Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The "Greening" of "the Market"

Next month the city will launch a new program aimed at increasing recycling in Houston. According to a Chronicle editorial:
The latest wrinkle is a partnership with a New York company, RecycleBank, that allows participants who recycle to convert trash into credits that can be cashed in at national and local retailers. Already used in 21 states and serving a million people, the program has dramatically stimulated the rate of participation in recycling programs where it operates.
The program will allow participants to earn up to $450 per year in credits for recycling. The credits can be used for discounts at participating businesses or donated to charity. Lamenting the fact that Houston lags far behind other cities in recycling, the paper urges eligible Houstonians to participate in the program for the benefit of the environment and their household budget.

The program is the latest maneuver by Mayor White to turn Houston into a "green" city. While this measure won't resort to outright coercion, it is an attempt to manipulate us into certain behavior.

Environmentalists have mixed reactions to this program:
As with most things, this program is not the answer in and of itself, but it is a step in the right direction. The more we can get our markets and social structures to reward and encourage more sustainable behaviors, the sooner we'll get to where we need to go.
And where do the greenies think "we need to go"? They have made it abundantly clear that they would like to see "consumerism" wiped off the face of the earth. They want us to consume less, use fewer resources, and ultimately go back to huddling in a cave. Of course, forcing Americans to give up their I-Pods and Internet access would not go over well, and so they are content to take baby steps to slowly move us in that direction. They are content to use a combination of carrots and sticks.

"Cap and Trade" programs are one example. The EPA's web site has this to say:
EPA’s Clean Air Markets Programs use a market-based regulatory program called Cap and Trade to reduce emissions. This type of approach is one of several different market-based mechanisms that use a variety of economic incentives and disincentives, such as tax credits, emissions fees, and emissions trading.
While greenies loathe "the market", they will use it (or pretend that they are) when it fits their purposes. But is this really "the market" at work, or is it something else?

When someone speaks of "the market", it is generally implied that they are referring to a free market, that is, a market in which trade is conducted voluntarily. But there is nothing voluntary about Cap and Trade. Emission limits and emissions fees--the stick--are imposed by government. And where that doesn't suffice, tax credits--the carrot--are dangled. Whether government is mandating or "using incentives", the fact remains that government is controlling the behavior of individuals.

Despite the EPA's claim, a market-based regulatory program is a contradiction in terms. Government is an agent of force; "the market" is based on voluntary consent. Cap and Trade, and similar programs--are an attempt to combine elements of choice with elements of dictatorial policies. It is an attempt to get us to do the "right thing" and fool us into believing that we actually have a choice in the matter.

Like government regulation of the financial industry, health care, and everything else, when problems develop (and they will) it will be the elements of freedom that take the blame. Barney Frank, Nancy Pelosi, and their cohorts will chortle that "the market" failed. They will evade the fact that it was their policies that strangled "the market". They will evade the fact that "the market" consists of all consumers and producers--which means, the vast majority of the American people.

In proclaiming that "the market" failed, the gang in Washington really means that the American people failed to act as they--the gang in Washington--want us to act. Americans actually want to enjoy their lives, rather than sit in frigid darkness in order to reduce their carbon footprint. Americans actually enjoy SUVs and private automobiles, not sitting on crowded mass transit like cattle on the way to the slaughterhouse. But that doesn't sit well in Washington.

When "the market" fails, when the free and voluntary choices of individual Americans fail to produce Utopia, the czars of Washington will be unleashed. When the carrot doesn't work, they drag out the stick.

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