Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Straight Talk on economic issues: No Wisdom without courage

...reluctance to be honest about trade has cost economists their credibility with the public.
 I've seen multiple references to Dani Rodrik's Straight Talk on Trade, which deserves the notice.

Commentary on Brexit often revisited Michael Gove's "people... have had enough of experts." Before getting too nasty with my own thoughts, some of Rodrick's work:
It has long been an unspoken rule of public engagement for economists that they should champion trade and not dwell too much on the fine print. This has produced a curious situation. The standard models of trade with which economists work typically yield sharp distributional effects: income losses by certain groups of producers or worker categories are the flip side of the “gains from trade.” And economists have long known that market failures – including poorly functioning labor markets, credit market imperfections, knowledge or environmental externalities, and monopolies – can interfere with reaping those gains.
They have also known that the economic benefits of trade agreements that reach beyond borders to shape domestic regulations – as with the tightening of patent rules or the harmonization of health and safety requirements – are fundamentally ambiguous.
Nonetheless, economists can be counted on to parrot the wonders of comparative advantage and free trade whenever trade agreements come up... They have endorsed the propaganda portraying today’s trade deals as “free trade agreements,” even though Adam Smith and David Ricardo would turn over in their graves if they read the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
This reluctance to be honest about trade has cost economists their credibility with the public. Worse still, it has fed their opponents’ narrative. Economists’ failure to provide the full picture on trade, with all of the necessary distinctions and caveats, has made it easier to tar trade, often wrongly, with all sorts of ill effects.
This is not the only topic where academia's economists lack the respect for their audience to be candid, or the diligence to develop and defend an opinion of their own.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

President Elect Trump, energy and climate

The elites can only run things with the American people’s permission. Trump is the people’s way of withdrawing their permission. - Salena Zito
I'd been waiting for the American election to be over figuring it limited other serious discussions as it sucked all the oxygen from the blogosphere. Given the outcome, I suspect it will be a low oxygen world for the rest of us for a while yet. Here I'll reference columns from sources I consider relevant on energy, economics and climate change - and then let loose with my own opinions on likely impacts of President Elect Trump for Canada, the Paris agreement, and nuclear energy.

Prospects for the Environment, and Environmentalism, Under President Trump | Andrew C. Revkin | Dot Earth (NY Times)
Is this end times for environmental progress or, more specifically, climate progress?
The bad news about climate change is, in a way, the good news:
The main forces determining emission levels of heat-trapping carbon dioxide will be just as much out of President Trump’s hands as they were out of President Obama’s. The decline in the United States has mainly been due to market forces shifting electricity generation from coal to abundant and cheaper natural gas, along with environmental regulations built around the traditional basket of pollutants that even conservatives agreed were worth restricting. (Efficiency and gas-mileage standards and other factors have helped, too, of course.)
There’s no way around it: Donald Trump is going to be a disaster for the planet | Brad Plumer, Vox
Okay, now for the deep breath.
Even under Trump, there will still be reason for hope. Political change unfolds in unexpected ways, and not everything on Earth revolves around the machinations of the US federal government. So here are a few reasons to think the fight against climate change is not yet lost: