Monday, December 12, 2016

Final day summary for EcoEco

OK. We're done. The snow has taken away our last class meeting.

I don't hear too many complaints.

Had I chance to sum up, I would have said that the work of Daly and Farley and other ecological economists shows that mainstream modern economics, especially macro, is rife with conceptual, scientific and moral error. But I would have also said that this doesn't mean to say we can get rid of mainstream economics anytime soon. It's a bit like the British Monarchy, or perhaps some parts of the US Constitution in that regard. There's not an obvious replacement available, certainly not one politically acceptable in the USA, and it acts as one of the several institutional pillars that kind of hold up western society. Until a replacement is sufficiently developed and accepted, it's better to have it than to imagine the anarchy that would otherwise result. Having said that, the experience of the Scandinavian countries shows what can happen when you question the application of mainstream economics. I encourage you to tolerate the existence of mainstream economics for the time being, but question it at every level you can, using the tools that this class has begun to give you. You'll need to keep developing your critical toolkit, though, to be good at this. The class was just an opener.

I would also have pointed out that one of the first acts of the Trump transition team with regard to the EPA was to ask for a list of scientists that had worked on the problem of the social cost of carbon pollution and on climate costs in general. Clearly, these colleagues are about to be purged of their jobs, or at least sidelined in the bureaucracy. Here's the link:

There are two relevant things to say about this:

1) If externalities and social cost thinking were not already important, this would not have happened. The fact that they need to do this proves the concept in a perverse kind of a way. They just certified it for us.

2) This won't work. The idea that oil and coal companies are exporting the social costs of their activities onto the rest of society and the world is out there in the world of ideas for anyone to find. It has been since Ronald Coase first developed the idea in the 1960s. They can get away with it for one presidential term, maybe even two, but there will come a day when the cumulative social costs are once again charged to these activities. Since this attempt to erase the idea is essentially a kind of massive Ponzi scheme or fraud on ordinary people and their well-being, perhaps with catastrophic results, there may even be criminal charges. Is there a Nuremburg moment for climate deniers one day? Perhaps there should be, considering the damage they will do to ordinary peoples' lives.

Your final is in our regular classroom on Wednesday 12.30 to 2pm.

Please let me know if there are any ADA, temporary illness, or other accommodations you require. So far I have none listed for this class.

See you there.

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