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Thursday, September 22, 2011

The "broken planet" fallacy

Jacob Sollum explodes the broken planet fallacy that liberals have about green energy and global warming.
When Solyndra went belly up last month, less than a year after it started making solar arrays in Fremont, California, an Energy Department spokesman insisted that the $535 million the federal government had loaned the company was well spent. "The project that we supported succeeded," he said. "The facility was producing the product it said it would produce."

That rather short-sighted definition of success exemplifies the loopy logic of President Obama's "green jobs" agenda, which justifies subsidies based on good intentions and employment opportunities rather than profitability or cost-effectiveness. This policy is rooted in the broken planet fallacy, which treats global warming not as an environmental threat to be handled as expeditiously as possible but as an economic opportunity to be milked for all the jobs it can provide.
The administration saw the recession as an opportunity to rebuild our economy by channeling money to approved industries without ever asking themselves if those jobs are ones that deserve all this federal funding. If these jobs wouldn't exist without federal subsidies, they aren't jobs that will survive when the gusher of federal funds dries up.
But if work is not worth doing—whether it's weatherizing homes or making newfangled solar arrays that prove to be uncompetitive—the money paid for it is an unjustified cost, not an economy-boosting bonus. Obama, who bragged about the 3,000 workers who built Solyndra's factory and the 1,000 who were employed there, ignores the possibility of alternative, more productive uses for resources squandered on bad, government-subsidized investments. Those uses would create jobs too, although not ones for which he could take credit.
The administration needs to go back to school and learn about Frédéric Bastiat's Broken Windows fallacy so that they can learn about the tradeoffs between what is seen and unseen. But they never seem to understand about tradeoffs.


Nessus said...

The "broken planet" fallacy is akin to the "save the planet" fallacy. This is all left-liberal nonsense.

First, the world (not "planet") is not in need of "saving". Pollution is a minor issue. Plus, in the USA, our ecology is NOT trashed. We don't even have one-third of the heavy industry we used to have just 30 years ago.

The so called "green movement' is just another scheme disguising socialism/communism, central planning authoritarism.

LarryD said...

A lot of Progressives come from backgrounds that have insulated them from ever have had to produce, or being accountable. Living off of a trust fund stipend or endowment, working in academic fields with no objective standards, working for a "non-profit"; they understand less of business and economics than a lemonade stand operator.

kimsch said...

When I look at the sheer destruction Gaia can cause to human built stuff - homes, businesses, roads, bridges, energy transmission lines, etc. from hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, tsunamis, etc. I wonder how anyone can think we're "breaking" the planet in ANY way, shape, or form. The stuff we humans build on this planet is so easily swept out of the way by the Earth herself.

stengle said...

Have I got this right? Team Obama poured zillions into Solyndra as a business to create jobs and they got some of that vast amount back through taxing the Solyndra workers. Fair enough; it wasn't all loss.

Some of the money went to other people (buildings, maintenance, transport, etc) and created taxation opportunities. Fair enough; it wasn't all loss.

Not being American I do not know what other taxes were culled from the sale of something that people did not necessarily want. In the UK it would be Value Added Tax, at 20 per cent. I assume state taxes netting something back.

But at the end of this it is an awful lot of spend to get a bit back. The US government could have handed over a lot less cash and given it directly to the workers involved and let them spend it locally on goods and services at their leisure. They didn't have to go to work at all to get the same result.

Washington would have still got something back (so not all loss) and people would have felt happier not having to drag themselves off to work and put up with all the crap that involves, including carbon emissions from commuting. As workers they would have had to pay taxes on their earnings, which no matter how 'socialist-minded' one is it still tends to irk.

The machinery of handing money over to a business and monitoring whether that business works -- as in fit for purpose -- is a lot of wasted effort (especially as it must have been clear sooner or later Solyndra wasn't working).

Now, I am against handing money over for nothing. The UK is screwed by the feckless underclass who are paid to do nothing, and are still not happy (hence riots, etc) but here the US could have achieved the same end product at a huge saving.

As a side point, I also assume that if Solyndra goes belly up then what people have bought from them becomes a problem without any consumer redress for any failed product.

This may be incredibly simplistic, but have I missed something?