“There Is No Alternative” to Managing the Economy and the Climate

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Yves here. I very much like this post on the need to embrace industrial policy in order to tackle climate change and hope you do too. My only very minor quibble is that the author initially embraces, and then later undercuts, the idea that the US does not do industrial policy. We do have one, but it’s by default, via which industries get the most funding and subsidies, such as the military/surveillance complex, health care (the fact that employer health benefits are tax deductible for the corporation but not counted as income to the employee, plus R&D subsidies for Big Pharma), housing, higher education….

By Kevin Cashman. Originally published at Economic Questions

One of Margaret Thatcher’s often-used slogans was TINA, or “there is no alternative.” There is no alternative, she meant, to the neoliberalism that became dominant in the 1970s and 1980s. After a coup led to the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, this idea led to even more smug declarations of victory for the neoliberal order as well as the popularization of Francis Fukuyama’s articulation of the “end of history.”

With the countless failures of neoliberalism coming into focus for all sides of the political spectrum — one of those failures being climate change, which is already leading to potentially irreversible changes in ecological systems — it is worth considering different approaches to economics that could start to address these problems. These include some concepts, like industrial policy and economic planning, which have been summarily dismissed by powerful people in both major parties in the United States. In the context of a Green New Deal, these ideas provide valuable insights on what successful policy and outcomes would look like.

Industrial Policy and Industrial Planning

Industrial policy and economic planning and management are vital to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Briefly, industrial policy is often thought of as policies that strategically supports certain industries, while economic planning involves government intervention in markets to various degrees. (Industrial policy is a type of economic planning.) Over the past 40 years, both concepts have been much maligned by Democrats and Republicans. Industrial policy is attacked as protectionism which spoils “free” trade, and economic planning is often tied to socialist and communist political and economic systems (and thus assumed to be implicitly harmful). Industrial policy is also often tied to economic planning as a way to discredit it.

The dirty secret in development is that the countries that have been most successful at raising living standards and growing their economies engage in planning that is outside what the neoliberal order considers acceptable. These include the Soviet Union, which oversaw vast improvements in living standards and transformed the country into a superpower, and China, which not only has the largest economy in the world today but has reduced poverty to a degree that can only be regarded as one of humanity’s most impressive achievements. The Soviet Union and China didn’t and don’t pretend to be guided by neoliberalism, but other countries, such as Japan and South Korea do. Their development was also characterized by industrial policy, “protectionism,” and currency management. Historically, countries like the United States and the United Kingdom, some of the most enthusiastic promoters of neoliberalism, are guilty of this as well. Simply put, government intervention in markets and industry is how the government can move the economy to solve large problems, like poverty, underdevelopment, and hopefully in the future, climate change.

Planning for the Benefit of the Rich

If these policies are so beneficial, why does neoliberalism eschew them? While this is perhaps an oversimplification, it’s because the interests that promote neoliberalism risk losing power and money from their adoption. The hollowing out of social welfare programs and the introduction of markets into various facets of life have led to the accrual of wealth and power for some, and those people, who might have been already rich or powerful to begin with, don’t want to lose those benefits. Neoliberalism also has different apparatuses that support it in academia, media, the state, and other institutions that give backing to its ideas. As an example, free trade in a vacuum might make sense, but “free” trade structured to benefit the rich does not. However, said apparatuses will continue to push the narrative that “free” trade is inevitable and unavoidable. Likewise, austerity — the idea the government should close budget deficits and reduce its debt — does not improve economies and makes very little sense, but it was the default policy prescription during the worst recession in 80 years, and it destroyed many lives.

That leads to another point: the United States and other countries committed to capitalism and neoliberalism actually practice industrial policy by enacting policies that largely benefit the rich. This protectionism can be found in many different parts of the economy. The supply of doctors, dentists, and lawyers is artificially restricted (thus raising wages), the Export–Import Bank subsidized large companies that had no need for subsidies, intellectual property rules allow rents to be extracted on drugs or software much longer than is necessary, the gains from government research and development are privatized, and the financial sector is largely waste — just to name a few examples.

Transportation and Urbanism as Examples of Poor Planning

Since economic planning in the United States is focused largely on extracting gains for the rich, it also means that there is inadequate planning around pressing problems, like climate change. The transportation sector illustrates these inefficiencies and coordination failures well.

The transportation sector is the largest or second-largest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Overwhelmingly, light-duty vehicles are responsible for most of these emissions — 60 percent — while Medium- and Heavy-Duty Trucks are 23 percent. Aircraft (9 percent), Rail (2 percent), Ships and Boats (2 percent), and everything else (4 percent) make up the rest.

In many cities in the United States, vehicles are the most common way to commute to work or get around. This is in large part due to poor and disjointed transportation policy and is also why light-duty vehicles contribute so much to emissions. Medium- and heavy-duty truck emissions are high as well (and rail, low) because trucks are the predominant way goods are transported across the country and within cities. A sensible climate policy to address this would 1) limit the emissions from vehicles and 2) shift to better ways of transporting people and goods.

Over the last thirty years, the United States has largely failed at both of these goals. Vehicle fuel efficiency has increased modestly via standards (after efficiency decreased in the 1990s), although these are undermined by states in various ways. Gasoline is by far the most common fuel, despite the availability of technology that could have supplanted it. Electric vehicles and gasoline/electric hybrid vehicles were developed and viable in the 1990s, but absent incentives to produce them or require their adoption were not produced in large numbers. Electric vehicles were clearly superior in terms of their environmental impact because they relied on electricity generation, which could be from clean sources. Instead, the United States spent significant time and money developing hydrogen, ethanol, and compressed natural gas vehicles, which had significant disadvantages (ethanol subsidies also had significant harmful effects abroad, raising the prices of food in poor countries, some of which had been encouraged to adopt trade policies that exposed themselves to this danger). This mirrors the United States’ slow recognition that wind and solar power represented the future of electricity generation, which was in part due to the promotion of natural gas as supposedly a “transition fuel” and coal as “clean.”

The United States also has questionable priorities when organizing how people get around. Cities rely on car use to an unacceptable degree, which imposes large environmental and social costs. In Ivan Illich’s Energy and Equity, Illich argues that structures like the transportation system in the United States replicate class divisions and also reproduce and justify themselves without concern for whether they make sense at all. In this, he calculates that the “true” speed of a car, taking into account all of the costs, is 3.7 miles per hour. This serves more as a thought experiment than a calculation to rely on but makes his point. Given these costs, cities should focus on the ways of getting around that have the least social costs, like walking, cycling, and public transportation, as well as designing cities better in the first place so that the average person does not need to rely on cars to get around. Instead, cities are mostly doing the opposite: expanding car use, defunding public transportation, building boondoggles like Elon Musk’s under-city single-serve tunnels, expanding in irresponsible ways, relying on ride-hailing services, and indulging in poorly thought out services like dockless bikes and scooters. In this sense, venture capital is subsidizing modes of transportation that have high social and environmental costs, with the government’s backing. The promise of self-driving cars is also influencing the government’s actions. Self-driving cars, although useful in some respects, will exacerbate environmental and social problems in cities, and should represent only a small slice of how people travel in the future. Venture capital and Silicon Valley more broadly are changing how goods are transported as well. Deliveries, both within cities and between cities, are becoming more common. There are environmental costs to these distribution models, although there is scant acknowledgment of them. Packages sent from Amazon or a grocery delivery probably have more environmental costs than the equivalent trips to the store, for example.

A sensible way to limit emissions from transportation in the United States would be to rethink how cities develop and orient them around walking, cycling, and public transportation while restricting private car use. People should live close to where they work, cities should invest in free public transportation (especially buses, which are cheap and effective), and ban or discourage ride-hailing services or other in vogue technologies that have dubious environmental or social benefits. Electric cars should be rare but the norm and autonomous technology should be embraced (although their use should be also rare and used for the same special cases that normal car use would be used for, e.g. transporting the elderly). Rail should be expanded for both passenger and freight use. These are common sense and obvious solutions that the government should support.

The United States is the country most easily positioned to address climate change but it has done likely the least out of any rich country. China, a country significantly less wealthy than the United States, has likely done the most. In fact, a recent study provides some evidence that China’s carbon dioxide emissions peaked in 2013 and are declining in large part due to changes in China’s industrial structure, which includes pilot programs for pricing carbon, among many other things. China has:

  • Drastically reduced its reliance on coal;
  • Potentially reached peak emissions in a country that’s the world’s largest economy (but also significantly less developed than its peers);
  • Become the largest buyer and producer of solar panels; leader in wind power installation and generation;
  • Undertaken massive reforestation campaigns;
  • A high adoption rate of electric cars.

China’s stunning progress has been called its own Green New Deal. The significance of a middle-income country enacting these policies to its short-term detriment should not be understated. Richer countries have struggled to meet modest emissions goals, and have also insisted that poorer countries undertake large reductions as a prerequisite for their own action. China nevertheless independently adopted policies that led to these achievements. In addition, it did this while continuing to pursue other goals, like poverty reduction.

How was China able to do this? China’s Communist Party undertook significant economic reforms in the 1980s and 1990s in order to grow China’s economy. These changes moved the country into a socialist market economy that introduces some elements of the market into the economy but that also gives the state significant control. The government owns significant parts of the economy and sectors deemed important. It also has more controls on private business than in the West — with agreement from those business leaders. These changes were seen as essential to China developing its productive capabilities and competing in the global economy under the current conditions but also as a step toward socialism and eventually communism.

Unlike in market socialism, economic planning is essential to China’s economy and occurs at many levels of the economy, including the top-most levels. Like other countries that have developed in the 20th century, this planning included export-oriented policies, technology transfers, support for specific industries, and management of its currency. In addition, part of the government’s planning includes the development of an internal market for China’s good and services. This planning, as well as other government policies, probably helped China avoid most of the harmful effects from the Great Recession. Indeed, China’s system seems to be able to largely avoid economic crises that are commonplace in the West, despite near-constant predictions of its economic collapse.

Integral to its more recent planning, is an emphasis on the ecological over the economic, which follows from Marx’s notion of metabolic rift and Soviet ideas about ecosocialism, that capitalism necessarily creates ecological crises and socialism must integrate the environment into the economy. Prioritizing ecological needs could lead to a slowing of the rate of exploitation of the earth’s resources, rather than just an avoidance of the most pressing ecological crisis. In China, this is the concept of an “ecological civilization,” which now has an underlying legal basis. While undoubtedly China believes that its focus on addressing environmental problems will help its long-term growth and stability, its understanding of the problems from a socialist perspective is important as well.

Despite these impressive achievements, China’s ability to set goals and achieve them has garnered little support or acknowledgment in the West. (In fact, poverty reductions from China are often misattributed to the “success” of capitalism elsewhere.) As the United States continues its slide from sole superpower to regional power, attacks on China have ramped up.

It is important to delineate the economic system in China with those of social democracies, like those in Europe. While some social democracies have had impressive achievements, their economic systems — based on exploitation historically and currently — do not fundamentally resolve the tension between classes nor give the government the power to act independently of the market to a large enough degree. Unsurprisingly, the social welfare aspects of these countries are under sustain attacks as politics have taken a turn to the right. As a different conception of neoliberalism, these countries nevertheless have austerity, anti-immigrant policies, and policies that encourage imperialism to various degrees.

Insights for Climate Action in the United States

China’s example provides general lessons for the United States. Capital does not naturally allocate itself to solutions that reduce environmental damage. Even if there were a price on carbon emissions, the government has tools that are needed to reach desired outcomes, which it also must set. The government also engages in research and development that would be unlikely to be conducted by the private sector, which is essential to taking action. These are examples of industrial policy and economic planning. Better management of the transportation sector, previously discussed, would have resulted in a large reduction of greenhouse gases, as would have management of other sectors of the economy. The government can also stop “wrong turns” before they happen, like the focus on developing hydrogen cars or technologies that have little practical or environmental benefits. The government should approach each sector of the economy with this mindset.

In order to use these economic approaches, international, national, and sub-national changes will need to be made. International financial institutions will need to abandon rules that limit industrial policy and economic planning, which have been baked into international financial systems. Given that the United States is probably the largest backer and enforcer of these rules, it would also have a lot of power to change them. Nationally, the United States needs to move past deficit politics and embrace the implications of Modern Monetary Theory, mainly, that taxes do not fund spending and that money is not a restraint on spending but inflation is. More simply put, the United States already has enough resources to enact ambitious policies, and taxes are a tool to keep people from getting too rich. Sub-nationally, the federal government would have to ensure that state and other jurisdictions would not undercut its policies. How cities are managed, in particular, needs to be rethought; the main economic engine of a metro area should control the policies of that area. More generally, the overarching drive toward growth, especially growth that does not take into account ecological damage, as opposed to specific policy outcomes, needs to be reevaluated.

Of course, the economic approaches discussed here and policies like the Green New Deal, in particular, will not be possible without political power. These approaches and policies are essential to taking effective action, however, so they should be integrated into the strategy to build that power as much as they should compose the solutions once that power is gained. Taking on neoliberalism is a daunting task, but it is necessary. It is a mistake to think that undertaking a transformation like that which is required to stop climate change will not require confronting capitalism, or the people who have obscured the ecological crises and contributed to it. China has already done much of the work necessary for creating an economic and political system that is able to make these changes, and there are many lessons to learn from it. Most importantly, is the realization that there is no alternative to increased management of the economy. The planet depends on it.

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  1. Stadist

    A note on Europe from an european:

    I would be pretty much in favor of more and more intergrated EU, but it has a long track record of all sorts of austerity, privatization and other so called neoliberal issues. This is no wonder as the centre-right EPP just keeps being largest all the time in EU parliament. Of course a whole another problem in EU is the huge differences in societal structures and cultures, making labour mobility very limited. Only the extremely lowly educated and highly educated people have meaningful mobility, the middle classes don’t enjoy this nearly to same level, this just prevents more integration. Now with UK spending the foreseeable future as Schrödinger’s Cat the importance of english language in EU will diminish, and especially french are extremely hung up with their own language.

    The voting instructions literally said that EU parliament will consist of X or Y number of members depending whether UK is still a part of EU when parliament is formed, which makes sense, but just underlines how ridiculous the situation is.

    In short I don’t see how EU can effectively respond to the climate change challenge without more integration and coordination, which are extremely difficult with the cultural differences. We have ambitious targets, but they are still quite recent and it will be a huge question mark what actually happens when countries start failing to reach their targets. Recent history and handling of crises, Greece, Cyprus and the migration wave just showcased how completely dysfunctional EU is. Even today Greece is barely functional and EU refuses to help them. When everything is going ok then everyone is happy but during difficulties all the countries just turn back to protecting their own interests. Meanwhile more importantly those who misbehave like the greek people need to be punished and will be punished in EU.

    I would welcome EU acting more like China in various matters, except the surveillance, but this is not happening even if I vote for the most pro-EU candidates because these people are some sort of market liberals happy with status quo, so that’s why I will vote the most anti-EU candidates in upcoming elections.

    1. Summer

      “Only the extremely lowly educated and highly educated people have meaningful mobility, the middle classes don’t enjoy this nearly to same level, this just prevents more integration.”

      Has to do with what I call the big 3 questions of moving:
      1) what do I take
      2) what do I leave behind
      3) what do I have to lose

      1. Stadist

        I meant that more in the perspective of languages: High management, Academics etc. ~ highly educated can usually use english as working language in larger institutions when generalized. Lowly educated people can work simple jobs that demand very little interaction or skills in the target language. Normal working people and middle class broadly falls in the segment that predominately demands a lot of communication in the language of target country. As a comparison I don’t think USA has similar language barriers for the mobility of different segments of working population because you actually have one shared language.
        Of course the EU elites fall in the highly educated category so everything appears to work perfectly in EU with labour mobility and they are oblivious to realities other people are facing, as elites in general tend to be.

    2. Chris Cosmos

      Interesting comment. The EU and the major countries in the Union are at a kind of crossroads and the leadership class seems reluctant to go in any particular direction both on economic and political grounds. First, Europe needs to disassociate itself from US Imperialism and move towards China and Russia to allow for more leverage. The one country that solidly resists and has resisted action on climate change is the USA yet Europe seem solidly, despite the clear and obvious insanity coming out of Washington these days, in the Empire as vassals. In many ways, I hold Europe, on the whole and Germany in particular as being directly responsible for keeping the US Empire afloat when it needs to dissolve. Germany and other strong nations in the EU can achieve enormous power and influence in the world by moving away from the cartoonish bufoonery that is the US Empire today. These countries hold the balance of power in the world and need to be much more assertive particularly in the area of climate change. I would go so far as to favor sanctions against the USA or least threats of sanctions. Without Europe the USA is stuck with Israel and the Saudi royals as major allies along with allies in Latin America who might break loose if Europe were more assertive.

      Second, Europe must end austerity and domination by the finance oligarchs who are traditionally located on Wall Street and the City. This part would take some time and would have to be gradual since that part of the problem is so tightly integrated with European central banks–but a slight movement away from that system would cause quite a lot of change.

      1. animalogic

        “In many ways, I hold Europe, on the whole and Germany in particular as being directly responsible for keeping the US Empire afloat when it needs to dissolve”
        In many ways I agree. Also include the likes of Canada, Australia, & NZ.
        To be fair, the US is very adept at employing the carrot & stick. There are plenty of Tony Blair’s in all EU nations.
        It’s up to EU citizens to demand that their interests, as opposed to those of the US are given priority.
        That the US continues to act with increasing arrogance, disrespect & irrationality for the EU, hopefully this will ease the way towards independence from US diktats.

    3. Ignacio

      I don’t know if my former comment will appear since it was “captched”. In my opinion, the diversity shouldn’t be an issue as long as everybody is aware of the environmental risks of CC. The problem is not exactly in the Europarliament but in the European Council, where the TINA guys (Heads of State) reside. Too many political interests want to benefit from the nationalistic turn they promote.

      Regarding mobility, although it is low, it is available when needed. For instance, many young spanish afflicted by >50% unemployment rates thanks in part to the TINA crowd, moved to UK and Germany during the great recession.

    4. Stadist

      “Meanwhile more importantly those who misbehave like the greek people need to be punished and will be punished in EU.” This was meant in sarcastic manner.

      Rereading my message, this above sentence does not work in manner I hoped: My purpose was to write above as criticism of EU, that EU seeks to primarily punish those within the EU like they are still doing with Greece and greek people. I don’t think Greek need to be punished, not anymore at least. The crisis is nearing 10 years old at this point, enough is enough. Greek debt should have been partially forgiven and heavily restructured already with 1st EU package, or at least with the 2nd one. If the interest rates start rising the Greece is back to needing help because their debt levels have not been going down and the economy isn’t really recovering. At this rate Greek unemployment will be below 10% maybe in 2030.

  2. Brooklin Bridge

    I don’t get the part where the author undercuts the idea that the US doesn’t do Industrial Policy. That would mean, I thunk, that the author embraces that the US DOES do Industrial policy (if he undercuts his assertion that it DOESN’T do Industrial policy).

    Ugg. Not arguing the point, just idly complaining that it flies over my poor head. As to a sort of non policy equating to a default policy, it seems more descriptive to say a policy who’s only raison d’etre is that it gets least in the way of corporate profits, is not a coherent policy in any socially constructive sense. But again, and be that as it may, I don’t see where the author undercuts his own argument.

    1. Susan the other`

      I couldn’t quite pinpoint it except for this analysis: international financial institutions (neoliberal big banks, IMF, World Bank and all the usual suspects) insist that governments abandon rules that “limit” industrial policy and economic planning. This has been a disaster and we must move beyond the default policy of free marketeering and “deficit politics” and embrace MMT. Nice. I liked that part best. And also his insight that the management of cities is very important because they are the hub of all economic activity. Implying that cities are the best place to effectively begin to control free-market growth and turn it into ecologically sustainable growth. But the author seems to be making the clear point that we operate currently under the default policy of the Magic Market. And it’s not working.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      He first acts as if the US doesn’t and needs to, then acknowledges it does to favor special interests. It’s party line versus reality, but I would have preferred him to have been more straightforward. However, this site is for young academics, and they tend to be cautious in how they write.

  3. Summer

    “People should live close to where they work, cities should invest in free public transportation.”

    If a town is big enough to have separate elelmentary, junior high, and high schools, it should look at what it doing about public transportation.

    1. sharonsj

      Obviously you’ve never lived in rural areas or in “smallish” towns. The nearest town to me, with a separate high school and elementary school, has no public transportation. In fact, there is no public transportation anywhere in these areas.

    1. jrs

      I want him in the debates!

      But he tends to get lost in the endless list of moderates etc. when he really has comprehensive policy, the most detailed plans out there on climate change, that have gotten little traction.

      Even if he personally goes nowhere besides doing the good he already has in WA, we need the Policies he’s proposing.

      1. animalogic

        I agree with most of the author’s points. However, he simply has no idea of exactly how revolutionary his views are. His views essentially call for the dismantling of 40 odd years of neoliberalism. His views are a direct assault on the interests of the 0.01%.
        Change such as he envisiones IS revolutionary. It will demand a unified & aggressive working class.
        Rosa Luxemburg was absolutely correct — it really is a choice between socialism or barbarism.
        If we want to save this planet we are in for the fight of our lives.
        Of course, it be better to forget the whole thing & just check out the latest “Avengers”

        1. animalogic

          Of course, it MAY be better to forget the whole thing & just check out the latest “Avengers”

  4. Eclair

    A few years ago I was tagging along with my spouse to a genealogy conference in Sweden. The group stayed for a week in a former estate, on the shores of a biggish lake, Laxsjön, ‘The Salmon Lake.’ And, there were salmon, swimming lazily in the crystal clear waters near the shoreline. And, after a few days, I discovered that the large brick structure on the far opposite shore was ….. a paper mill. No odor or water pollution that I could detect. Unlike paper mills I have known in the US.

    Last year, on the way to visiting cousins on the west coast of Sweden, we stopped for a few nights in Uddevalla. I wanted to see how Swedish system dealt with an industrial city that had lost its major employer, a large shipbuilding firm, in the 1980’s.

    Unlike the decaying industrial cities of the US northeast, I saw no abandoned buildings or gutted housing. There was a robust public transportation system, with buses, a train station with frequent service to Gothenburg (we came in and departed on the train), and major municipal housing. Obvious working class city; no expensive German cars. We walked all over the city, winding in and out of the multi-storied banks of housing. Everything was well-maintained, with nice grassy areas, no graffiti, no litter. Lots of immigrants. I could see myself living there.

    1. Chris Cosmos

      Well, that’s Scandinavia for you. They like order. The USA is not like that it, as is as Morris Berman has pointed out, a nation of hustlers and swindlers. Within that context, people can live within that milieu because it is very creative and innovative but we are experiencing, particularly since the 90s the law of diminishing returns becoming ever more dramatic such that we are headed solidly towards either economic collapse and/or, ecological collapse, and/or cultural collapse which is the only certain thing we are facing.

      There is little interests among the population or the power-elite for major change along the lines of being like Scandinavia–the culture of narcissism is still rampant and escape through drugs, games, entertaining ourselves to death, are all increasing not decreasing. Only through chaos can some sane kind of solution arise from our collective problems. The sad part about Sweden that is the dark-side of that society is that they still support the US Empire–until I see some movement away from that I have mainly contempt for Swedish society or at least its leadership.

  5. David J.

    I thought this was a good article and I wish the author had the time and space to address the issue of industrial policy in the U.S. rather than just making a note of it while further examining China, etc… .

    I like to recommend 2 books to people when considering the history of American political economy, especially when the context is about developing policy to guide what I suppose we now call a “mixed economy,” where both government intervention and liberal business practice both are part of the economic equation.

    The first has been mentioned on NC more than once; it’s Michael Hudson’s “America’s Protectionist Takeoff, 1815-1914. The Neglected American School of Political Economy.” It’s a really good introduction to the ideas and the people who were influential during the period where U.S. economic development was shaped during the antebellum period and which played a significant role in post-Civil War industrial expansion.

    The other book is by Gabor S. Boritt: “Lincoln and the Economics of the American Dream.” While the subject matter is focused around Lincoln and what we can surmise about his understanding of political economy, Boritt does a masterful job of presenting the political debates and economic policies of the period through the Civil War. It was a real eye-opener for me–I’d rank it as one of the most important books about Lincoln ever written. (An aside for those who might consider getting this book: Try to get the older hardback version. The newer trade paperback printing does not have the bibliography, it just has the footnotes.)

  6. Jerry B

    The point of the post that the US needs an industrial policy and better economic planning and management is a sound idea which many people on NC have discussed in other posts and comments. However, the authors fawning over China seems unbalanced. I am all for pointing out the positives of a person’s or country’s actions but there is always other not so positive actions as well. China is no exception.

    I could provide links showing China’s issues but as Yves has mentioned, and I agree with, links are not an argument. I am not very knowledgeable on China’s less desirable actions but from what I have read they have significant problems with food safety, air and water pollution, infrastructure, lax regulations, over-urbanization, etc.

    Again, I appreciate the author’s efforts at discussing industrial policy and climate change, but a little more balanced view of China’s positive as well as negative actions would be welcome

    1. Ignacio

      I think he does the thesis-antithesis scheme but doesn`t want to go to synthesis. He apparently ignores the problems China faces with excessive and badly structured debt. But the strong point that GND needs forceful government intervention doesn’t change.

      1. Jerry B

        ===But the strong point that GND needs forceful government intervention doesn’t change.===

        Agreed. That is why I lauded the authors efforts on government driven industrial policy and planning.
        Unfortunately, I am not optimistic that the US government is capable of any sort of industrial policy and economic planning/management in our current era. As many writers have discussed, the US government is at the behest of monied interests i.e. an oligarchy and any industrial policy or economic planning will only be in service of the wealthy and elites. IMO the only way that changes is the US having a climate “oh (family blog)” moment i.e. a climate Day After Tomorrow Movie scenario that wakes the US from it’s apathy.

  7. Ptb

    Key line, bears repeating:

    Capital does not naturally allocate itself to solutions that reduce environmental damage.

    And agree 100% on transit in the US.


    There are parts of this, too, which involve a re-definition of what is normal middle class life. For example, in cold climates, smallish detached homes, which were working-middle class level for a long time, might become upper-middle class things for a time, due to heating. (Surface area/volume). Taking the bus, which used to be the sure sign of the urban poor (except in NYC), might become normal.

    But there is kindof zero evidence the US govt wants any such things. We’re going all in on cheap energy. Wind/solar as boondoggle subsidy’s are ok. Actual efficiency is not. Remember, profitability = 1/efficiency.

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