If the old saying were coined today, it would be “a few trillion here, and a few trillion there, and pretty soon we are talking about serious money.” Who knows what trillions mean anymore – is the U.S. a $15 trillion economy, or are dollars fluid, and benchmarks meaningless?
Deficits are now counted in trillions of dollars, joining quantities previously ascribed only to global reserves of major commodities, or the annual output of large nations. One trillion. A thousand billion. A million million. Debts and deficits are now routinely counted in trillions with a T. Will requiring counting and auditing CO2 emissions, then taxing and assessing fees on CO2 emissions – and auctioning permits to emit CO2 – become the mechanism for governments to address their exploding debts and deficits, now denominated in trillians, and will such policies best advance the interests of humanity and the earth?
Commodities, along with the value of economic output, or economic capacity, wax and wane in the flux of the global market. If you try to completely regulate all this capitalism, if you try to eliminate all the waxing and waning, you are very likely to create a political economy resembling either fascism or communism. Enforcing a regulatory scheme so comprehensive as to encompass literally all combustion, concerned not merely about clean burning but burning itself, cannot help but require such tyranny.
“A trillion here, and a trillion there, and pretty soon we are talking about serious money.” Is the output of the entire global economy still estimated at approximately $50 trillion dollars per year, even in this slow-down, and if the dollar devalues, what does that mean in any case? And who is to say what the equilibrium price of commodities is or should be, when each of them is subject to the disruptions of entrepreunership and innovation at any time?
Transcending any quantity of currency is the innate endowment of national wealth. And wealth, in the case of nations, is valued in the extent and quality of their institutions and their assets. The wealth of nations, for example, is their ability to educate their population and provide them ample incentives to excel. The wealth of nations is also in their endowment of natural resources as well as the net worth of their already-built infrastructure.
For these reasons, despite the volatility of dollars and derivatives and related intangibles, despite its infinite diversity and that it can only be described theoretically, nonetheless wealth and wealth creation is real and absolute. Genuine wealth cannot therefore be contained or consigned or configured, much less created, via new fiat currencies and asset inventions pegged to transfers of carbon or climate models. And this is why, despite the desparate pleas of precautionary principle zealots wearing CO2 blinders, all strategies to adapt to climate change must be subjected to honest cost-benefit analysis. It is clear we are experiencing climate change, because to be experincing anything else on this water planet, blessed with a greenhouse atmosphere and teeming life, would be terribly alarming. Mars, for example, experiences minimal climate change.
Trying to mitigate the allegedly negative effects of CO2 emissions through heavily regulating and taxing all CO2 emissions is simply not effective compared to many alternative wealth-creating uses of public funds. And please note, the costs to trade the rights to emit CO2 emissions is equivalent to taxes, fees and regulations, in terms of costs to innovators, entrepreneurs, and emerging nations. Expanding the government regulatory sector, and using it to pay subsidies to fossil fuel companies to sequester CO2, or put another way, using CO2 emissions as the primary criteria for any and all environmental project merit, can completely displace basic cost-benefit analysis.
When these macroeconomic cost-benefit analyses are done, many policies that rely on CO2 emissions as a key criteria become questionable. In order to hopefully reduce CO2 emissions, should we really imprison our small property owners behind “urban service boundaries”? To allegedly lower our “carbon footprint,” should we continue to contemplate digging new scars in the earth that rival the Great Wall of China ala bullet train corridors, when instead the future may likely find bigger freeways and auto-piloting busses that navigate far more versatile upgraded roads?
If you abandon the notion that CO2, an enabler of teeming life, is actually a deadly pollutant that poses an existential threat to the planet and especially to human civilization, or that every square inch of undeveloped land is sacred and any land development must be subjected to trillions in analysis and fees and settlements and taxes, than you might support useful scars in the earth: Aqueducts, massive runoff collection basins, large scale aquifer injection and storage infrastructure, desalination plants, nuclear power plants, and an offshore liquid natural gas terminal, to name a few. Projects that create lasting regional wealth, along with jobs, which increases options.
There are many wonderful ways to adapt to fluctuations of climate while investing in genuine economic advancement that encourages individualism and pluralistic property ownership, rather than yielding to the hubristic notion that regulating and taxing CO2 emissions is our best chance to survive and thrive as a species. Specifically, developing aqueducts, aquifers, desalination plants, and diverse energy production capacity – and encouraging new private land developments connected with smart, safe, sustainable upgraded public roads and 21st century roadworthy vehicles – is the way we create genuine wealth at the same time as we best manage climate change, natural or anthropogenic, hot or cold.
Edward Ring is a contributing editor and senior fellow with the California Policy Center, which he co-founded in 2013 and served as its first president. He is also a senior fellow with the Center for American Greatness, and a regular contributor to the California Globe. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, Forbes, and other media outlets.
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