Ross Gar­naut has retreat­ed to pop­ulist non­sense in his evan­ge­lism on behalf of car­bon emis­sion abate­ment. By urg­ing us repeat­ed­ly to “do our fair share” he takes up the Diana Moon Glam­pers (*) ban­ner of a stul­ti­fy­ing, imag­i­nary “equi­ty” that will dam­age our nation­al com­par­a­tive advantage. 

“Fail­ure to do our fair share is not a clever posi­tion for Aus­tralia, which is the devel­oped coun­try most vul­ner­a­ble to cli­mate change. Espe­cial­ly when we are going through a once-in-his­to­ry boom in incomes,” he said.” Extract from Gar­naut Review, press release May 31, 2011

As the Chair of the Pro­duc­tiv­i­ty Com­mis­sion notes, a tax on our car­bon rich­es is a tax on our com­par­a­tive advan­tage in pro­duc­tion and trade. It is mad­ness to endorse an $11 bil­lion tax on our most impor­tant export indus­tries and on Aus­tralian households—impoverishing our­selves and reduc­ing our capac­i­ty for future tech­no­log­i­cal adaptation—for the sake of some imag­i­nary “equal­i­ty” of effort in a futile endeavour.



Speak­ing at an indus­try forum in par­lia­ment house yes­ter­day, Mr Banks said it was “com­mon sense that achiev­ing any giv­en lev­el of abate­ment is like­ly to be cost­lier in a coun­try with a com­par­a­tive advan­tage in fos­sil fuels”.“Crucially — and this point seems not to be wide­ly under­stood — it will not be effi­cient from a glob­al per­spec­tive (let alone a domes­tic one) for a car­bon-inten­sive econ­o­my, such as ours, to abate as much as oth­er coun­tries that are less reliant on cheap, high-emis­sion ener­gy sources,” he said.Extract from The Aus­tralian

There is no glob­al regime for cut­ting car­bon emis­sions. By reject­ing this bad idea we would not be “defect­ing” from any­thing except a uni­lat­er­al folly—Kevin Rud­d’s un-leg­is­lat­ed 5% pledge—partially matched at the Copen­hagen “Kyoto” Con­fer­ence. Even if there were a glob­al regime, it would nev­er make sense four us to “throw rocks in our own har­bour” (Joan Robin­son’s —or maybe Fred­er­ic Bastiat’s—argument against rec­i­p­ro­cal pro­tec­tion­ism) just because the cur­rent UK gov­ern­ment decides to do so. 

(*) Bonus: if you’ve nev­er read Kurt Von­negut’s hilar­i­ous short sto­ry Har­ri­son Burg­eron then here’s your chance to enjoy one of his sem­i­nal ear­ly works (from a reprint in the US Nation­al Review magazine)

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