will set off.

Oddly, it doesn`t seem to occur to Bob that Hansen`s criticism, despite flack from others, that Waxman-Markey is too weak in in the face of the risks that Hansen perceives, lends further credibility to Hansen and his concerns.  If Hansen takes his concerns THIS seriously, then perhaps othes should take him more seriously as well.  (Though to his credit, Bob does link to Hansen`s latest attempt to explain his understanding of climate risks).

It`s also odd that Murphy completely fails to explore Hansen`s criticisms of all of the subsidies to coal that the Waxman-Markey bill gives away, and ignores Hansen`s strong recommendation of a much leaner carbon-pricing strategy, rebated carbon taxes, of the type actively supported by Exxon and many others (not solely on the left).  Why is that libertarians refuse to criticize the 800 lb. gorilla in the room, while refusing to support carbon taxes?  For some at least, it appears that there is a decided lack of interest in biting the hand that feeds them, but wouldn`t a push against subsidies for coal and for a more transparent and less-burdensome climate still be salutary?  In a blog post that addresses Hansen`s stance, the Wall Street Journal asks the same question.  The NYT covers Hansen`s position as a news story.

I copy below a few remarks that I left at Bob`s blog (light editing):

Bob, it`s nice to see you respect Hansen for sticking to his gunds, but
it sounds like you`re mainly expressing schadenfreude, with the hope
that he might forestall W-M.

But Hansen is not taking his own
“rhetoric” seriously, but his own views of the SCIENCE. And those
views, while they hopefully turn out to be wrong, are no laughing
matter. (Presumably you know how to check Hansen`s website directly for
his scientific publications.)

On policy, as I have pointed out a number of times, Hansen has come out strongly in favor of pork-lite, rebated carbon taxes;
too bad that libertarians have showed so little interest in pushing for
carbon policies that are least damaging, but instead, but fighting
everything tooth and nail have instead contributed (inadvertently?) to
massive subsidies for coal.

You might also enjoy the sight of Dennis Kucinich, for reasons similar to Hansen, voting against Waxman-Markey.

But pork aside, I think that Joe Romm, in his response to Hansen, has the better arguments. On the question of pork, I note the continuing lack of criticism of old King Coal [by yourself and by Rob Bradley].

[Updated] Are blog posts by Gene Callahan Objectively Real? Perhaps not

July 13th, 2009 No comments

[Update:  Happy news!  The subject blog post, once non-existent, has (been) resurrected!  Discussions, with a decided acerbic philosopher-king, continue!]

[Update part Deux: Unfortunately, as noted elsewhere, our ill-humored host has closed out his blog post, after deleting my response to a string of comments and adding a coda of his own.]

In a blog post in mid-May, libertarian wisdom-lover Gene Callahan articulated the thesis that there is an objective moral reality.  I copied here my discussion on the comment thread with Gene.  In the ensuing months, Gene has maintained strict radio silence, despite a few subsequent efforts by me to engage him.

At last however, it seems that on July 10, Gene posted a follow-up post, entitled “Morals Are Not Objectively Real and Neither Is …”.

“It seems”, I say, because the blog post, which I distinctly recall, no longer exists.  Google reports faint emanations from the post in various web pages, including the following cache of the apparent post:

Morals Are Not Objectively Real and Neither Is…

My friend laughed. “If morals
are objectively real, where are they?”

“Hmm,” I thought, good point. “So, the only things that are
objectively real are those located in space and time.”

“But, wait… the physical universe is not located in space and time,

“The physical universe is not objectively real!”

posted by Gene Callahan @ 3:35 PM

(emphasis added)

The contents of the non-post, and the lack of its current existence, lead me to wonder, as I wander out under the sky, the thoughts pondered in my post title.

I note that my Gmail inbox contains messages from the Twilight Zone, which indicate that I, Bob Murphy and Gene might have made the following comments on Gene`s non-post:

TokyoTom has left a new comment on the post “Morals Are Not Objectively Real and Neither Is…“:

Gene, thanks for revisiting this topic, but it doesn`t seems you`re
really exerting yourself, other than to make light of what you purport
to take seriously.

You might be the only guy chasing his tail who fooled himself into thinking he caught it.

existence is proof that the universe exists in space and time. But
where do morals objectively exist, apart from the individuals thinking
about them? Do other species have “morals” that govern their behavior,
or is there no objective moral order apart from man? Is the human
“objective” moral order universal, for all individuals, across all

Inquiring ants want to know!


Bob Murphy has left a new comment on the post “Morals Are Not Objectively Real and Neither Is…“:

TT, I don’t think most physicists (at least most cosmologists) would agree with you. The physical universe itself does not have particular space-time coordinates; relative to what?

rather than giving such a grandiose example, can’t you pick something
easier, like the Pythagorean Theorem or a pun? I grant you, no matter
what you pick, TT or other critics will find some reason to throw out
your remark as silly, but still it might be helpful.

For the
record, folks, I used to be a materialist and Gene talked me down from
the ledge. I didn’t even realize how much importance I was vesting with
the physical world until I debated him about it on anti-state.


TokyoTom has left a new comment on the post “Morals Are Not Objectively Real and Neither Is…“:

Bob, the fact that the universe itself is not a turtle sitting on the
back of another doesn`t mean that the universe and matter/phenomena
within it are not OBJECTIVE.

question, assuming Gene is not asserting the lack of objectivity of the
universe, is just what the heck Gene MEANS by “objective”, and just how
it is that there is an moral order to the universe that exists just as
objectively as, say, Saturn, the Tokugawa bakufu ot Gitmo.


Gene Callahan has left a new comment on the post “Morals Are Not Objectively Real and Neither Is…“:

“Our existence is proof that the universe exists in space and time.”

that’s ridiculous. Think about what you’re saying — the universe
cannot be “in” space! Just where in space do you think it’s located?


Gene Callahan has left a new comment on the post “Morals Are Not Objectively Real and Neither Is…“:

“Bob, the fact that the universe itself is not a turtle sitting on the
back of another doesn`t mean that the universe and matter/phenomena
within it are not OBJECTIVE.”

Exactly right, Tom — the fact that something is not located in space and time does not mean it’s not objective.

Gene`s implication appears to be that, just as the universe does not
exist in space or time, but is objective, so there exists an objective
moral order, that does not exist in space or time. 

If so, inquiring minds want to know (1) whether the objective moral
order is a part of the universe, (2) what methods can we apply to
confirm the existence of and explore the objective moral order, (3)
whether such methods are distinct from the scientific method, and (4)
just what the heck Gene means by “”objective”, anyway.

I`m not half as smart as I think I am, but I am now thoroughly
befuddled, not only as to what Gene believes is “objective”, but also
how to continue a non-existent discussion.

Thorough defense by Joe Romm of Waxman-Markey against "carbon tax + dividend" James Hansen; where is "Principled Entrepreneurship" Bradley on fat subsidies for coal?

July 12th, 2009 No comments

Joe Romm`s defense of Waxman-Markey against climate scientist James Hansen (who prefers rebated carbon taxes and a faster phase-out of coal) is effective and worth a read.

Notably, however, Romm makes no attempt to justify all of the pork now in the bill, including the huge subsidies to coal (Congressman Ed Markey: “We have in huge subsidies for clean coal. Huge. Much more than we have in for renewables.”), which are one of the reasons why Greenpeace has wtihdrawn its support for the bill.

Hope springs eternal that Rob Bradley, in his “free-market” MasterResource energy blog, his Institute for Energy Research or their more blatant PR arms like “grass roots” American Energy Alliance (or side-kick Bob Murphy) will criticize past or ongoing rent-seeking  (“political capitalism”) by King Coal, but so far it looks very much like the piper is calling the tune – to the extent that Rob Bradley bans commentators who note the lack of balance in the application of “Principled Entrepreneurship” (which Bradley has trademarked!).


[Updated] Bob Murphy: Rob Bradley's "IER Calls for End to All Energy Subsidies" – Not

July 6th, 2009 No comments

[Update at bottom.]

Bob Murphy, Austrian economist and part-time consultant for Rob Bradley`s Institute for Energy Research, asserted in a recent blog post that “IER [has] Call[ed]  For End to All Energy Subsidies”.  I took a closer look at the recent commentary at IER that Bob pointed to as support for his position, and came away unimpressed.

I posted the following comments to Bob in response a week ago; since I have heard nothing further from Bob, I think it`s worth copying them here (with editorial comments in brackets):

Bob, I`m sorry, but where does IER (or MasterResource) actually CALL “for an end to all energy subsidies”? They certainly don`t do so expressly in this op-ed. I`d be thrilled if you could point the way to other places where Bradley`s various enterprises specifically call for an end to subsidies and other regulatory favors for coal.

By bashing WaPo`s inconsistent concerns about “clean coal” subsidies [in an interesting editorial about rent-seeking by coal firms that ignores other rent-seekers] – and bashing clean energy interests while refusing to criticize rent-seeking by coal – it seems fairly apparent that IER remains a friend of big coal, and of the big thumb that government has long placed on the scales in its favor.

“That would at least make them intellectually consistent. But it appears there is no room for logic and consistency when you have an agenda to advance.” [from Rob Bradley`s commentary]

Such apt words!

Categories: Bob Murphy, Coal, IER, Rob Bradley Tags:

Evolution & religion: Idle hands express idle thoughts about Bob Murphy`s determination to apply reason to his insistence that "non-believers burn in hell"

June 22nd, 2009 No comments

I refer to Bob Murphy`s blog post, “Do Non-Believers Burn in Hell?”, which is still active, but with little further contribution from Bob (who`s been busy doing God`s work  on other matters). In the post Bob asserts that “the doctrines of Christianity make sense and are logical” and attempts to explain what he means by his belief that atheists are “going to hell.”

Below are my two posts on the thread.  The first asks Bob to clarify his logic; the second steps back to meta-issues that are too often unexplored in arguments over religion.

A. June 14, 2009 5:23 AM

Bob, if you`re in favor of using your reason when contemplating God, can you tell me:

1. is there a hell? what evidence is there for hell?

Who goes to hell? You suggest “person[s] who actively rejected the
Creator’s offer of friendship”, but by this (a) do you imply that
everyone got a “personal” offer? how so?

(b) if not, what
happens to those throughout human history who never got a personal
offer, or who thought their offer was to follow Judaism, Islam, the
Budddha, etc?

(c) what about those with limited capacity –
children (including those stillborn, or naturally or artificially
aborted), the mentally handicapped? do they burn in hell for eternity,
or are they united in communion with the Creator?

I`m not sure
where reason leads us in matters of faith, other than we have a
capacity to believe all manner of what seems obvious nonsense now.

B.  June 22, 2009 4:42 AM

James, I think you are being far too judgmental.

And I think this discussion generally is too shallow.

I suggest that you – and others – step back to consider the role of
“Ritual and Religion in the Making of Humanity,” as explored in a book
of that title by Roy Rappaport (former head of the American
Anthropology Assn.
and published postumously)?

recognized the role that ritual and “sacred postulates” (later,
religions) have played in the evolution of man as a social animal, by
providing a fundamental way of ordering the world, the group`s role in
it, and the individual`s role in the group – thereby abating commons
problems both within and created by the group.

The religious
lies at the root of our human nature, even as its inviolable, sacred
truths continue to fall by the wayside during the long march of
culture and science out of the Garden of Eden.


Google Books

review by Mary Catherine Bateson


Especially as we live in an increasingly global world, it behooves us all to know ourselves better – even us hermits in Tokyo.

Can we sheath our vorpal swords?




On Bob Murphy`s narrow attack on Krugman`s support for the Waxman-Markey climate bill

June 12th, 2009 No comments

I just stumbled into Bob Murphy`s June 8 post at the LvMI Daily site, and submitted a few comments.  As it looks like my links prevented my comments from posting, I`ve copied them here (with a few typo tweaks and links added):

Bob, I didn`t realize you had put a post up here.

Allow me first to copy here a few points that I made on your related post at MasterResource, but which freedom- and open-debate-loving Rob Bradley blocked (your truly has been banned there for the past few months):

“The below is copied from MasterResource, where I remain on permanent moderation – IOW, banned – even though Bob and the authors of various threads seem perfectly interested in engaging me.

“TokyoTom { 06.09.09 at 12:53 am }

A few comments, if I may (in the hope that springs eternal that even the “unclean” will be allowed to post): [Note to readers:  rest easy; that the final “I`ve been banned!” reference.]

1. “Cost/Benefit Analysis Cannot Justify Waxman-Markey’s Aggressive Targets”

Why this headline, which is completely unsupported in the post?

You do link to a prior post, where you try to draw the conclusion that “If the whole world adopted the stringent emission cutbacks in Waxman-Markey, then the costs to the global economy would far outweigh any reasonable estimate of the benefits (measured in avoided climate damage)”, but both there and here you fail to address Weitzman, much less more fundamental problems regarding the validity of CBA (aggregating preferences across persons situated vastly differently, ignoring the problems of frustrated preferences, enrtrenched rent-seeking and the continuing lack of property rights or other mechanisms to manage an important commons).

And far from “agree[ing] with you”, the RFF paper much more fairly illustrates some of the complexities in applying CBA to the moving ball of international negotiations.

2. “the costs to the global economy would far outweigh any reasonable estimate of the benefits (measured in avoided climate damage)”

“Yet mainstream models of the global economy and climate system show that worldwide adoption of Waxman-Markey would be foolish as well. It takes heroic assumptions both of lurking climate catastrophes and of international dipomacy to justify support for the current bill.”

Again, you offer conclusions not established here or elsewhere. You appear to acknowledge your overstatements when you say: “If proponents of aggressive government measures want to say the benefits justify such costs, fair enough; but let’s not kid ourselves that this is going to be cheap.”

3. “RFF study, which says the cumulative cost through 2050, expressed today in present-value terms, is up to $43 trillion worldwide.”

Actually, don`t the RFF authors make clear that this estimate is based on universal adoption worldwide and least-cost reductions – 70% of which would take place in developing countries – with a clear indication that such countries are not likely to act agressively for decades? Accordingly, the RFF study implies that global costs will fall below the straight estimate.

4. It is interesting to me that you ignore the dynamics of the international context of climate policy and negotiations. Why no comment on the observations in the RFF paper that likely “leakage” of carbon-heavy industry to developing countries and dampening Western demand for fossil fuels will constitute net subsidies that spur development in poorer parts of the globe?

Your comment is awaiting moderation.”

Thanks for putting these up at your own blog.

Further, let me note:

1.  Your criticism of W-M on conventional CBA grounds is limited to W-M, and doesn`t address the many CBA analyses that conclude (as Nordhaus has done weakly for decades) that carbon pricing mechanisms are now justified.  Economist Richard Tol last year summarized the economic literature as follows:

Firstly, greenhouse gas emission reduction today is justified. Even the most conservative assumption lead to positive estimates of the social cost of carbon (cf. Table 1) and the Pigou tax is thus greater than zero. Yohe et al. (2007) argue that there is reason to reduce greenhouse gas emissions further than recommended by cost-benefit analysis. The median of … peer-reviewed estimates with a 3% pure rate of time preference and without equity weights, is $20/tC. …. The case for intensification of climate policy outside the EU can be made with conservative assumptions. … Secondly, the uncertainty is so large that a considerable risk premium is warranted. With the conservative assumptions above, the mean equals $23/tC and the certainty-equivalent $25/tC. More importantly, there is a 1% probability that the social cost of carbon is greater than $78/tC. This number rapidly increases if we use a lower discount rate—as may well be appropriate for a problem with such a long time horizon—and if we allow for the possibility that there is some truth in the scare-mongering of the gray literature.  Thirdly, more research is needed into the economic impacts of climate change—to eliminate that part of the uncertainty that is due to lack of study, and to separate the truly scary impacts from the scare-mongering.”

[Cato`s Jerry Taylor has a good summary of Tol`s review here.]

2.  Granted that you focussed narrowly on W-M, but by doing so you completely fail (a) to acknowledge the atmosphere/climate system as an open-access commons under growing infuence by man, and (b) to put forward a “free market” agenda that would serve as a win-win response to the wide array of people, firms, institutions and nations that are concerned about man`s role in ongoing climate change and about the likelihood of future climate change stemming from the growing use of fossil fuels and other human activities.

Are you indeed interested in addressing people`s legitimate preferences regarding climate, and pushing for freer markets?  This is a question that I have asked Rob Bradley at his self-declared “free market” MasterResource blog any number of times.

Rob has stated there in response to me [before he banned me] that: “a free-market approach is not about “do nothing” but implementing a whole new energy approach to remove myriad regulation and subsidies that have built up over a century or more”, but he and his co-bloggers (including you) haven`t  seen fit yet to actually recommend ANY free market approaches to climate concerns!

Failing any effort to actually offer policy suggestions, is it unfair to wonder whether you guys are, consciously or not, simply providing cover for the rent-seekers who benefit most by generating pollution and other risks in the manner permitted by current regulations?  (Why did Exxon stop funding Rob`s Institute for Energy Research, BTW?) 

[It`s very clear that Joe Romm and others perceive you this way; are you not seeking to persuade them?]



PS:  Your chief post doesn`t actually link to the comment thread, which readers have to search for.  You might want to fix that.


Question at Bob Murphy`s: can ending a tragedy of the commons create jobs / enhance wealth?

May 22nd, 2009 5 comments

Check out the comments to Bob Murphy`s post that rightly but shallowly criticizes the “green jobs” mantra, EDF Summarizes Bastiat in One Picture.  I refer to Rockwell and Block.

Categories: Block, Bob Murphy, commons, rockwell Tags: