James Pethokoukis

Politics and policy from inside Washington

Why are Democrats pushing cap-and-trade? An explanation

December 8, 2009

Joel Kotkin thinks he knows:

Today’s environmental movement reflects the values of a large portion of the post-industrial upper class. The big money behind the warming industry includes many powerful corporate interests that would benefit from a super-regulated environment that would all but eliminate potential upstarts.

These people generally also do not fear the loss of millions of factory, truck, construction and agriculture-related jobs slated to be “de-developed.” These tasks can shift to China, India or Vietnam–where the net emissions would no doubt be higher–at little immediate cost to tenured professors, nonprofit executives or investment bankers. The endowments and the investment funds can just as happily mint their profits in Chongqing as in Chicago.

So who benefits from this collective ritual seppuku? Hegemony-seeking communist capitalists in China might fancy seeing America and the West decline to the point that they can no longer compete or fund their militaries. A weakened European Union or U.S. also won’t be able provide a model of a more democratic version of capitalism to counter China’s ultra-authoritarian version.

Yet most people in the developing world will not benefit from the suicide of the West. The warmists’ vision is not one of growing prosperity, but of capping wealth at a comparatively low level. De-industrialization means the West falls back while emerging economies grow a bit. The “prosperity gap” may close, but ultimately everyone is left with less prosperity.

Comments

Good analysis. These environmentalist types, in my memory, have always been anti-progress. Thirty-eight years ago I recall reading Paul Ehrlich’s Population Bomb and his pleas for a slowing down in economic growth, and now this guy is one of the high priests of the ‘de-development’ movement. Nowadays he’s nice and tenured and likely has a nice fat pension waiting for him when he retires from Stanford. His pal John Holdren (I think that’s right) is an advisor to Barack Obama so watch out!

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