Not sure where to start with this one other than to note that Jagdish
Bhagwati does not seem to like Al Gore:
Futurama, by Jagdish Bhagwati: ...Al Gore ... surely succeeded beyond his
wildest expectations as the author of An Inconvenient Truth. But his phenomenal
success had little to do with science (which has remained somewhat
controversial: many of us remember for instance the not-too-distant scare about
global cooling, also from climate scientists) and much to do with the
photographs of polar bears caught on drifting ice as glaciers melted. An image
like that is what we all need when we push our pet agendas. Alas, none of us is
so fortunate. Nor is Gore as he turns now to writing about our future. ...
The problem Gore faces in the bulk of this book therefore is that his
identification of problems, and his proposed solutions, are not compelling. His
erudition is considerable but is necessarily limited since he casts his net
wide, and he is both unfamiliar with important issues pertinent to his analysis
and also shallow in his prescriptions for remedial policies. ...
Given Gore’s justified reputation on climate change, a disappointing feature of
Gore’s book is in the chapter titled “The Edge.” I agree with him that the
evidence on climate change, and the contribution to it by man-made carbon
emissions, is about as good as science can provide; and he is persuasive in his
sketch of the scenario of the dangers that global warming, unchecked, hold for
mankind. Where he fails is in the remedies that he discusses. To focus on just
one issue: there is now agreement from the last meeting at Cancún on the
attempted renewal of Kyoto Protocol that $100 billion be found annually to
create new technologies of mitigation and adaptation to climate change. It is
expected that a significant share of this will be public funds. We have the
precedent that public monies should largely be used to create public good: thus
the new seeds under the green revolution were publicly financed and they were
available to everyone virtually for free. Should we then not expect the green
technologies developed with public funds to be available for free to Mars,
China, and India?
But, to my knowledge, Gore has not embraced this proposal, which would make,
say, India accept more ambitious targets of carbon reduction because it would
reduce the cost of doing so. I would not make the ferocious charges that Gore
levels at the opponents of climate change (see page 283). But may I wonder
whether the reason for Gore’s omission is that he is heavily invested in
green-energy stocks and would like to see public funds to be used only for
private payoffs by these firms?
The good in the book is therefore offset by the bad. But even the bad will
produce good if it irritates us into thinking harder about the many issues that
Gore correctly insists we must confront.
Gore's sin is not embracing a particular proposal, and it must be because "he is
heavily invested in green-energy stocks?" Pretty thin charge, and pretty speculative --
I expected a more compelling complaint. (Bhagwati agress with Gore on the science, says he's persuasive, etc., and acts like the know-it-all judge of all things related to climate change, yet he tosses out the global cooling thing? There's a reason this is called the "global cooling myth.")
In another part, I was surprised to hear
a call for unions:
...The problem in this world of competition among similar products is that
comparative advantage is now fragile: it has a “knife-edge” quality. One day you
have it; the next day you do not. Almost every entrepreneur has a rival
breathing down his neck; and this need not be from China or India, with their
“low wages”—what Gore frets about—but may be Poland or France or Sweden. There
are three implications.
First, firms need flexibility in firing if they are to hire.
Second, we can no longer assure economic security for workers by giving them
lifetime employment. The security has to be for the worker herself, unrelated to
specific occupation and employment.
Third, the volatility also means that we can no longer expect firms to provide
training and hence “human capital” to blue-collar workers who can be expected to
leave at the next sign of trouble at their plant or firm. We therefore have to
provide this human capital through efforts by unions, employers, community
Gore also accepts uncritically the notion that we are doomed to greater
inequality in a globalized world of trade and multinational investment. The
evidence is more mixed than he reports...
I think it would only be fair to note the incentives work the other way as
well. With firms willing to fire workers at the drop of a hat -- older social
obligations to retain workers through tough times are largely gone -- there's no incentive for
workers to invest in themselves if the human capital is unique to the particular
firm. Why bother if you are unlikely to be there for very long? (That is, I
don't think the problem is workers who "leave at the next sign of trouble." f course they'll leave for another opportunity if they fear they'll
be fired in the near future due to the "trouble.")