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  • Hillary vs the Industrial Revolution

    Posted by David Foster on July 21st, 2009 (All posts by )

    Saw a snippet of an interview last night in which Secretary Clinton was saying that: When America (and also Europe, presumably) built all those coal plants and other fossil-fuel-based infrastructure, we just didn’t know what a bad thing pollution was. With the pretty obvious implied mesage to India being: YOU, on the other hand, have no excuse.

    Set aside for the moment the second part of the above and focus on the first part. Suppose that, beginning around 1800, we had known everything that we know now (and think we know) about pollution, the possible effects of CO2, etc. What does she think we should have done?

    As factories began to emerge, should we have restricted them to those locations in which they could have been powered directly by waterwheels, in order to avoid the use of coal-burning steam engines?

    Should we have similarly restricted the use of electricity to areas in which waterpower was feasible? (Bear in mind that during the great age of electrification there were no photovoltaic cells available for solar power generation…also, of course, may environmentalists are almost as opposed to large-scale hydro projects as they are to coal plants.)

    Should we have continued to rely on the horse and the mule for transportation? (Remember, without a robust electrical grid, electric cars are not an option…indeed, without fossil-fuel-based power, even electric streetcars would have been out of the question in most places.)

    For an individual with Hillary’s wealth and connections, of course, things wouldn’t have been too bad under this scenario. Even if clothing cost 5X what it does today, for instance, she would surely have been able to afford everything she needs. And I imagine that even if fossil-fuel-generated electricity had been banned for the masses, people like Clinton and Gore would have been able to get special permits for coal-fired generators for their homes. (At least if people like them were running the government.

    But a large and affluent middle class–on which the Democrats say they place such value–would never have come into existence.

     

    17 Responses to “Hillary vs the Industrial Revolution”

    1. Marty Says:

      Further proof, as if any were needed, of how detached from reality and how arrogant toward others are those who claim to value diversity and multi-culti.

    2. Helen Says:

      Total bloody ignorance is how I would describe it. But then, people who yearn for some mythical golden age in the past or the future always assume that they will be the beneficiaries.

    3. Aidan Says:

      The analogy that you’ve made seems to be missing a key ingredient: The 1800s offered no other technology, so thus what you’ve proposed is either pollute or stop producing valuable goods. That is in no way the same situation that India (and China, etc.,) are facing – there are plenty of alternatives to the means that they choose to produce.

      Although I agree that Clinton has wealth and connections, this seems a convoluted way to get to that final statement.

    4. david foster Says:

      Aidan…it was Hillary, not me, who implied that if we’d understood all about pollution in 1800, we wouldn’t have built our economy on fossil fuel technologies.

    5. Aidan Says:

      David,

      I will not argue that Mrs. Clinton’s statement was accurate – it would be impossible for industrial revolutionists to understand pollution as it didn’t exist in it’s current form until after years of industrial production. I was commenting on your leveraging of her preposterous idea to make a point about the conflict between demographic and point of view.

      I have not seen the interview, so I cannot comment on it. I would assume that this comment was in response to the China/India argument about pollution that says “America got to pollute, why can’t we”?

      Mrs. Clinton might not have made the best argument, but using her words with an obvious and transparent political end in mind seems out of place on a blog that associates itself with one of the greatest economic universities in the world.

    6. Bill Waddell Says:

      When Hillary says things like that she demonstrates how far removed from day to day reality she is. She sees life in theory rather than how it is – or how it was. Her reality has been defined in Yale classrooms and over wine tasting at exclusive gatherings of wealthy liberal thinkers.

      From David Brooks in The Seattle Times: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/opinion/2009510579_brooks22.html

      “It’s not that interesting to watch the Democrats lose touch with America. That’s because the plotline is exactly the same. The party is led by insular liberals from big cities and the coasts, who neither understand nor sympathize with moderates. They have their own cherry-picking pollsters, their own media and activist cocoon, their own plans to lavishly spend borrowed money to buy votes.

      This ideological overreach won’t be any more successful than the last one. A Washington Post-ABC News poll released Monday confirms what other polls have found. Most Americans love Barack Obama personally, but support for Democratic policies is already sliding fast.”

      As out of touch the Republicans are with Main Street, Obama and his crowd are much, much worse. Their policies are leaving the average American scratching his head wondering, “What the …” and the polls indicate that they are roaring down the road to oblivion at a breathless pace. Jimmy Carter is going to look like a brilliant economist and statesman by the time these guys are finished. In fact it has been my belief all along that Obama was elected because it has been 30 years since Carter worked his wonders on America and the world, and most voters are not old enough to remember jus how bad things are under liberal leadership. Look for another wild-eyed liberal to be elected in 2040.

    7. Shannon Love Says:

      Aidan,

      That is in no way the same situation that India (and China, etc.,) are facing – there are plenty of alternatives to the means that they choose to produce.

      That is really not true. They can’t afford the massive redundancy needed for wind and solar, they don’t have the geography for much more hydroelectric power, natural gas can’t be shipped overseas and they don’t have the manufacturing infrastructure to build enough nukes short term meet their power needs.

      The biggest and most destructive myth of energy policy debates is that there are “environmentally friendly” choices that everyone could make that would be almost painless if only more people where more moral. Well, that idea is crap. If India and China need power in the short term, their only feasible source of power is coal.

      If we want to stop them from using coal we should subsidize their nuclear industry. Otherwise, we should shut the hell up and leave them alone.

    8. david foster Says:

      Aidan…Hillary made a sweeping statement about economic and technological history, subjects about which she apparently understands little. Not clear what would be objectionable about pointing that out.

      When you say “there are plenty of alternatives to the means that they choose to produce”…the leaders of these countries have to be concerned with scalability and cost, not only with technologies that might be theoretically feasible. They are aware that if they sign on to what Clinton is selling, they will be creating hundreds of millions of person-years of unnecessary poverty among their populations.

    9. Jonathan Says:

      Aidan wrote:
      I would assume that this comment was in response to the China/India argument about pollution that says “America got to pollute, why can’t we”?

      That’s not what the Indians are arguing. They are pointing out that, at their relatively low level of development, industrial anti-carbon emissions measures would certainly do much more harm by keeping Indians poor than they could ever help by affecting global climate (and that’s even if the AGW climate-change theories are correct, which is not established).

    10. onparkstreet Says:

      Oh, the Indians had plenty of tart words about climate change:

      “In fact, the Indian Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh, broke away from the saccharine tone of most of Clinton’s meetings with the country’s leaders by bluntly reiterating India’s position that it would not accept binding emissions cuts. “There is simply no case for the pressure that we, who have been among the lowest emitters per capita, face to actually reduce emissions,” Ramesh said to Clinton at a conference on climate change in Gurgaon, near New Delhi, on July 19. “And as if this pressure was not enough, we also face the threat of carbon tariffs on our exports to countries such as yours.” Clinton defused the situation by asserting that the U.S. would not take any step to limit India’s economic growth.”

      http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1911878,00.html

      Making friends everywhere……

      It’s all Kabuki, a theater, a non-starter. IMO (and in their words), the Indians will do what they think is best in terms of promoting economic growth.

    11. Bill Waddell Says:

      “And as if this pressure was not enough, we also face the threat of carbon tariffs on our exports to countries such as yours.” Clinton defused the situation by asserting that the U.S. would not take any step to limit India’s economic growth.”

      The tariff on Indian goods coming into the United States is 2-4% for most things. The tariff on American goods going into India is 35% give or take. This weasel whining about the threat of cabon tariff’s is pathetic. Hillary ‘defusing the situation’ with assurances that India will be allowed to continue behind the results of its dismal political and economic leadership is even more pathetic.

    12. Aidan Says:

      Shannon – Understood. The difference being existence vs. feasibility, and I can accept them not being mutually exclusive. I took too narrow a stance on that argument.

      David – Possibly I misread, but I didn’t take your post to be a criticism of Mrs. Clinton’s knowledge on the subject (specifically the last two paragraphs). No need to belabor the point, though.

      Jonathan – I am against economic regulation in almost every form, but …

      Bill – Agreed.

    13. onparkstreet Says:

      Oh, I agree the tariff by India is pathetic, Bill Waddell. Doesn’t change my overall point: the lecturing won’t work.

    14. veryretired Says:

      In 1800, average life expectency was probably around 40. After 200 years of all that terrible pollution, and the wealth created by the industries it powered, the average lifespan is about 80.

      Isn’t it odd that people could be so perverse as to live about twice as long when everything the doomsayers argue says it should be just the opposite.

      It’s a shame when reality spoils a good ideological moment.

    15. Bill Waddell Says:

      And I agree with you Onparkstreet. The Indians and the Chinese see Hillary and Barack coming and laugh all the way to the bank.

    16. Isegoria Says:

      We can all pat each other on the back and agree that foregoing all fossil-fuel power would have been a bad idea, but, knowing what we know now, what would modern Chicago Boyz recommend to 19th-century Manchester Lads? Damn the externalities, full steam ahead?

    17. Micha Elyi Says:

      “We can all pat each other on the back and agree that foregoing all fossil-fuel power would have been a bad idea, but, knowing what we know now, what would modern Chicago Boyz recommend to 19th-century Manchester Lads? Damn the externalities, full steam ahead?”–Isegoria (#16)

      Yes, I would recommend exactly that (or more precisely, that no more attention be paid by governments to externalities as an excuse for imposing regulations than they historically did). Why? Because there’s no realistic way to be confident that even “knowing what we know now” anyone, even one as hugely smart as “modern Chicago Boyz” (or even as smart as the thousand smartest people with regulatory-lust – check the Harvard faculty), would have as much as a 50-50 chance of reaching a better outcome, for any reasonable definition of “better”.

      Correction: make that “as much as a thousand to one chance.”