The Myths of Green Jobs – from the Classical Economists and a Beancounter

The Adam Smith blog posts (here) on the seven myths of green jobs (by the Policy Network). They are useful as a criticism, but more fundamentally the classical economists gave a rebuttal over a century ago.

From Adam Smith, you get increased prosperity from division of labour. Localism reduces the division of labour, thus reduces the wealth of nations

From David Ricardo this is augmented with the idea of comparative advantage. Trading nations gain advantage by specialisation in areas where they have a comparative advantage. Green economics ignores this. (Mises applies this concept to the labour markets. Low productivity, green, jobs will be created at  the expense of high productivity, conventional jobs.)

From Alfred Marshall there is concept of opportunity costs. In evaluating a measure you should not only look at the benefits of a choice, but the alternatives forgone. Green jobs will be creating, but at the expense of conventional, higher productivity jobs along with higher taxes.

From Karl Marx, you should look at the distribution of the national pie. Green jobs will only be created by forcibly reducing non-green industries. This enforced tendency towards monopoly will increase the profits accruing to the bourgeoisie, at the expense of the working classes. Given that the rate of return on Capital has fallen dramatically over the past two decades, is the Green Movement just a puppet of a degenerate Capitalist Class?

But as a (slightly manic) Beancounter, the economist’s arguments pale into insignificance beside a project management issue. In a major project, if you have no dynamic concept of how to control and continually reduce costs, or a clear idea of how to achieve objectives, along with ridiculing of any questioning of the attainability of the objectives –  then you have a recipe for massive cost overruns, and benefits failing to be achieved on a massive scale.  In the UK, the NHS computer system, the Scottish Parliament and the New Deal for jobs were all massive policy failures for these reasons. But they all pale into insignificance beside the global attempt to stop global warming by reducing CO2 emissions. Not just the scale, but also the lack of clarity as well.

(Roger Pielke Jnr’s recent talk is instructive on the perspective here)