Expected Good News

One of the many great things about markets is that they encourage learning.  Isaac Orr at The Center of the American Experiment has an excellent article with a great title:

Capitalism is Saving the Planet Part Six: Minnesota Forests Are Flourishing

It is expected good news because capitalism and markets learns what generates profits and what the consumer wants.  You should, of course, read it all to get the details.  And you can savor the title again.  We will give you Isaac’s conclusion:

Using these technologies [see here] is not only good for the timber industry’s bottom line, they are good for the forests themselves. Rather than being an opponent of healthy forests, the capitalist timber industry is more invested in forest health than any other stakeholder, and therefore they have the most incentive to ensure Minnesota forests are healthy and vibrant.

Although Isaac uses environment as a category he doesn’t remind us that trees are natural carbon eaters.  The link tells us:

As a tree matures, it can consume 48 pounds of carbon dioxide per year (among other greenhouse gases like ozone), and releases enough oxygen for you to breathe for two years!

So the one billion additional trees in Minnesota will be eating 48 billion pounds of CO2 per year.  According to Wikipedia, Minnesota produces just under 90 million metric tons of CO2.  A metric ton is 2205 pounds so this is a big deal in term of arresting CO2 growth even if we are not entirely convinced of all the numbers.  We are working to find Isaac’s other five parts.

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One Intersection And One Not

We just finished Kevin D. Williamson’s The Smallest Minority and as we were finishing that up we heard about Clemens Tonnies, the chairman of the Bundesliga soccer team Schalke who was attacked by the social media mobs that Kevin is writing about.  Let’s start with Kevin.

We really enjoyed The Smallest Minority.  Kevin creates some amazing comparisons.  It is hard (probably impossible) to find as literary a political book where Dante, Milton, and Shakespeare are crucial to understanding the text.  It is in turn nasty (Minos was a Cretan, Matthew Yglasias is a cretin), hilarious, insightful and crazy.  Sometimes it is all of those at once.  It is easy to guess who is the mad dog of Mad Dogs and Englishmen.  Be sure to real all the footnotes.  Twice.

Sidebar One: We rarely comment on why folks do things.  Rather we are more interested in what they do.  We are convinced that this book is the real Kevin.  We understand that it is easy to get fooled and that is why we rarely comment on why.  We often wonder why folks behave like they do on TV and radio.  Kevin is really enjoying the conflict about social media.  End Sidebar One.

The backstory is that Kevin was hired by The Atlantic and shortly thereafter fired because of a social media storm.  The book is Kevin’s generalization of the problems with social media.  Kevin is correct when he says we need discourse, a real discussion, to discuss our pressing problems.  Social media gives us anti-discourse.  We get slogans and attacks to stop discussion.  People do it because it works.

The book was a joy to read.  The literary bent, character assassination, and asides are great fun.  The Smallest Minority just didn’t resonate with us.  We didn’t buy the Shakespeare analysis but that wasn’t it.  Twitter, Facebook and other social media just isn’t that important to us. There is a lack of an intersection been MWG and Kevin’s book.  We don’t follow the recommendations to improve the MWG penetration following by tweeting and pictures.  We really appreciate our followers but we blog for our own benefit and so we don’t fill up Facebook (our only social media) with political stuff.  We are not sure social media is that important to the wider world.  Kevin didn’t do much to convince us on that account.

Then came Clemens and Schalke that made more of a connection or intersection for us.  These events didn’t completely change our mind but they did make us reconsider.  Here is  a summary of what happened:

Many fans had been calling on the 63-year-old [Clemens] Tönnies to resign over the comments he made on Aug. 1, when he told a public meeting in Paderborn that tax increases to fight climate change were wrong and claimed it was better to finance 20 power plants a year in Africa.

“Then the Africans would stop cutting down trees, and they would stop making babies when it gets dark,” Tönnies said in comments first reported by the Neue Westfälische local newspaper.

Tönnies, Schalke chairman since 2001, apologized for his comments

Of course, Clemens has stepped on at least three third rails of social media.  First, he fought climate change recommendations.  Second, he talked about Africa and (gasp) Africans.  Third, he apologized to try and sate the mob.  They cannot be sated.

OK, he is not exactly right.  What Africa needs is capitalism and Germany could use a little more.  Here is part of a story on Tanzania:

The real cause of that reduction is pretty straightforward: economic freedom. Tanzania has gradually dismantled the socialist or “ujamaa” economic policies enacted by the dictator Julius Nyerere, since he stepped down in 1985. Nyerere was widely praised by leftist intellectuals in developed countries for his sincere belief in socialism, relatively low level of corruption, and not intentionally slaughtering his own people like so many other dictators.

Dang. We got rid of the tab before we made the link and now we can’t find it.  To get back to Clemens, we agree with him that tax increases to fight climate change don’t make sense in Germany or elsewhere.  We also agree with him that economic improvement in Africa would be a good thing and it will require carbon emissions.

Sidebar Two: We have argued that a revenue neutral carbon tax that eliminates the gas tax is a good idea.  It is not a tax increase.  Sidebar Two.

Africa could use more and better power.  Our first priority would be economic structure rather than actual structures but Clemens has a reasonable idea.   Reducing the cutting down of trees is probably a good idea a way for Clemens to try to connect with the climate change folks.  It is not unreasonable to argue for more trees.  He spoke of the number of African babies.  So what are the fertility rates in African countries?  Glad you asked:

The vast majority of the countries in the world with the highest fertility rates are in Africa, with Nigertopping the list at 7.153 children per woman, followed by Somalia at 6.123 children per woman. The Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali and Chad follow at 5.963, 5.922 and 5.797 children per woman, respectively.

So the top five countries in term of fertility are all African.  Germany, on the other hand, has a fertility rate of 1.586.  We are not convinced that overpopulation is a problem but the climate change folks often suggest it is.  Clemens is using their rhetoric against them.  They should respond rather than call him names but, as Kevin points out, a name calling ochlocracy is effective in silencing people these days.

The Clemens story has not made fighting the ochlocracy a front-burner item for us yet. We could be trending in that direction.

 

Interesting Title Disappoints

We were intrigued by Paul Mason’s title at Unherd: Can [Jeremy] Corbyn Learn From The Greek Tragedy?  Jeremy is the socialist leader of the Labor opposition in the United Kingdom.  Because Unherd has a variety of voices it could have been interesting.  We thought the Greek tragedy was that they elected a socialist government and, as always, it turned out badly.  As always, the people eventually throw the socialists out if they can. Paul thinks the tragedy is the socialist lost.

We thought it was unlikely that Jeremy, a long-time socialist, would learn the lesson that socialism never works. We don’t know Paul so we were worried that Paul would suggest the obvious (but evil and often implemented) solution that the socialists need to get elected once and then take control of the media or the elections or both to maintain control.

Instead, Paul offers some coalition building suggestions.  He starts his suggestions with the problem for him and the mildly good news for us:

In general, overtly anti-capitalist Left parties have peaked below 20% as the memory of the financial crisis fades, while a shift to the Left by traditional social democrats has stemmed their own decline.

His main solution is to work with the Greens.  Does he think that they are not overtly anti-capitalistic already?  Paul then gives it away, climate change is a method to political power.  He says:

The sheer scale of the climate crisis will, as the 20th century recedes and the IPCC’s decarbonisation targets become pressing, change the priorities of the Left. The far-Left is now either in reluctant coalition with its social democrat and Green allies, or resisting even that. For me, the 21stcentury equivalent of the Popular Front would be an alliance of all forces prepared to commit to spending the hundreds of billions we’ll need to combat climate change, plus the absolute defence of democracy and the rule of law, plus the reversal of austerity. The renationalisation of energy and transport infrastructure is implicit in any radical plan to halve net carbon over the next ten years. {Emphasis added]

Sidebar: We don’t believe the sentence in bold above.  It is inconsistent with socialism and climate activism.  We do believe the work in bold (renationalisation) in the next sentence. It is clear evidence that the rule of law is already out.  End sidebar.

Folks turn Climate Change on its head to get political power.  The best solutions are inaction and mild action because of the high costs and low benefits.  We have often suggested a modest carbon tax combined with removal of “alternative” energy subsidies as a useful step to move us to a more market based economy.  Lots of people can learn from the Greek Tragedy even if Jeremy and Paul won’t.

Attacking Straw Men

George Will at NRO has a great article on the silliness of politics.  He mostly indicts would-be Democrat presidential nominees but he shows his displeasure for their likely opponent.  Benjamin Zycher from the American Enterprise Institute is also at NRO with the wildly misnamed The Confusions of The Conservative Carbon Tax showing how silly the right can be.  The first misnaming is in the title.  What would be “the” conservative carbon tax?  We hope it is the MWG proposal but that seems presumptuous.  To remind you, the MWG carbon tax proposal is a modest one, $20 per ton, that includes eliminating the the gas tax and federal support of alternative energy.  After skewering some straw-men

Sidebar: Would straw-men mind being skewered?  We think, like in the Wizard of Oz, they would be worried about fires rather than blades.  Still we are sticking with alliteration.  End Sidebar.

Benjamin starts his conclusion with an exactly wrong sentence:

Once conservatives have endorsed a carbon tax, they will have no principled answer to the endless pressures for more government intervention.[Emphasis added]

The answer is exactly the opposite.  Since we endorse a carbon tax then we have principled answers for reducing government intervention.  Particularly, we have the opportunity to reduce the current government support of “alternative” energy.  In fact, the joy is that we could do both as one deal.

The rest of his conclusion is sensible:

Conservatives cannot defeat climate alarmism and the fundamental threat to freedom that it represents unless we defend first principles. In the context of climate policy, watchful waiting and adaptation over time are the only sensible approaches consistent with them.

One of the first principles of conservatism is to get incentives right or at least move them in the right direction.  A modest carbon tax that eliminated the gas tax and reduced [yes, the principled answer is eliminate every bit of support but we need space to negotiate] alternative energy support would be a conservative step because it gets the incentives closer to right.  If the left is unwilling to make a deal then we do what Benjamin suggests.

 

Conan Versus Mick And Keith

In the movie Conan The Barbarian, the title character is asked: What is best in life?  Arnold replies:

To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women!

It is true it is great to win big but it almost never happens in sports, politics, or bridge. And it is also true that there will be another Super Bowl or election in short order.  Thus, we hope for Conan but realize that Mick and Keith are more likely:

You can’t always get what you want,
But if you try sometime,
You’ll find you get what you need!

And both quotes end with an exclamation point.  We all want what Conan wants but don’t realize the wisdom of Mick and Keith.  As examples we have The Donald, Josh, Sohrab Ahmari, the greens, and both sides on abortion .  The Donald on tariffs and the abortion parts are so obvious that we are only going to look at the other three.

Ramesh Ponnuru at NRO tries to defend Josh on attacking the prospective judge, Michael Bogren. We are not convinced but read it all. He identifies three arguments against Josh.   We are on the first one:

[Michael] was merely representing a client and, if we reject his nomination because he faithfully advocated their position, we are traducing the core American right to fair legal representation. That’s the view of the editors of the Wall Street Journal, [and MWG] for example.

Part of Ramesh’s counter-argument to the first argument is:

Perhaps more important, Sullivan was punished for the mere fact of representation, whereas Hawley has criticized Bogren for the way he represented East Lansing. For these controversies to be analogous, Sullivan would have to have been criticized for smearing and bullying [Harvey] Weinstein’s accusers.

It is a forgone conclusion that Sullivan will be criticized.  Of course Harvey’s defender(s) are going to be criticized for smearing and bullying his accusers.  They are going to advocate for Harvey in the same way that Michael made the best case for his client.  In Harvey’s case it would mean casting doubt on the accusers in some manner.

Sohrab does his best Conan in attacking, of all people, that noted never-Trump stalwart David French from NRO.  Sohrab, at First Things says:

I added, “The only way is through”—that is to say, to fight the culture war with the aim of defeating the enemy and enjoying the spoils in the form of a public square re-ordered to the common good and ultimately the Highest Good.

Conan would be impressed although it might help to mention salting the earth too.  Sohrab makes this guy look reasonable and nuanced.  We understand that in politics we need coalition with folks with different priorities.  Conservatives will never be a majority.  Any group of conservatives with an adjective will be a tiny minority.  To have a majority coalition we need David and Sohrab.

Sidebar: We have never found a modifier for our conservatism.  The closest we came is when Rod Dreher coined Crunchy Cons.  We are really close to the opposite of that but there don’t seem to be enough of us to warrant an adjective.  End Sidebar.

Jeremy Carl at NRO tells us:

Last week BP and Shell both pledged support for the Climate Leadership Council’s (CLC) proposal for a revenue-neutral “carbon fee and dividend” plan, under which extractors of carbon-based fuels would be charged a fee, and all of the money collected would be distributed to the public as a dividend. While conservatives have a wide variety of views on how, or even whether, to address climate policy, this initiative is perhaps the most genuinely bipartisan attempt so far to move forward on a famously contentious issue.

We are not at all sure we want to support this deal but much depends on the details.  Our first choice would be a lower tax without a dividend.  Holman W. Jenkins, jr at the WSJ has great article on how environmental regulations lead to conflicts. If we undo these as part of the deal we might be in.  Do read it all.  But the greens are not in.  They are not in because they love Conan:

But  instead of expressing happiness that some of the biggest oil producers were willing to accept a major concession to help lower emissions under a plan with almost unprecedented bipartisan support, many on the left have complained because the plan also limits climate-change-related litigation.

Jeremy notes that none of this litigation has ever succeeded so far.  But the greens still want to hear the lamentaions of the oil companies’ stockholders.

It is hard to compromise, especially when principles are involved.  It is a tough decision but sometimes you just got to play Mick and Keith.  As an example, we hope that David and Soharb will join us in voting for The Donald in 2020.  Strange things can happen over the next year when we find out the Democrat nominee but right now it looks close to certain that The Donald is our best option in 2020.

Carbon Tax Problems

We support a modest carbon tax that would be coupled with entitlement reform and eliminating subsidies for alternative energy.  Robert Bryce at NRO tries to harsh our Patriot buzz when he identifies three major problems with a carbon tax:

  1. It is regressive
  2. It will be lobbied heavily
  3. International stuff:
    1. Tariffs on imported carbon
    2. Free riders

We think that our proposal has taken care of the regressive issue.  By eliminating the gas tax it substitutes one regressive tax for another.  The exact rate for the carbon tax might be less than the current gas tax so there is little impact on lower income folks.  In addition by eliminating subsidies and requirements for alternative energy the net impact on heating bills will be small and in an uncertain direction.  Of course, an important part is to keep the carbon tax modest.

Robert is exactly right that any tax will be heavily lobbied.  The danger that worries us most is an onerous carbon tax.  We need to expect something from our Congress Critters on both sides of the aisle.  We agree with Robert that this is a big ask but they really need to earn their pay.

We don’t care about the free rider issue.  This is about US policy that would move in the right direction on climate change.  As Robert points out it is hard to get the world to agree.  We care about US policy.  At first glance tariffs on imported carbon make sense but we are open other views.  We are highly unimpressed with the argument that the arithmetic is too hard.  We think that the US government can find somebody to do the arithmetic if imported carbon is to be taxed. If we can figure out state taxes for people like Tom Brady, who played in nine different states (ten if preseason matters for taxes) this year, we can do carbon.  But Robert has broached the real question: can we get it passed?  We are pessimistic but we also remember that the Patriots were trounced in their only two Super Bowls in the last century but have won six this century.  We are not expecting Congress to become the Patriots of the current century but we can hope for improvement.

 

The Green New Deal And 2005

Both Jonah Goldberg and Jim Geraghty’s Jolt are on the Green New Deal this week.  At first glance it seems like a real waste of talent (leave the low hanging fruit for MWG!) to deal with an obscure and silly document from the Green Party of all places.

Sidebar: As Jim says, you should read it.  See the cite above.  It is much worse than you could imagine.  End Sidebar.

But as MWG recently warned, folks are going to try to ignore the important issue of entitlement reform and replace it with climate change.  Jonah and Jim are on the case because of a new press favorites has supported it.

We suppose there is some chance that the Congress could pass something as foolish as the Green New Deal but the more likely problem is that the pressure put on by the crazies will cause Congress to feel that it must do something.  We see a situation similar to 2005 that led to the Energy Policy Act of 2005  and to the ethanol mandate.  Although W and the GOP held both houses (well, they added four in the Senate) of the Congress in 2004, there was pressure to do something about what was then called global warming but we now call climate change.    Evidence of the pressure is Al Gore winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.  We did not make that up.

We are of two minds about the 2005 Act.  As a binary choice we would vote against it.  The ethanol mandate interferes with markets.  As we would have predicted, it has caused problems for both gas and corn.  But it wasn’t a binary choice.  There was lots of pressure to do something about climate.  Our view is the the 2005 Act took the wind out of the extremist’s sails.  Without the 2005 act it is possible that something really nasty would have passed Congress.  In 2018, the situation is even more troubling as the Democrats control the House.

Therefore, it is good that Jim and Jonah are out in front giving the Green New Deal the opprobrium it deserves.  It is just as important that Kevin is on the entitlement beat again and again.  MWG tries to help.  We think the events of 2005 are likely to recur and Congress will feel great pressure to do something.  Unfortunately, we have The Donald rather than W.  Conservatives may have some difficult decisions about what is the least worst option.  Our best chance is to make it clear what a really, really bad idea the Green New Deal is and the importance of dealing with debt and entitlements.  Thanks to Jim, Jonah, and Kevin for a good start.