Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Shine on you crazy diamond

Did you guys catch Jared Diamond in Sunday's NY Times? Ouch.

He starts out with an ode to corporate environmental responsibility:

The embrace of environmental concerns by chief executives has accelerated recently for several reasons. Lower consumption of environmental resources saves money in the short run. Maintaining sustainable resource levels and not polluting saves money in the long run. And a clean image — one attained by, say, avoiding oil spills and other environmental disasters — reduces criticism from employees, consumers and government.

But somehow ends up in Thomas Friedman crazyland:

While the United States is dithering about long-distance energy transmission from our rural areas with the highest potential for wind energy generation to our urban areas with the highest need for energy, China is far ahead of us. It is developing ultra-high-voltage transmission lines from wind and solar generation sites in rural western China to cities in eastern China. If America doesn’t act to develop innovative energy technology, we will lose the green jobs competition not only to Finland and Germany (as we are now) but also to China.

Class, repeat after me:

(1). Green jobs are NOT a zero sum game where nations are competing for a fixed number of them.

(2). If China or Germany or anyone develops "innovative energy technology", that is NOT bad for us.  It is in fact *awesome* for us, as we can then adopt it and use it.

People, ideas are public goods. That is the whole basis of new growth theory. If China is now doing cutting edge R&D, that is an unmitigated blessing for everyone on the planet.


Kunal said...

Hey, at least these pundits want us to be like the China of today. I was accosted in the East Village the other day by an organizer for the Revolutionary Communist Party who wanted me to make a donation to help them make the USA like the China of the 1960s. In his world, of course, the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution never happened.

Simon Spero said...

Do ideas really behave as public goods? Surely you can exclude others from using your ideas by keeping them secret, or through patents?

Angus said...

Hard to make money by keeping the idea totally secret and once you build it, the secret is pretty much out. Patents do indeed reward the innovator for a period of time but I don't see how they negate the idea (which isn't mine but rather Paul Romer's and others).

br said...

Yeah, I'm pretty sure the computer wasn't invented in India, but it seems to have worked out pretty well for their economy.

Matt Frost said...

Here, RFK Jr. actually calls it "The New Arms Race."

"China's economic stimulus package, targeted 38% of spending on greentech..." 38% huh? How hard do you think he checked that number?

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