12 October 2019   Leave a comment

Jared Bernstein has written a fascinating essay on why market capitalism has failed to address the problem of climate change in the world. Prices should reflect scarcity and it does appear as if a benign environment is becoming less available every day. But Bernstein argues that our awareness of the value of a benign environment is profoundly lacking:

“And yet, there’s a key area where prices fail us every day. They fail us every time you fill up your gas tank: Fossil fuels are severely underpriced.

“What do I mean by that? I mean that fossil fuels are imposing costs on our environment, our economy, and our future that are not being captured by their price.

“That underpricing has consequences. Energy costs are so low and so unresponsive to the environmental challenge we face that they send us a signal to literally keep cruising along, ignoring the pressing reality of climate change.

“How is it that a discipline fundamentally based on scarcity has failed to accurately price in the damage we’re doing to our most important, scarce resource: the environment? Naomi Klein writes that the climate crisis is ‘born of the central fiction on which our economic model is based: that nature is limitless.’

“But I don’t think the economic model fails because it denies scarcity and embraces limitless nature. It fails because of its interaction with two things in particular: 1) our tendency to focus on the present at the expense of the future; and 2) the toxic cycle of profit and influence that distorts policy making and blocks the accurate pricing of carbon.

“This diagnosis matters because we need to either unjam the model and attach a sustainable price on carbon or recognize that politics as currently practiced won’t allow us to do that, in which case we’ll need to figure out other, bolder ways to fight climate change. The Green New Deal may well play a role in that alternative vision.”

This way of looking at climate change divests us of the illusion that there are market-based solutions to the problem of climate change. The solution clearly lies in the political arena, not in the hidden hand of the market. Bernstein is explicit about the real problem which he identifies as the “toxic intersection of capitalism and money in politics.”

President Trump’s decision to pull some US troops out of Syria still remains a puzzle, although we are getting more information about how the decision was made. It seems clear that the President did not consult with his military or diplomatic advisers, but we are learning that the Kurds were not informed either. Newsweek reports:

Newsweek sources say Washington’s crucial allies in the area, the fighters of Syria’s Kurdish ethnic minority, were blindsided as well.

“‘No one in the U.S. government told us’ about the U.S. decision to reposition troops, or possibly even pull out of northern Syria as Trump suggested, a Kurdish intelligence official tells Newsweek.

“‘When we heard the news of American withdrawals, well, it was over Twitter, we had no idea, we were like, ‘What is this shit?'”

Many US troops remain in Syria, but those along the northeast border have pulled back. Nonetheless, Turkish troops have fired mortar rounds at US positions. Several European states are considering an arms embargo against Turkey for its invasion of Syria. It is also likely that the US Congress, as it returns from its recess, will consider sanctions against Turkey, but it is probable that President Trump would veto such measures.

Posted October 12, 2019 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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