Thursday, August 15, 2013


Mark P and I have been having a conversation about climate change and car use in the comments of this post.  Somehow I seen to have gotten him to defend SUV use in Los Angeles.  Not that this is irrational -- to be fair I was telling him on the phone yesterday how I have actually considered purchasing an SUV for my next vehicle (would it help to note I am looking at how much to save up to make it a hybrid?). 

But the real context was that I quoted Megan McArdle.  Ms. McArdle has a fairly poor reputation among the progressive movement due to her defense of Libertarian ideals using some pretty sneaky arguments.  Add in some tendencies for her writing to be lively but a bit sloppy and people can be very skeptical of McArdle quotes.  In particular, I suspect that progressives are annoyed at her firing at a key piece of the lifestyle of some of their core groups (we build a global community via travel) as part of putting us on the defensive. 

On the other hand, I do think that it would be useful to admit that fighting climate change is going to involve sacrifices.  Cheap energy is a positive good.  I love cars, electricity, and a wide variety of food even out of season.  But I think the real trick will be to focus on pricing in the externalities that massive burning of carbon entails.  Does that main people should not have SUVs or air travel?  No, but it does mean it might be worthwhile to make sure that the costs of these items is properly priced into the market. 

So I think it is worth thinking about these arguments, even when we are suspicious of the source.  After all, I would be even more surprised if progressives disagreed with her post on brokers and why it is a bad thing if the only way they can manage small accounts is by fleecing their owners.  On the other hand, I get deeply suspicious of arguments as to why companies shouldn't necessarily be held liable if their products prove harmful.  

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