so jill was on some right-wing radio station in seattle yesterday, having a back and forth with some mouth-breathing fool who commented about jill's being an environmenalist: "so what, you aren't a capitalist?"
now, that this is an either/or is so risibly stupid it causes actual pain in my neck. but while jill talked about RFK Jr.'s book, where he discusses allowing regulation to walk hand-in-hand with capital, i see a different issue.
the issue at hand is one of measurement. and until we fix it, we are probably hopelessly lost. economics (and, for that matter, the more meta econometrics) is a "science" that studies amongst other things the nominal "value" of objects in society. how much do we pay for a barrel of oil? well, 78 dollars is what standard economics tell us it is "worth". an economist will argue that in fact this is just the "Free Hand of the Marketplace" at work, establishing value, and that all they are doing is providing tools to measure the transaction, but that is a load of crap on two levels.
1. oil isn't really 78 dollars a barrel. oil costs 78 dollars a barrel plus all the money that must be spent in the future to deal with the ramifications of the use of that oil in the present. this should be obvious to anyone with a high school education. yet we blithely, as a society, pretend that there is no measurable future cost so that we can keep living the dream here in the present. funny word that, measurable, because it leads to...
2. the measurements of trade, which are our financial instruments, created by or weighed up by the "science" of economics and econometrics. and of course neither of those disciplines are able to force measuring the actual cost of things into their price, nor does the consensus in either discipline really try (and yes, there are plenty of economists who will take a crack at it, but they are on the fringe and don't seem to have any impact) to make a public argument about it.
so. we continue to pretend that our trade exchanges are based on some accurate measure of utility plus market valuation plus government regulation and so on. and it's all bullshit. plain and simple. if you factored in the true cost to our world of products in the energy sector, taking into account let's say 50 years or so of forward-utility, you would find that without question wind-generated power was cheaper than oil by a factor of...well, by a lot. and you could more accurately measure the cost of ethanol (cheaper because we don't have to ship it from the middle east where we cause wars over oil, more expensive because of the pesticides and energy needed to grow corn etc.) accurately. and so on. and when we discovered just how unbelievably wrong we were about the cost of a barrel of oil, or of putting a new coal plant on-line, we'd move to an alternative. and maybe in so doing, we'd make the world a little less horrible for our children. as well, to stop relying on oil, we'd be doing a HUGE favor to the person on the street in the middle east, whose leaders wouldn't be able to steal all the resources and buy them off with sops. instead, those countries would be forced to generate new ways of thinking and doing business.
now, back to our regularly scheduled husbandry.