Tuesday, October 6, 2015

A "Bi-Partisan" Approach

A group calling itself the Citizens Climate Lobby proposes a mechanism termed "tax and dividend" to sell carbon pricing to a more general audience, including conservatives. Under this scheme, a steadily increasing tax (starting at $15 per ton CO2 emitted)is placed on carbon production at the source and the "rebates" distributed equally back to consumers rather than the State. This can be sold as a "free market" solution which "unleashes entrepreneurs and investors" a particular fetish among conservatives, enabling it to gain backing from classical economists like Nordhaus and Mankiw and a few moderate Republicans in the Senate. The takeaway message here is: Don't be spooked by radicals like Naomi Klein or the Pope, there is no cataclysmic Market failure or critique of capitalism, just a few incremental tweaks and Market Magic will fix everything and everything will be fine. Of course true free market fundamentalists will see the price controls and tariffs and scream Trojan Horse! Beware! But the problem I have with this scheme is it leads to exactly what Rising Tide warns us of; "solar heated sweat shops". In other words, it leaves in place a system which by its very nature produces inequality and class conflict, imperialism and exploitation and a commodified lifestyle devoid of meaning or meaningful social relations. It does nothing to change the destructive relationship between humanity and nature and pushes off the agenda a real opportunity to change society in a profound, and much better, way. Still, it might be the only possible approach with a chance to slow climate chaos.

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