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Green Backlash

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View Tom Turner's blog posts
22 May 2009, 2:41 PM

It had to come, such things always do. We speak of a shrill attack on the very idea of green jobs, emanating this time from PERC, a collection of free-market economists and ideologues in Bozeman Montana, that was a source of some of the ideas that informed the Bush administration, especially those of Gale Norton, W's first interior secretary.

This feisty band has decided to challenge a pretty impressive array of pro-green-jobists: The U.S. Conference of Mayors, the American Solar Energy Society, the Center for American Progress, and the United Nations Environment Programme, all of which have produced detailed studies outlining how and why putting money and effort into new green initiatives (windmill farms, solar energy installations, mass transit, and so on) will create good jobs and reap many other benefits as well.

The PERCs use the old tried and true Myth-Fact formula, the "facts" being that the definition of green jobs is imprecise, green jobs include clerical and administrative positions, green jobs studies use poor models and dubious assumptions, green jobs will be low-paying, companies innovate more rapidly than governments, and so on.

There's no time or space here to go into all this in detail, but for a flavor of the thinking we offer this: "That the [green-jobs] literature contains so many basic economic errors is not accidental, but reveals that much of the green jobs literature is hostile toward free markets, and thus focuses on government solutions with no regard for market incentives that are imbedded in the American culture."

One might well observe that “market incentives imbedded in the American culture” helped get us into our current mess. We need something different. I'll go with the mayors and the rest on this one.

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