Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Why both capitalism and socialism are dead!

Many politicians claim to act in the interest of the public, yet they act in the interest of a narrow group. The nature of the electoral system (one election every three or four years) makes that politicians are typically seeking only short term benefits for a select groups of voters that will help them get elected. Similarly, politics often focuses on local issues and this makes politicians inclined to blame outsiders for any problems.

So, how much can we trust politicians to be able to take adequate action on an issue like global warming? If we handed the task of dealing with global warming to right-wing politicians, they would propose buying off those who wanted action, resulting in no effective action at all. They are keen to establish carbon trading schemes. The danger of such schemes is that the rich will use such schemes to continue their polluting lifestyle, paying the poor under the pretence that this will solve the problem, but the result is that the problem only increases as the rich don't stop polluting while the poor will use this money to imitate the polluting lifestyle of the rich.

On the other hand, if we handed the task to left-wing politicians, they would increasingly tax the rich for their polluting lifestyle and use the proceeds partly to increase an inefficient government bureaucracy, in which case nothing effective would be achieved either. Since no alternative is made available, the rich will simply continue with polluting activities (because they can afford to do so), while the poor have no alternatives either, so - in line with socialist doctrine - they will be given the other part of the tax proceeds with the argument that they needed help with the increased cost of energy and food, which will only lead to them to continue with or take up further polluting activities.

As said, we should not wait for those who seek to advance a specific political ideology, to articulate the necessary action for us. No, we should all take responsibility ourselves and both take action regarding our own lifestyle, as well as regarding our logic. Because the answer as to what should be done is so simple and straightforward. The best way to decrease emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases is to tax emissions of greenhouse gases and subsidize alternatives. In case of carbon dioxide, fossil fuel should be taxed and the proceeds should be used to subsidize local supply of clean and renewable energy, which will make the policy doubly effective. Similarly, the best way to decrease emissions of methane is to tax what's responsible for that, e.g. by introducing a tax on the sale of meat. Again, to make such a policy doubly effective, the proceeds should be used to subsidize local supply of alternative food, e.g. in vegetarian restaurants.

These are only two out of my ten recommendations to deal with global warming, but it goes to show that one can reach conclusions without waiting for answers from politicians. The importance of global warming as an issue is also that it so clearly shows what happens when good debate on such an issue is neglected in society. Indeed, it is precisely because we have failed to think matters through that we're in such big problems with climate change. As many say, it's hard to trust politicians to come up with effective policies - global warming is one of the issues that demonstrates that both capitalism and socialism are dead. It's up to us to articulate the action plan. Global warming as an issue urges us all to think matters through and make sense of why so many politicians have let us down for so long.