Thursday, December 6, 2012

More Green Keynesianism

More evidence for the "Green Keynesian" macroeconomic proposition that the fiscal multiplier associated with renewable energy and energy efficiency is greater than that for fossil fuels, while the externalities are much less. New numbers shows the UK's renewable energy and energy efficiency sector is doing very well despite the Coalition Government's best efforts to trammel it.

Remember, even green growth cannot continue forever on a finite planet, so eventually we will need an ecological macroeconomics, rather than mere addenda to Keynes, but my contention that this process, which is desirable but which will inevitably weaken the western world economically, militarily, and diplomatically, can only happen after threats to democracy are dealt with hasn't encountered a credible counter-argument yet.

What I notice, though, is that many commentators and eco-pundits muddle their economic prescriptions, calling on the one hand for a very aggressive trammeling of corporate growth and hegemony across the board, while lauding the green economy on the other, despite the fact that corporations are involved. At least, that's what I seem to get out of some of the editorials and books, I've read lately, McKibbon and Speth being the two prime examples.

I guess our corporations are OK. It's the other ones that are bad.

Four legs good, two legs bad.

Actually, probably the clearest example is Monbiot's latest Gruaniad jeremiad.

Mr. Monbiot, who lives in my grandmother's home town of Machynthlleth in west Wales, has always taken a hard but consistent line on capitalism and neo-liberalism. I'm not unsympathetic, and I do think you can have it both ways, much as the Scandinavians have done, especially Danes and Norwegians.

But the revision of property rights and economic rights that would be required for a serious revision of American capitalism is probably not good politics right now and for the foreseeable. We can barely manage health care reform that favors a capitalistic health care industry, let alone a government-run system of national health care. In particular, the education requirements needed before the American electorate began to think ecological economics was good politics would be rather great.

So pragmatically, much of this is the same kind of utopianism we saw in early ecological economics and the green movement from the 1970s on.

There's nothing wrong with having a utopian ideal as a touchstone. It's good to know what you'd like the world to look like if everything fell into place. And there's great value in calling into question our weak-minded thinking regarding the multiple, overlapping, systemic failings of capitalism. All this has value. Monbiot says we have neoliberal dogma, and he's right. I don't believe there's any reason to imagine that a corporate world is a natural state of affairs, any more than there was reason to imagine that absolute monarchy or mercantilism were. We could do better. Perhaps much better.

But I don't think we can do better in time, and that's the point.

We need a climate policy that can be enacted in five years, ten at the most. We're not going to be storming the barricades. The ocean is going to be storming our barricades!

And we need to see much greater growth of human rights and democracy around the world before the west decides to shrink economically and militarily.

So we're probably stuck with green Keynesianism for now. I for one just want to get on and enact as much of it as we can.

It's our BATNA. And it seems to be working.

But too slowly.

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