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A socialist response to global warming

Karl Marx

Confronting the climate change crisis” details how socialism can provide answers to global warming.

A radical movement against climate change can be built around demands such as these:

Establish and enforce rapid mandatory reductions in CO2 emissions: real reductions, not phony trading plans.

Make the corporations that produce greenhouse gases pay the full cost of cutting emissions.

End all subsidies to fossil fuel producers.

Redirect the billions now being spent on wars and debt into public transit, into retrofitting homes and offices for energy efficiency, and into renewable energy projects.

Obviously these quite sane proposals will require new forms of government and economic systems. Short-term profit can no longer be allowed to be the supreme value. Instead, the long-term good of the planet and its people needs to be come first. This means that for global warming to be stopped, that capitalism has to be replaced by a system that is capable of doing so. Why? Because capitalism isn’t capable (or even particularly interested) is doing so. The inherent structure of capitalism, with its fixation on short-term profit, prevents it from doing so.

Humanity’s choice in the 21st Century is EcoSocialism or Barbarism.

There is no third way.

  • DJ

    At this point, there are no structures in place to allow ANY form of political or economic system to successfully confront the problem. If there were, and if we had leaders and electorates motivated to do so, either capitalism or socialism, or a hybrid of both, could do the job. But that’s a big if.

  • Joe Hartley

    It seems to me that the question is a political and attitudinal problem independent of the economic system, or where a particular society falls on the spectrum because unfettered capitalism with minimal government and extreme communism with no private property of any sort (obviously even socialist countries do not fall into that extreme).

    The argument that only socialism can accomplish the following goals is, without a fuller explanation a non sequitur. None of the listed matters seem to me to be dependent upon the economic system, but rather political economy choices taken by the legislative authority and adopted as public policy. To wit:

    *Establish and enforce rapid mandatory reductions in CO2 emissions: real reductions, not phony trading plans.

    This simply requires the adoptiong of an appropriate regulatory scheme. Assuming you don’t have right-wing wacko constitutional theories (some have advanced them, but they don’t really hold in the US), there’s nothing inconsistent with this and a capitalist society. It’s the standard free-rider problem in public economics that economists of all stripes in the US have been working on for 50+ years. The problem is indepedent of the economic system; one variation of it in socialist economies is the shadow-price problem where you have massive unemployment in productive labor and whether it makes sense to draft unemployed young men into the military.

    *Make the corporations that produce greenhouse gases pay the full cost of cutting emissions.

    The fact that we’re considering corporations suggests to me that we’re not talking about a socialist economy as I understand it. In any event, subsidies and penalties are equally feasible under capitalism and, in fact, are done all the time.

    *End all subsidies to fossil fuel producers.

    If anything, this appears to be more of a captialistic solution (kill the government program) than a socialist one. This is something that energy experts have been talking about for decades; one wag described the subsidies through the accellerated depletion allowance (a tax subsidy, admittedly) as “drain America first.” How right they were!

    *Redirect the billions now being spent on wars and debt into public transit, into retrofitting homes and offices for energy efficiency, and into renewable energy projects.

    Finally, this is a classic public-choice question as compatible with a capitalistic structure as with a socialistic one.

    None of these comments should be taken as suggesting that the proposed policies aren’t good from a public policy goal. Indeed, one of the greatest things that Congress could do would be to eliminate most agricultural and mineral subsidies, and repeal most agricultural duties. It’s preposterous, for example, that we pay as much for sugar as we do to protect the growers in Montana and Louisiana, when Brazil can raise the sugar so much cheaper. It’s absurd that we have a use-it-or-lose-it water policy in California that requires farmers to use the water they are allocated for agriculture or lose the right to use it, which means we have people raising hay–HAY!!!!! a low-value crop!–in the middle of the California desert! (Apropos of another post, I saw a story that confirmed my suspicion about water use: of the 31 zillion acre-feet that California generally has available, 9 zillion get consumed by urban areas, and the rest by agriculture in, for the most part, low-value crops such as rice and hay. In other words, existing water sources could sustain 3 times the population we currently have (a frightening though) if we did away with agricultural use or allowed farmers to sell their water to urban areas.)

    All these are, in my mind, good ideas. The requirement of socialism to implement them, however, remains at best an unproven proposition. Socialism may be a PREFERRED outcome a priori from a personal sense of justice or aesthetics, but nothing in the economics, political or technical, dictate such a conclusion, unless there are a lot of assumptions that haven’t been spelled out.