Sunday, December 6, 2015

Incentivized to destruct

I was heartened to see all the media attention on the Paris climate talks, even if much of it was focused on post-terrorist-attack crowd control. Then came the California attack and the big attention shift so that now we get vague reports from closed door sessions inhabited by delegates and representatives (of governments and industries). There is a draft. It is "somewhat ambitious". We don't know how to be optimistic. We don't want to sound naive. We wait to praise and/or criticize. The big puppets and banner waving never did much good anyway. Meanwhile, the US Congress declares its selective sovereignty (you never hear dissension when the global elite meets in Davos!)and intellectual isolation by rejecting in advance ANY deal that is made. This is actually a good thing to the degree it de-legitimizes these clowns. The issue of compromise and coalition building and "not letting the perfect get in the way of the good" is perfectly illustrated by a Bozeman climate group's promotion of Rep. Bob Inglis, a Republican hoping to bring conservatives out of denialism and into solution building. The Bozeman folks believe in the need for "bi-partisan" support for a Tax and Dividend plan devised by climate scientist James Hansen. Bob Inglis says that to do this, there is certain "language you must use". Here we enter the realm of ideology and the symbolic props which support it: sure it looks and smells and walks like a skunk (taxes, regulation, nanny-state, etc) but if we call it a striped cat (free enterprise, competition, self-interest, etc) conservatives will let it sit on their lap AS IF it were a feline. The wink and nod may be (sub)conscious, but does it really matter if it helps the climate? Yes, it totally matters. Bob Inglis knows "the invisible hand" has failed spectacularly. (Who remembers Allen Greenspan being forced into this same admission?)But he hopes to salvage his sacred market ideology by finessing an arcane argument around externaities,ie "setting a price that best approximates the marginal harm by CO2 emissions". Plenty of liberals want to go this route as well,by the way. It is precisely this ideology (equating "freedom" and abundance" and "care for the poor" with market efficiency and rationality) that Naomi Klein and Fredrick Jameson tell us must be swept into the dust bin of history. And this is the moment to do it, to seize Shock Doctrine style, if you will. Bob Inglis is in no position to wring a concession out of the climate movement. The skunk is a skunk, "externalities" is where regulation and planning and collective state decisions pre-empt the failed market because those "negative externalities" ( costs to parties not included in price negotiations, for instance, htose generations of the future) can never be fully "recognized" nor calculated. Leading to distorted pricing and perverse incentives. Bob is just going to have to figure out how to explain this to "conservatives". Sorry.

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