Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Gingrich Kerry Debate

Yesterday I attended the debate between Newt Gingrich and John Kerry on Climate Change. Both took the position that man is the driving force behind the warming earth and something needs to be done and quick.

Gingrich stated that economic growth matters, and leadership should start with science, entrepreneurship, innovation. He advocated the use of prizes to spur innovation, citing the X-Prize as an example, among others. He also supported various tax breaks and incentives to promote greenness. He said something to the effect that he doesn’t want a “laissez-faire market, but incentive based market.” This statement left me confused, as I assumed that laissez-faire markets were all incentive based. I assume Gingrich meant he wants a politically incentivized market, fit to his wants and desires.

Kerry stated his support for the prizes, and said we had a “moral obligation” to meet this. He repeated you can’t believe “half the science,” I assume he meant all the catastrophic predictions that some scientists make along with the scientific ones, although I’m not sure. He kept citing the sulfur dioxide reductions as a model for CO2 cap and trade legislation. He said we’ll hit the “tipping point” if we hit 450 part per million (ppm) CO2 concentration. He said that the worst thing that will happen if he’s wrong is that more jobs will be created, more technology will be made, health will be better, and we’ll have energy independence. I’m used to politicians exaggerating or giving ridiculous promises, but having all this seems completely outlandish and nothing but vacuous political rhetoric. He seemed to have no concept whatsoever of tradeoffs (gain jobs in the wind sector, but lose jobs elsewhere) or rent seeking (he mentioned companies who already do something green lobby to coerce other companies to do the same). He felt that “We’re living outrageously as an outlaw.”

At the end of the debate I didn’t really feel good about either of them, but felt better about Gingrich. Kerry seemed pessimistic and that unless we undertook all sorts of big measures now and listened to him we are all but doomed. Gingrich seemed optimistic and had faith in the markets to create solutions, if properly incentivized by tax breaks and prizes. They both want more government, but just applied in different ways.

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