Thomas Friedman : Unintentional Comedian?

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Ignoring the merits or demerits of New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman's op/ed yesterday advocating tax breaks for solar and wind power, his (apparently unironic) quotation from a clean tech lobbyist was hilarious. To wit:

It is also alarming, says Rhone Resch, the president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, that the U.S. has reached a point "where the priorities of Congress could become so distorted by politics" that it would turn its back on the next great global industry — clean power — "but that's exactly what is happening."

Distorted by politics? Congress? Who would have thunk it?

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  1. Remember the good old days, when Congress was clean, and politics were not a factor in how the government operated?

    Yeah, me neither.

  2. I’m confused. Isn’t politics by definition the process for arranging priorities?

  3. Is this the Mr. Friedman who wrote that “flat earth” book a few years ago? The one my child gave me as a present a few months ago? Still have not read it, but it is sounding like I am missing out on the next Bill Maher.

  4. Imagine if politics were, for once, distorted by capitalism instead of the other way around.
    JMR

  5. Isn’t politics by definition the process for arranging priorities?

    This assumes that priorities are commensurable, mutually exclusive, and practically agreeable upon.

    Otherwise we call the process for arranging priorities “economics.”

  6. I read Flat Earth a few years back when it first came out. Most libertarian-minded people would probably agree with his globalist views. I know if some of the protectionist nonsense some of the politicians are talking about gets put into law, I’m out of a job. But where Friedman probably goes astray is his reliance on a massive “Manhattan Project” style government program to foster alternative energy. While tax credits for solar might be a good idea, as fossil fuel continues to grow more costly, we will see a tsunami of private money investing in other energy sources.

  7. The great tragedy is that most people can no longer distinguish between public and private. At some point in the 20th century our servants became our masters. We must beg their permission for every action great and small.

  8. The Moustache Of Understanding

    Wear it, and all will be revealed…

  9. Is Friedman still predicting the next six months in Iraq will be “decisive”?

  10. Meta,

    Is Friedman still predicting the next six months in Iraq will be “decisive”?

    Probably, but now he is staggering over to the surrender monkey side of the issue.

  11. Is Friedman still predicting the next six months in Iraq will be “decisive”?

    I measure my life in FUs.

  12. Otherwise we call the process for arranging priorities “economics.”

    Uh huh. And there is no economics in politics. After all, how people choose what to spend on in no way is a reflection of their social priorities and political values. (Can you say Prius? Organic Foods? Lesbian Porn?)

  13. Isn’t politics by definition the process for arranging priorities?

    Politics is by definition the process for arranging priorities and then imposing them on people by force.

    As Hugh Akston notes, the process of arranging priorities among free people is called economics.

  14. lmnop,

    Lesbian Porn

    That would be porn filmed in Mytilini, right?

  15. These credits are critical because they ensure that if oil prices slip back down again – which often happens – investments in wind and solar would still be profitable.

    Without tax credits, buying this crap doesn’t make sense. The Constitution requires us to guarantee profits to every snake oil salesman who can afford a lobbyist.

  16. Uh huh. And there is no economics in politics.

    MikeP has it right.

    I would merely add that economics is a foreign concept to people who act with no particular budgetary restraints.

  17. i think what is scarier is naming “clean power” as the “next great global industry.” it may well turn out to be, if high prices and/or environmental problems finally make alternate energy feasible and profitable. but the idea that congress could or should make it so is laughable. the only professions that congress has ever truly made profitable are civil rights attorneys and tax accountants.

  18. That would be porn filmed in Mytilini, right?

    Indeed. Sappho gets creative credit.

    I would merely add that economics is a foreign concept to people who act with no particular budgetary restraints.

    Sadly, that tends to be true. But let us not pretend that the “free choices of human beings” don’t exert pressures…nay, FORCES…on others through their effects. Just because a monopoly of force isn’t involved doesn’t mean that people aren’t irrevocably chained to the decisions of others.

  19. Congressmen distorted by politics! Why, they’re almost as bad as the damn businessmen, putting profits ahead of people!

  20. Solar power cost is declining dramatically and the market is doubling every two years, so I don’t see why government intervention is needed, except for the politicians to take credit for it. You know, like they did for the forty-hour work week (two centuries of industrialization and production automation had nothing to do with it!).

  21. MikeP

    As Hugh Akston notes, the process of arranging priorities among free people is called economics.

    If you want to define it that way, sure, but the outcomes would be horrible. You need coercion and state power if you want a well functioning economy for a number of reasons, most importantly for enforcing property rights and the creation and regulation of the money supply.

    Otherwise, you have chaos, and people have no incentive to produce. That was the problem with Marx’s utopia (well, one of the problems)–it didn’t use force.

  22. jimmy
    the idea that congress could or should make [clean energy profitable] is laughable. the only professions that congress has ever truly made profitable are civil rights attorneys and tax accountants.

    Of course it could! Simply making people responsible for their actions (say, by taxing pollution) would make clean energy profitable. That’s the whole point of the policy. For another example, just look at how profitable the government made scientific research, which would otherwise have relatively limited demand due to the public-good nature of scientific knowledge. More basically, by enforcing property rights and regulating the money supply, the government makes production profitable by letting people sell their excess goods in a stable market condition. Without those guarantees by the government, business as we know it would not be profitable.

    As to whether it should, that’s a different question…I think it should–that was the basis for the enclosure movement the birthed the productive system of free enterprise. I support pollution taxes for the same reason I support property rights: their beneficial effects on the market.

  23. brian,

    Accepting for the sake of argument your skepticism about the workability of anarchy, what you say in no way disputes what Hugh or I said.

    There may indeed be some need for force in society, and therefore a need for politics. That doesn’t change the definition of politics or of economics. You should not delude yourself into forgetting that politics means force.

    By the way, solar power subsidies are neither protection of property rights nor regulation of the money supply.

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