Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Cui bono?

"Who benefits?"

That's the first question you look at when you're trying to decide whom to believe on any subject where you lack the expertise to figure it out for yourself. Global warming ("global climate change" takes too long to type and everybody knows what I mean anyway) enthusiasts accuse anyone who disagrees with their orthodoxy of being "in the pay of oil companies" or some such thing, showing that they recognize the basic principle. I've just been directed to a post by David Friedman (Milton's son) who expresses perfectly my deep skepticism as to the motives of the Al Gores of the world -- and as well goes to the point of why I think it's a very bad thing when people start saying, "Well, even if global warming isn't such a problem, we still ought to do all these things anyway."

Money quotes:

1. Governments, and people in government, seek power for obvious reasons. Over the past fifty years the intellectual justification for the large expansion in government power from about 1930-1970 has largely collapsed. The belief that capitalism is inherently unstable and inefficient and must be fixed with large elements of governmental intervention and central planning is no longer taken very seriously by either the general public or economists.

Environmentalism in general and global warming in particular provide new arguments for expanded government power, new taxes, and the like. That does not mean, of course, that those arguments are wrong, but it does mean that there are a lot of people who have an incentive to support them whether wrong or right...

2. Global warming provides arguments for things that a lot of people, mostly left of center, want to do anyway — shift lifestyles away from automobiles towards mass transit, reduce consumption of depletable resources, and the like. Environmentalism is in part a real argument, in part a religion, in part an aesthetic; the second and third parts make people too willing to accept the first...

Simply put, I am skeptical of conclusions that appear to go well beyond the scientific evidence, pushed by people who have reasons to want other people to believe them.

Read the whole thing.


At 2:53 PM, Blogger Jim r said...

For the record, aren't you employed right now by BP?


At 3:48 PM, Blogger Ken Pierce said...

[chuckling] You know, Jim, I made a note to myself to go back and add that disclaimer to the post, but hadn't gotten around to it yet.

Strictly speaking -- let's get the legal niceties correct here, just in case the IRS is lurking -- I'm not employed by BP; I have a long-running engagement to help them develop software to better manage their trading.

You know the amusing thing? BP is fanatical about being "green" (even their company color is green) and occasionally holds events in the big first-floor cafeteria in which they hector all comers about how global warming is real. I don't suppose that they are deliberately lying; but I also don't suppose they are blind to the public relations advantages of trumpeting the need to reduce carbon emissions...any more than they are blind to the financial advantages of selling one helluva lot of crude oil to people who are going to emit carbon out of it.

So the funny thing is, I want BP to want to keep paying me money -- which is a disincentive to my making very much noise about my skepticism on this topic. If I really wanted to suck up to multinational petroleum giant BP I'd pretend to be a Global Warming True Believer...

It's a bizarre and amusing world we live in, isn't it?


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