Monday, November 17, 2008

Intellectualoid Creeds and Starvation

The always-provocative Deneen:

It was our Nobel prize winning economists who argued aggressively on behalf of NAFTA, and were unwilling to seriously consider that one of its effects - intended as it turned out - was to displace thousands upon thousands of small Mexican farmers who had little choice but to seek illegal employment in the United States. Since they would be producing more and better products, the problem of inciting illegal immigration was irrelevant. It was our Nobel prize winning economists who extolled the virtues of outsourcing and globalization, wholly uncognizant of the impact and effect on the "ordinary Joes" and its effects of family, community, and civil society. It is our Nobel prize winning economists who actually argue that global warming - if it does indeed come to pass - will not adversely impact the worldwide GDP other than having an adverse effect on agricultural production. Such declines in agricultural output, they argue, will be nugatory since other industries and economic activities will be needed and will compensate any overall GDP loss in the agricultural realm. The fact that this decline will manifest itself as hunger and starvation doesn't really show up in the models, it seems (though, I'm willing to bet that a plumber or a builder would understand the implications pretty quickly). Don't believe me? Read this lecture by Herman Daly (particularly pp. 13-14), a bonafide economist, who names names, including a Nobel prize winning economist.

OK. Let's read PP 13-14 and see what we find.

...So in the full world, good economics becomes much more important, and erroneous economics becomes much more costly.

I think that humanists, physical scientists, philanthropists, and agrarians should not trust
economists with these increasingly difficult choices. Economists have an unfortunate tendency to
reduce all value to the level of personal taste, matters about which consensus is really neither
necessary nor desirable. It’s good to avoid conflict whenever possible – who can object to that?
But if there really are true values by which individual preferences can themselves be judged to begood or bad, and if people know and hold these values, then it would be very good if they asked more aggressive questions of blinkered economists

...And if we do leave it to the economists, how does agriculture fare? Well, I’ll try to answer that with three quotations

...Sterling Professor of Economics at Yale, William Nordhaus: “Agriculture, that part of the economy that is sensitive to climate change, accounts for just three percent of national output. That means there is no way to get a very large effect on the US economy.” (Pause.) In case that went by too fast (laughter), what he’s saying is that climate change affects only agriculture. Agriculture is only three percent of GNP. Therefore, we don’t have to worry about climate change; it can’t hurt the economy.


Oxford economist Wilfred Beckerman, in his small 1995 book entitled Small Is Stupid: Blowing the Whistle on the Greens, also tells us that greenhouse gas-induced climate change is no worry because it affects only agriculture, and agriculture is only three percent of GNP. But he then goes on to elaborate a little bit. “Even if net output of agriculture fell by 50 percent by the end of next century, this is only a 1.5 percent cut in GNP.”

It's only food, mind you...

Thomas Schelling, former president of the American Economic Association and in 2005 a Nobel laureate: “In the developed world, hardly any component of the national income is affected by climate. Agriculture is practically the only sector of the economy affected by climate, and it contributes only a small percentage – three percent in the United States – of national income. If agricultural productivity were drastically reduced by climate change, the cost of living would rise by one or two percent, and at a time when per capita income would likely have doubled.”

Now, of course, these Very Smart Economists were attempting to debunk the hysteria over 'global warming.' And that is a sensible thing to do.

But if, in order to do so, these Very Smart Economists dismiss FOOD-PRODUCTION as a virtual irrelevancy, we might be led to question: "Who gave you your Very Smart Economist credentials?"

It's only food, right?

It's been said that economics is really a social science, not a 'real' science. It can be said that its practitioners are dilettantes, based on the above quotations.

Beware the Intellectualoids and their creeds--no matter what "side" they support...

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