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I think we can save the planet with the stroke of a pen.

Think about what “E”nvironmentalists want us to do. They want us to scale back our consumption in order to save the earth. Fine (we have a post coming up on Monday to explore this idea further). But remember when we say “we need to scale back consumption” this means consumption at all levels – including government. 

Do the anti-growth advocates understand this? Remember that the size of government expenditures at all levels now exceeds 40% of total economic activity in the United States. Suppose you want to argue that we need to save the planet and we can do so by eliminating 15% of our “wasteful consumption” each and every year. Do you understand that one way to eliminate that 15% is to slash government consumption by 15 percentage points of GDP (or 38% of government) ? Well it would seem to be. And do you wish to argue that government is so efficient that 38% of it couldn’t be cut? I’ve seen private firms cut by more than that.

But aside from the religious experience folks get when they think of government and government spending, what kind of an argument do you think a typical government religionist would make against such a proposal? It would seem to be easy. After all, we just pass a new budget law that spends less. It truly is stroke of the pen environmentalism. It’s easy-peasy, it takes very little effort, it’s surprisingly easy – to use some common environmentalist phrases.

So why would you object? Oh, you would say … just stopping the government from spending 15% of GDP doesn’t mean spending will fall by that much. If the government doesn’t spend it, it will end up in the hands of private individuals. And not only that, private individuals are profligate spenders and are more likely to “consume” resources than government. We may end up consuming even more if we do this than if we didn’t.

OK, let’s take that seriously. Ask your friends if they think cutting government spending can save the environment if they think spending is the problem. Then ask the following question: what do you think about the fiscal cliff? Isn’t the argument made by government religionists that if we cut government spending to solve our budget woes that we will plunge ourselves into another recession?  Then OK, fine, I believe them. Then if you wish to save the planet, it seems that a pretty sure way to do that is to slash governments around the world to just fractions of what they are today. I’m on board. Are you?

2 Responses to “The Fiscal Cliff and Saving the Planet with the Stroke of a Pen!”

  1. Harry says:

    Ask any true believer in Kyoto, and the answer is pre-1970 levels. This was a compromise for them, as opposed to pre-Dickensian levels, but they correctly figured the deal would be a bonanza not just for Ghana, but also for the West Germans who, having assimilated East Germany, figured that all the carbon credits from East Germany might net out in more money for them.

    A start would be to go back to inflation-adjusted (there is no inflation, right?) levels of spending at any time before 2007. But better would be to pick a time where we had prosperity. I would suggest 1984-1988 as a good interval to start.

    • Harry says:

      If the IPCC used base line budgeting, would the seas engulf Coconut Grove and Islip, and which one would be engulfed on average first?

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