The 'Broken Window Fallacy' is Back
Professor Mike Munger returns to the show to explore the seen vs. the unseen in green energy and sustainability.
Soph·ist·ry: the use of fallacious arguments, especially with the intention of deceiving.
The word sustainability is rather slippery. We’re told that our current energy consumption is “unsustainable,” and are thus cajoled into spending billions on Green New Deal type legislation by politicians and celebrities who criss-cross the country on jumbo jets. Even allegedly “clean” energy alternatives to goal and gas require material resources that often dwarf the emissions they’re supposed to offset. It’s not enough to just stop burning oil—sustainability proponents have to propose something to replace it. Point this inconvenient truth out, and you’ll likely hear the retort that a least the projects create jobs in the Green Economy.
Mike Munger, prolific blogger and Professor of Political Science, Economics, and Public Policy at Duke University, has another name for the typical thinking behind sustainability: sophistry.
His latest article for AIER quotes Frederic Bastiat’s “Economic Sophisms” at length to make the critical point that costs are not benefits. Destroying wealth in order to create jobs is a losing proposition.
Munger, a modern-day Bastiat, skewers today’s environmentalist sophists just by showing the logical conclusion of their preferred policies:
“Burn all the gas-powered cars? Jobs! Tear down all the oil and gas-powered power plants, so we have shortages of electricity? So many jobs!”
Munger returns to the show this Sunday to explore the seen vs. the unseen in green energy and sustainability.
We’ll focus on one of my personal bugaboos—recycling—and Mike will explain why it’s typically worse for the environment than just throwing stuff away.
Finally, we’ll revisit Mike’s clear-eyed defense of capitalism, Is Capitalism Sustainable?
The question of sustainability boils down to this: how can we best fulfill the needs of the current generations without compromising the needs of future generations? We can talk all day about alternative energy, but Munger notes that there is no to alternative capitalism. Only the market can solve our sustainability woes.
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The Collected Works of Frédéric Bastiat. Vol. 3: Economic Sophisms and “What is Seen and What is Not Seen” | Online Library of Liberty