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How the justification changes in only a generation or two

Summary:
Apparently it’s necessary to abolish capitalism in order to beat climate change:Alas, it’s easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism....(...)...... it’s the obsession with economic growth at any cost.This is, of course, untrue. As the basic analysis underlying all climate change murmuring insists - and yes, this underpins Nordhaus and his Nobel, the Stern Review, the IPCC, COP this and that, all of it - beating climate change is entirely consistent with the continued existence of capitalism. Indeed, given that the task is to foster technological change then that mixture of capitalism and free markets is exactly what is required, for that’s the system which best fosters technological change.It’s also untrue that capitalism - or markets for that matter - demands

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Apparently it’s necessary to abolish capitalism in order to beat climate change:

Alas, it’s easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.

...(...)...

... it’s the obsession with economic growth at any cost.

This is, of course, untrue. As the basic analysis underlying all climate change murmuring insists - and yes, this underpins Nordhaus and his Nobel, the Stern Review, the IPCC, COP this and that, all of it - beating climate change is entirely consistent with the continued existence of capitalism. Indeed, given that the task is to foster technological change then that mixture of capitalism and free markets is exactly what is required, for that’s the system which best fosters technological change.

It’s also untrue that capitalism - or markets for that matter - demands economic growth at any cost. It’s an efficient manner of gaining that growth, true, but the growth itself is something more generally desired. Humans do like economic growth. After all, few of us like the abject poverty which is the alternative.

But here’s the bit we find fascinating. A generation and two back that socialism that is touted as the alternative to capitalism was so touted on the basis that it was more efficient. That scientific planning, scientific socialism, would produce more growth than that horrible wastefulness of capitalism and market competition. This was the argument for both the horrors of the Soviet system and the dreary boredom of post-WWII nationalisations alike. More growth through socialism.

Well, that didn’t work out well. So now the argument is that we must have socialism in order not to have growth. At which point the argument can be seen to be as threadbare as it actually is. If the answer is still that we must have socialism but the reason why has reversed polarity then clearly we’re in the grip of a religious mania, not a logical analysis. It’s now as with the insistence that yes, but you didn’t put enough virgins into the volcano.

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Tim Worstall
Tim Worstall is a British-born writer and Senior Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute. Worstall is a regular contributor to Forbes and the Register. He has also written for the Guardian, the New York Times, PandoDaily, the Daily Telegraph blogs, the Times, and The Wall Street Journal. In 2010 his blog was listed as one of the top 100 UK political blogs by Total Politics.

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