Wednesday, July 2, 2014

#184 / Second Best

I like Jill Lepore, and I like Paul Krugman, too. 

Krugman's New York Times column on June 22nd, titled "The Big Green Test," espouses the "theory of the second best." In his column, Krugman applies that theory to his review of governmental actions intended to combat global warming.

Krugman's column is worth reading. 

My observation is that Krugman implicitly recognizes the "political" nature of the world we most directly inhabit, the "human" world that we construct, and in fact "legislate" into existence. 

If we want to adopt measures to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, a carbon tax would be ideal. But if that is not an idea that gains political traction, we can do other things, instead. Maybe these things would be "second best" to a carbon tax, but they would be effective. That's the point that Krugman makes. 

I applaud the recognition, implicit in Krugman's analysis, that we can do whatever we want to do, and think we ought to do, if we are actually serious about doing it. Just "how" we accomplish our objectives is subject to the political process. The question is always, do we have the political will to act?

Where global warming is concerned, that is a question that will impact not only our human world, but the Natural World upon which our lives (and our human world) ultimately depend.

Image Credit:


  1. The problem with Krugman's "second best" reforms, and with any climate change reforms now on the table, is that they do nothing to address the core cause of the climate change challenge, that is, unbridled economic growth and attendant consumption of natural resources in a world of finite resources.

    Carbon taxes, cap and trade and others attempts to cap CO2 production are like lids on a boiling tea kettle. They may hold the pressure down for a while, but as long as there's water in the pot and the fire is turned up, the lid is going to dance.

    The problem is, the water in the pot is rapidly boiling away and there's no more water to replace it.

    The ultimate solution is to stop consumption and economic growth, and learn to live within natural limits of resource availability. This is called a steady state economy, one that does not consume resources faster than they are naturally replenished, nor produce wastes faster than they are naturally assimilated.

    This may seem impossible, but in reality it is inevitable. Why not start now and avoid the rush?

    Start with "Supply Shock," by Brian Czech,


Thanks for your comment!