Innumeracy-as-National-Epidemic, climate edition

The Left’s answer to Trump, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, has released a deeply stupid document she refers to as a “Green New Deal”, in which she sets forth various pie-in-the-sky schemes.  Megan McArdle describes them: “replacing air travel with high-speed rail; junking every automobile with an internal-combustion engine; making affordable public transportation available to every single American (presumably including those who live hours from the nearest town?); replacing the electric grid with something smarter; meeting “100% of power demand through clean and renewable energy sources”; and — I swear I’m not making this up — providing economic security to people who are “unwilling to work.” This, too, is supposed to happen within only a decade, or thereabouts.”

“But,” McArdle remarks, “arguably Ocasio-Cortez’s team wasn’t really trying to put together a practical document. Rather, it articulates an ideal, one that we may never reach but should at least strive for. And there’s something appealing about that argument, because climate change is a pressing concern, and even if it weren’t, there would be ample reasons to want to obtain as much energy as possible from renewable sources.”

There’s actually nothing appealing about that argument, simply because we shouldn’t encourage its ocean-wide disconnect from various aspects of reality.  Electric cars and high-speed rail (also electric) still have to produce the energy somewhere.  (My arguments for nuclear power will be a different post; suffice it to say here that there’s no rationality to any carbon-reduction plan that does not begin with a massive expansion of nuclear power.)  With regard to home energy efficiency, It would save only a little of the fraction of U.S. energy consumed by heating, of the fraction of U.S. energy consumed by domestic use, of the 14% of worldwide carbon emissions produced by the U.S., which is in turn only thought to be responsible for about one-quarter of climate change.  All of it together can only be done once and is probably going to save only the equivalent of a year or two of the carbon increase produced by population growth in China and India.

And that’s before the minor matter of its cost. If you could wave a wand and get all these things tomorrow at a zero cost in financial and/or political terms, the logic would be, “Sure, why not? Every little bit helps.”  Instead, this smidgen would cost massively in all respects and be deeply unpopular with the public, with the result that it’s a political nonstarter.  Trying to do it anyway would waste enormous amounts of the one thing the claimers of climate Armageddon argue we have far less of than we think: time.

So, no, in my view, not appealing.

The zero-sum game of unity

Unity is a zero-sum game.

Civilized policy relies on society, which is a group of people bound together by a common bond or bonds.  But when policy’s aim is essentially to force people together to achieve some political prize offered to an interest group in the name of civilization, it might have the short-term effect of a benefit to the politician and the group, but it has the long-term effect of eviscerating any affection that the forced people might have otherwise had with the interest group.  This is one of the greatest criticisms of government: mandatory, artificial relationships squeeze out the possibility of healthy, organically created, voluntary relationships.

Think about marriage back when divorce was difficult.  Did it result in healthier marriages?  Probably not.  It resulted in more transactional marriages, and more stable households, and maybe some percentage of couples forced to remain together fell in love over time, which they might not have done if free to abandon the union earlier.  Mostly, though, I suspect that it resulted in a whole lot of resentment and bitterness that soured relationships which shouldn’t have been maintained but which for sociopolitical and religious reasons they couldn’t get out of.

The more politicians, pushed by special-interest or extremist groups, grab something for a particular racial, sexual or economic group, the more the memory of that taking poisons the relationship of that group with the grabbed-from.  The more this happens, the more society becomes like an unhappy marriage no one can escape.