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The public policy blog of the American Enterprise Institute
It truly is amazing. That a Nobel prize-winning economist can believe utter nonsense, write utter nonsense, and defend utter nonsense, all in the service of a “climate” policy agenda that is remarkably weak in terms of the underlying peer-reviewed science, and that would have virtually no effect on temperatures under any set of mainstream assumptions. I refer to the latest from Professor Paul Krugman, who actually argues, presumably with a straight face, that a forced closure of some coal-fired electric generating plants would force new investment in power plants and increase average power prices, thus yielding “an increase in spending” and a “positive effect” on the economy.
Wow. Remember the broken window fallacy? If a window is broken, the result is more employment and economic activity, because, obviously, someone has to pay someone else to replace the window. Sadly, this story leaves out the spending on something else that the first someone would have undertaken had the window not been broken in the first place. The broken window results in a reallocation of resources and not an increase in aggregate wealth; that is a reality that any student in Economics 101 should learn. The spending forgone on something else offsets the dollars spent replacing the window, but in Mr. Krugman’s world, the investments in new power plants and the higher spending on electricity represent new spending that otherwise would not have been made, because without the climate rules the dollars would have remained hidden in mattresses. Or something.
That the promulgation of new rules imposing large costs but yielding no benefits might have the indirect effect of increasing uncertainty and decreasing “spending” is a possibility not considered by Mr. Krugman. Nor is the larger effect of wealth destruction by regulation a parameter that he considers. One wonders why there is any “spending” at all in the absence of federal actions. What is clear, however, is that promises of a free lunch are as old as politics. And it is politics rather than economics that Mr. Krugman is practicing. Would the economy suffer if people spent less for access to the New York Times? The question answers itself.
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