Re: ECON: "Unsustainable Predictions"

Date: Thu Apr 05 2001 - 17:37:31 MDT

A bit of nitpicking on the article Mark Plus forwarded from:

> Unsustainable Predictions
> by William L. Anderson
> ...
> He then "projected" that if world industrial production were to continue
> grow at its current pace for the next fifty years, it would mean resource
> demands of one thousand times what they were in 1974. This is all simple
> math, of course, but it paints a very silly picture of how human beings

Just to inject a note of sanity, this math does not add up. Growing by
a factor of 1000 is ten doublings. Ten doublings in fifty years is one
doubling every five years. In fact, current GWP doubling time is more
like 15-20 years. To achieve his factor of 1000 growth at current rates
will take 150-200 years, not 50 years. By then we are well into Star
Trek territory and even without a Singularity it's not so ridiculous
to imagine an Earth many times richer and a number of other planets and
space-based installations being colonized.

> California, for example, has attempted to impose "sustainable development"
> in its policies restricting electricity production. When demand soared
> in the face of low production, the California legislature then slapped
> controls on the retail sale of electricity. The logical outcomes of such
> actions are apparent even to those with only a cursory knowledge of
> economics: Legislatures cannot produce scarce goods like electricity
> by issuing threats.

This is not at all how it went. The price controls were meant to keep
the prices HIGH, not low. They were to protect the California utilities
(largely reduced to middlemen at this point), by enabling them to sell
at high prices to consumers while benefitting from the predicted low
prices in the wholesale market. Once shortages developed, wholesale
prices shot up and now suddenly the price lock was working against the
utilities, who lost money by the bushel.

> Given pressure from consumer/voters, for example, the temptation for
> government is usually to overutilize a good. That is why people are
> national parks to death and why subsidized sugar farmers in Florida have
> been systematically destroying the Everglades. In both cases, the price
> system is subordinated to political distribution of goods, and the outcome
> is always predictable.

I don't know the whole story about the sugar farmers and the Everglades,
but I doubt that the free market would protect a bunch of stinking
swampland. The only way to make money off it would be tourism and
charity, and the demand won't be large enough to protect the vast expanses
of the Everglades. So someone pushing free market solutions is a bit
hypocritical if they imply that markets would save the Everglades.
They'll save a little piece of them, a DisneyGlades with swamp rides,
but not 5000 square miles.


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