Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Relatively Poor

A while back, Bjorn Lomborg argued that any money we spend to address climate change will constitute a handout to the sub-Saharan millionaires of 2100:

[E]ven the UN's most pessimistic forecasts project that by 2100 the average person in developing countries will be richer than the average person in developed countries is now.
In a National Review article, Jerry Taylor and Peter Van Doren fine-tune this argument:
Not to be flip about it, but why should the relatively poor (us) sacrifice for the relatively rich (our children and grandchildren)?
Yeah, who ever heard of parents sacrificing anything for the sake of their children?

Cheap sarcasm aside, the idea behind both arguments is that the unstoppable march of GDP will make our descendents fantastically rich. I'm no economist, so I'll simply have to assume that Taylor and Van Doren have factored pesky details like inflation into their calculations. Even so, I notice a problem. Our Heroes argue that GDP per capita is currently $44,403, but will rise to $321,684 by 2106. Here's their conclusion:
Would anyone, let alone liberals, ever propose a one-percent tax on those who make $44,000 to create benefits for those who make $289,000? In short, paying now to head off warming is a regressive intergenerational tax that takes from the poor and gives to the rich.
One hardly knows what to say. First off, they're pretending that per-capita GDP is the same thing as household income, which isn't the case (to put it mildly). They've sped past the comparatively respectable tactic of reification, and proceeded directly to lying their asses off.

There are various ways of allocating the cost of addressing climate change. But let's pretend - as Taylor and Van Doren seem to - that we're talking about a one-percent flat tax on income. That would cost someone who makes $44,000 per year a modest $440. It'd cost ExxonMobil $360,000,000. Conservatarian hacks tend to shed crocodile tears over "the little guy" in their op-ed pieces, but I think we know whose prospective losses are actually haunting their dreams.

I don't have the heart to address the other logical problems here. I'll merely mention that the CBC has a documentary called The Denial Machine available for online viewing.


Eli said...

That is quite a collection of reality-defying fantasy and outright frothing insanity you've collected there, Phila (me, I just collect bicentennial quarters, Engrish t-shirts, and camera equipment...).

My personal projection is that per-capita GDP in 2106 will be between $35k and $60k in *today's* dollars, and that most of the increases in income will devolve to the rich.

I was about to say "...assuming the Republicans cling to power for most of the next 100 years", but if that happens, GDP will be more like $5-10k, with roughly $8k of that going to pay off our debts to China.

I'm picturing Argentina at its lowest ebb as a best-case scenario.

Ripley said...

So, if I understand this right, we should wait to solve the global warming issue until we're all making more money? Doesn't that fly in the face of free market capitalism? They're basically saying we shouldn't support entrepreneurs who develop eco-friendly technology.

I wonder what the price of SPF-95 will be, in 2106.

Anonymous said...

These people really are crazy.

One good thing... I read a piece somewhere recently, a young (26) year old man who said something to the effect that his generation was the first raised with the knowledge that it was up to them to save the world.

Not quite true, of course, but he made the points that his science fiction books were set after the worldwide floods and huge climate swings caused by global warming (much like the ones I read were set after the nuclear holocaust and such, I imagine).

He said other stuff, I can't remember what... but it reminded me of some 12 year olds (and younger) I know who believe global warming is just a fact (and it scares some of them). I don't know how wide-spread this is, as I don't know that many kids and also I live in California, but still - it would appear that Lomborg, et al, have gotten hold of the losing end of the stick.

The children and grandchildren they speak of with such care and concern are more likely to turn around and tax corporate and personal incomes and profits to the max, in payback. Okay, well maybe not.

Have a great Thanksgiving or just a great Thursday, Phila and all.

charley said...

happy thanks, and thanks for the link to Kent Loeffler's page. most useful.

somehow i missed that on an earlier visit.