Economists Have Been “Useful Idiots” for the Green Socialists

From the Institute for Energy Research

By Robert P. Murphy

May 21, 2019

In the old Soviet Union, the Communists allegedly used[i] the term “useful idiot” to describe Westerners whose naïve political views furthered the Soviet agenda, even though these Westerners didn’t realize that they were being exploited in such fashion. It is in this context that I confidently declare that American economists have been useful idiots for the green socialists pushing extreme climate change policies. The radical environmentalists were quite happy to embrace the economic concepts of “Pigovian negative externalities” and a carbon tax in the past, but now that it is impossible for economic science to endorse their desired agenda, the activists have discarded the entire field as hopelessly out of touch. Economists who still support a carbon tax and other climate “mitigation policies” should be aware of the bigger picture.

Using the UN’s Own Document to Defeat the Climate Change Agenda

I have been making this case for years. For example, back in 2014 I used the latest (and still most recent) UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report to show that the then-popular climate change target of 2 degrees Celsius of warming could not be justified by the research summarized in the report. In other words, I used the UN’s own report to show that the popular climate change “cures” would be worse than the disease.

Yet even though they had spent years berating the critics of government action as “climate deniers” who rejected the “consensus science,” in this case—once they realized that the economic models of climate change wouldn’t support aggressive intervention—the environmental activists all of a sudden began pointing out all the things that the UN-endorsed studies left out. Rather than summarizing the cutting edge knowledge on climate science and mitigation policies, the IPCC document turned into a bunch of misleading nonsense that would give ammunition to deniers.

Nobel Laureate Inconveniently Blows Up the Paris Agreement

Last fall, we had another demonstration of the chasm between the actual research and the media/political treatment: William Nordhaus won the Nobel Prize for his pioneering work on climate change, on the same weekend that the UN released a “special report” advising governments on how to try to limit global warming to as little as 1.5 degrees Celsius.

There was just one little problem: Nordhaus’ Nobel-winning work clearly showed that the UN’s goal was insane. According to his model, it would literally be better for governments around the world to do nothing about climate change, rather than enact policies limiting warming to 1.5°C. Rather than aiming for a 1.5°C target, Nordhaus’ most recent model runs indicated that the “optimal” amount of warming to allow was closer to 3.5°C. (To an outsider this might not seem like a huge discrepancy, but it is absolutely gigantic in the context of the climate change policy debate. Many activists would confidently predict that even 2.5°C of warming would spell disaster for our grandchildren.)

The Guardian’s Slam Dunk

Ah, but I got the best confirmation of my quixotic position just last week, when the Guardian ran an editorial with this subtitle (my highlighting):

Guardian Headline

Does everybody see that? The people at the Guardian already know what the policy answers are, without needing any help from the economists.

Read the full article here.

HT/ozspeaksup

47 thoughts on “Economists Have Been “Useful Idiots” for the Green Socialists

  1. An economist backing up a politician based on climate science is kinda like getting hearsay evidence from a convicted fraud artist, isn’t it?

    Is there some sort of contest where people are trying to put the two least-trustworthy professions in an article.

    Sorta like “Uri Geller confirms the Long Island Medium”…

    • I confidently declare that American economists have been useful idiots for the green socialists pushing extreme climate change policies.

      No, certain economist ( like Stern ) are quick to see the “opertunity” is naive green activism. They not dupe and they are not useful idoits. They are simply playing the public who are prepared to pay more for less and accept substantial extra taxation having swallowed the AGW myth hook, line and sinker [ a particularly appropriate metaphor if you think about it ].

      When the Stern Report came out is 2006, mainstream politicians suddenly got on board, having studiously tried to ignore green issues for decades.

      Suddenly they realised there was means to tax their surfs back into serfdom, and get applauded for their efforts. Businesses realised there was quick buck to be made in providing less performant products at a higher price.

      The only useful idiots , as usual, is gullible public.

      • Quite true about Stern!

        Being an Economics major myself, I only had to read a few pages of Stern for me to conclude that he was either a fake who didn’t know Economics 101, or someone with a dishonest agenda.

        Unfortunately with his background and title etc, he did have undue influence and his opinions helped the green imbeciles immensely.

        I hope he goes to jail someday for his dishonesty!!

        Cheers
        Roger

        http://www.rogerfromnewzealand.wordpress.com

        • That’s simply not true. You can argue with the assumptions (in particular the discount rate) used but Stern does not use anything other than mainstream economics for his work. His report simply states that the avoidance of future costs should be matched by costs today. Spending more today than future costs is stupid, as is the reverse. If you think that’s fraud or not basic economics I have to wonder where you were taught.

    • It’s not up to economists (professionally) to dispute the science of climate science, any more then climate scientists should be telling us what the economics should be. It’s not hugely unreasonable for economists to run economic models assuming that climate scientists have it right.

      People here constantly complain (rightly) about experts in one field be taken as experts in other fields. Well, the reality of that is economists accepting what climate scientists say will happen.

  2. Hilarious: A lefty climate alarmist, Nordhaus, destroys the left’s climate alarm. The fact that he uses an unverified econometric model, coupled with unverified UN IPCC climate models, would seem to be the ultimate irony. Nay, the ultimate irony is that the whole CAGW meme is conclusively shown to be a self-serving socialist political construct with no basis in science nor economics.

    Its difficult to recruit people to man the barricades if it is shown that no barbarian horde is assaulting the city gates. The promise of money, however, will gin up popular support even if rational discourse fails. Please note that the GND is sold based on giving people money.

    • Nordhaus is not a “lefty Climate Alarmist” and his model is not “unverified”. Plenty of free market-orientated “capitalist” non-Alarmist economists think his work is correct and offers a rigorous economic analysis way of analysing policy choices to maximise growth whilst minimising impacts on the environment.

      It is rather silly to base your criticisms of his work on the fact he thinks climate change is real. he might be wrong about that, but so might we. Even if he is wrong, his models are a way of dealing with other environmental issues such as deforestation and pollution.

  3. Nordhaus’ conclusions seem entirely reasonable, as the earth is still in an ice age, and we are just coming out of the Little Ice Age, the coldest period since the last glacial outbreak.
    Anyway, the means proposed to fight climate change would be worse than any actual problems.

    • And we don’t know what the problems will be, if any. So solutions adopted now may be totally ineffective and very expensive. Further, warming has undoubted benefits, so these should be offset against any costs or damages.

      • Which is exactly what Nordhaus models. Believe it or not, a very experienced Nobel winning economist has wondered whether changing climate might bring benefits.

  4. The people at the Guardian already BELIEVE what the policy answers are , without needing any help from the economists ….

    • All socialist movements rely on the ignorant. Everything sounds great until you run into hard economic (human nature) facts.

      • Yeah – that pretty much covers the ‘popular vote’ that supposedly (all likely fraud set aside) went against Trump. We are at a real disadvantage with the stupidest voters.

        • Trump was elected by majorities in more districts than the old Hilary got. She went after her base voters and the Dems did not realize, or know, that this was a district election.

          Trump won the popular vote where it counted, in the districts.

          Trump won the popular vote.

        • Happens in most democracies you can get slightly more than 50% and still not get into power. The moment you break things into smaller areas to make the process easier it becomes a possibility.

          Australia has had same thing a number of times … it is meaningless
          1998 Liberal under Howard held power 48.9% opposition 51.1%
          1990 Labor under Hawke held power 49.9% opposition 50.1%
          1969 Liberal under Gorton held power 49.8% opposition 50.2%
          1961Liberal under Menzies held power 49.5% opposition 50.5%

    • Well…the Guardian is in the process of running out of other people’s money…let’s see what they believe the answers are when they reach the end of that game.

  5. Economics is not a ‘science’. When I was in grade school, many years ago, we would have labeled it under ‘social studies’…

    • Economists come in many shapes and sizes. When they’re viewed as having the same weight as talk show pundits or your dentist complaining about local zoning rules it’s perfectly ok to have some of them around. They should be mostly privately employed instead of attached to the teat of government. Bad enough so much industry is already tied to government and you should note the businesses most tied to government (banks for example) hire the most economists. It’s when they start forming national and international policies with other peoples money, public money, the absurdity should end about that time but it doesn’t.

      Climate policy (under many different pseudonyms) has been festering on academic campuses for over 50 years. Now real money in the form of subsidies and policy are changing hands in total crony and corrupt fashion. You bet more economic Eunuchs get hired in that economic model and they’ll say exactly what the Climate orthodox wants them to say.

      Pay them enough and we’ll be throwing virgins into volcanoes to fight climate change with a climate/economic model supporting the practice.

  6. Actually, Lenin said that (European) social democrats are “useful idiots for communism.”

    Learn history before you expound on it.

    • That was why the author used the term ‘westerners’ which would include Europeans.

  7. And let me add, that the so-called non-partisan GAO has been WRONG about every negative prediction of Trump’s conservative pro-business policies.

  8. The true crisis will come well before 2050 and it will result from unsustainable spending and debt servicing, uncompetitive taxes after going back up with the GND or Biden Plan, and still trying to be the military police for the slacker nations. The wolves will come out when the U.S. declines economically and militarily with the same elitists debating the decline. Most any Dems are qualified to pull off this scenario starting in 2021.

    • No way Trump will lose with Dems, instead of doing a retrospective on why things went so totally wrong for them, have doubled down on their losing policies, on their attitide toward we “Deplorables” and their energy directed at trying to win the election they lost. If repubs want to govern after 2024, though, they had better get in behind the newly reworked Trumpian style republicanism. Trumpians need to retire the old guard who took up residence in the swamp.

      Fortunately Trump has already given the coup de grace to the global warming/néomarxiste putsch and it is falling into pieces with Europeans shifting to the right emboldened by the one man demolition team of Trump. We’ve seen ‘peak renubles’ because Trump took the US out of this gravely stupid plan stranding huge projects on the drawingboard, and everybody with more than two neurons to rub together knows if an enterprise this grand isn’t supported by the US, it simply collapses. It seems that the EU itself is collapsing. The anti-American UN, too, is a shell of its former self.

  9. Not useful idiots, they know exactly what they are doing. Write up a paper giving the alarmists want they want and they’ll be paid, noticed, published, maybe even put on retainer, and generally aggrandized. No different than many of the people in science, social welfare, philosophy, religion, medicine, etc. All no more than pimps for AGW. Activists and their followers are the true useful idiots.

    • Since baseline economics is tied to central planning and government authority it’s no surprise the group would be predisposed to collectivist climate activism and culture.

  10. From the linked article… “In 2009, for example, Nordhaus estimated the social cost of carbon in the year 2025 at $16 per ton of CO2 (measured in 2010 U.S.$). In contrast, according to his 2016 projections, Nordhaus puts the 2025 social cost of carbon at $44 per ton (in 2010 $)—which means the estimate has almost tripled in less than a decade.”

    Now I’m curious: in Economics, is figuring out that your calculations were off by a factor of three likely to get you nominated for a second Nobel Prize, or get your first one taken away?

  11. Has anyone asked any of these clowns how they know what is the level of CO2 in the atmosphere that will restrict global temperature to 1.5C. Kinda difficult, given that climate sensitivity to a doubling of CO2 is not known.

    Aaaaah, I see. Actual calculators are not required in their clown science world (eh Nick? Mosh?). You just need a magic calculator.

    • Economists come in many shapes and sizes. When they’re viewed as having the same weight as talk show pundits or your dentist complaining about local zoning rules it’s perfectly ok to have some of them around. They should be mostly privately employed instead of attached to the teat of government. Bad enough so much industry is already tied to government and you should note the businesses most tied to government (banks for example) hire the most economists. It’s when they start forming national and international policies with other peoples money, public money, the absurdity should end about that time but it doesn’t.

      Climate policy (under many different pseudonyms) has been festering on academic campuses for over 50 years. Now real money in the form of subsidies and policy are changing hands in total crony and corrupt fashion. You bet more economic Eunuchs get hired in that economic model and they’ll say exactly what the Climate orthodox wants them to say.

      Pay them enough and we’ll be throwing virgins into volcanoes to fight climate change with a climate/economic model supporting the practice.

  12. Why is this a surprise?

    The Keynesian orthodox that dominates global monetary thinking is in fact socialist in its roots. Government control and coordination, constant currency debasement in the name of stability and humanitarian claims.

    The results of the greatest wealth concentration in human history, destroying middle and lower classes, ever and permanent social, corporate and governmental debt levels propped up by a massive and unstable derivatives utility all rationalized by central planning and war economics. It’s the original junk science.

    We never really got over WW1 when you think about it. In the US the Civil War had many of the same unfortunate legacies and left us with Robber Barons that evolved into government oligarchs. So massive government controlled banking is just another side of the same collectivist coin as to turning our freedom over to the nonsense of “fighting climate change”.

    Within a very tight range monetary authority can be discussed among political participants. What can’t be accepted is the idea of central authority being eliminated or even reduced. Fake gold standards were established after the WW2, at great cost to US interests but it was another massive top down globalist debacle. In the advanced societies of the EU and US there are as many abortions as births. Drugs, crime and misery. 80% of the work force is close to irrelevant and 1/2 those will be automated away in 20 year at most. All in the name of magical higher productivity.

    So fighting climate change is real code for Keynesian/Socialist wealth redistribution. You can expect the same results of the elite getting richer and the poor ever more disappointed. They mostly go to the same public schools and are told all the same lies and can barely think for themselves at all.

    So again, why be surprised economic academics married to a religious belief system wouldn’t embrace another spawn of central planning worship…..”climate change”?

  13. Climate science is important since it determines what we know.
    Economic science is more important, since it guides what we DO.

    • Economic science and climate science are kissing cousins. Both rely on poorly constructed statistical models for their “science”. This is why both are nearly 100% wrong in their predictions. GIGO.

    • And look at the picture of her that the Guardian ran.

      Looking down, marker in hand, as though she can actually study; as though she knows what she’s talking about. As though a trustworthy guide.

      Propaganda, and nothing else.

  14. Re CWON 14 June 4h, mentions JMK.

    When I was in my 20 tees I thought that John Maynard Keyes was the
    greatest. He seemed to be the only person who understood just what had
    caused the Great Depression.

    Then of course as time went on other so called “”Experts” came along,
    each with a answer to just what was wrong.

    Of course the Politicians jumped onto anything that they felt would help
    them get elected or re-elected.

    So what is the best, “Wall Street” with its Boom and bust way of running
    the economy, or some form of Government control to while hopefully
    retaining the good aspects of the Free Enterprise system, is able to prevent
    the collapse of the Worlds economic system.

    I recall that Hitler was able to get Germany back to a degree of prosperity by
    1935 whereas the rest of the “”Western Worlds”” was still struggling right
    up to the beginning of WW 2. in 1939 . FDR said that it was not Doctor “”New
    Deal”” which fixed the USA’s economy, it was Doctor War.

    So how did Hitler do it ?. Germany owed a lot of money to mainly USA
    banking interests, who had loaned vast amounts to the previous Weimar
    Republic. When the market collapsed they wanted the money back.

    Hitler is said to have said, “Gentleman, when you loaned the previous
    government the money, you were in effect betting on Germany recovering.
    It was the same as if you had bet on a horse at the races. Well your horse
    lost. “”

    This action wiped out the German debt, but the banking interests in the
    USA never forgave him. It has been said that these interests were indirectly
    responsible for Germany by 1939 having money problems, thus Hitler went
    to war then, rather than doing what the Generals wanted, wait till 1943 to
    build up the military.

    So what is the answer, first we need a education system which does teach
    students the basics of how money works, simple things like compound
    interest are still not understood by your average person, they cannot
    understand how say a article costing 1000 dollars , can end up costing
    them 2000 dollars over many years. Or a better example is getting a
    morgauge enabling them to “”Buy a house””. The amount finally paid
    is a lot more than the price of the house.

    The basics of the political system should also be taught, snag is the teachers
    who seem to be somewhat left wing may tend to lean in that direction.

    If this all sounds a bit like “Starship Troopers” well yes it probably is.

    MJE VK5ELL

    • If you’re in OZ, is there ever a band open to W. USA these days of Solar Minimum? It’d be fun to sched a QSO. Brian N7DEY

  15. “In the old Soviet Union, the Communists allegedly used[i] the term “useful idiot” to describe Westerners whose naïve political views furthered the Soviet agenda, even though these Westerners didn’t realize that they were being exploited in such fashion.”

    That sounds like the modern Democrat party. Russia couldn’t ask for a better set of useful idiots than the Democrats.

    The Democrats are also very helpful to the Chinese. And to Iran. The Democrat Idiocy is spread out all over the place.

  16. From the article: “Many activists would confidently predict that even 2.5°C of warming would spell disaster for our grandchildren.”

    They might predict such a thing, but there is no basis in fact for making such claims. It’s pure speculation.

  17. “UK GOVT REJECTS CLIMATE CHANGE COMMITTEE ADVICE”

    https://www.thegwpf.com/uk-govt-rejects-climate-change-committee-advice/?utm_source=CCNet+Newsletter&utm_campaign=bdf6f22457-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2019_06_04_03_39&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_fe4b2f45ef-bdf6f22457-36418213&fbclid=IwAR0855T1G_4WAaZ-K8zJagbraoHIUITkGEN5OGYoh-fbuNN_Q34oizAKvAA

    “Britain’s chancellor has rejected the advice by the Climate Change Committee for the first time since it was set up a decade ago.”

    Oops….lol

  18. I knew economists were idiots, but this is the first time I’ve heard of them being useful for anything.

  19. in Aus we have Garnaut, an the abc quote him and stern a lot. which told me that either were useless, liars and a problem for the people whos lives they affect, garnaut was super into Carbon tax and all the warmist luvvyduvvy.
    dangerous cos hes not dead yet. and has influenced too many other gullibles.

  20. Economists are world champions in clothing everything in gobbledygook in order to give simple things a veneer of academic profoundness. and this economist-speak has allowed radical Greens to foist heavy burdens that no normal citizen would agree to onto the unsuspecting people. Tax is a hard word so we call it a price on carbon. Cost positions with no attachment to the real world are called negative externalities. All done to keep the money machine rolling. We are all useful idiots because we have allowed this to go on for too long while our lives go to the dumpers.

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