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Home security systems, door locks, cement walls, fences, spotlights and guard dogs (unfriendly ones) represent waste. They are a symptom of something bad going on in an economy. Why?

Well, why do we lock our doors and otherwise take measures like these? It is to protect our property from being looted, damaged or otherwise violated. In a world of unicorns, we would have all of our property protected without having to go through these costly, annoying, inconvenient measures. Therefore, all of the resources we dedicate to protection of our property is “wasteful” because they do not produce anything of value. And yes, it is true that we simply do not have an option most of the time to have a world where these expenditures do not have to get made.

The point being, all of the materials, innovation, capital, and labor that is in the “security” sector represents a cost, not a benefit of man’s natural propensity to violate the property of others. Pointing to the millions of jobs and billions in revenues is not a “feature” that allows us to justify the unfortunate fact that men have a thirst for property and violence.

In short, what do you prefer: protection of property without spending anything to do it, or protection of property having to dedicate lots of resources to secure it? I used to think that answer was obvious, but in case it is not, I’d remind you that the former is better by precisely the amount of resources you dedicate to protect yourself (you can even show this with fancy math if you wish). All of the resources that you do not use to protect yourself would be more enjoyably and profitably employed elsewhere. And unless in a world where property is not violated people freely purchased home security systems instead of new clothes, more education, more vacations to South America, etc. you are assured that the value of the output and jobs created in the securty industry are less than those that would be created in all of these other areas.

So what does this have to do with the Environment? Well, in unicorn world, we’d like to consume all of the things we consume now, and also have perfectly clean air, perfectly clean water, infinite amounts of resources, and so forth. The fact that we have to dedicate an enormous amount of time, resources and innovation into getting the clean environment that we want is not a “feature” of us having a dirty environment. And so by analogy, pointing to the 1.1 million jobs and $236 billion of revenues generated by the “green economy” represents a cost and not a benefit of man’s inability to produce the goods and services he desires without generating pollutants and damaging ecosystems.

In short, what do you prefer: a perfectly clean and safe environment without spending anything to get it, or a perfectlly clean and safe environment but having to dedicate lots of resources to secure it? I used to think that answer was obvious, but in case it is not, I’d remind you that the former is better by precisely the amount of resources you dedicate to protect the environment yourself (you can even show this with fancy math if you wish). All of the resources that you do not use to protect the environment would be more enjoyably and profitably employed elsewhere. And unless in a world where the environment was already clean people freely purchased scrubbers, sequestering technology and other things we would use to clean up the environment instead of new clothes, more education, more vacations to South America, etc. you are assured that the value of the output and jobs created in the “green” economy are less than those that would be created in all of these other areas.

Why is this so difficult to comprehend? To draw an even simpler analogy – pointing to the jobs and revenues in the iPod sector as a benefit of the existence of mobil music is crazy. We’d all like to live in a world where we could have the iPods for free … so the jobs and revenues in that sector are a sign that resources are extremely scarce, not the opposite.

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