The Economics of Napoleon Obamaparte: Spread the Wealth Around

I just returned from speaking to two terrific groups about California's looming ballot initiative, Proposition 23, to delay implementation of the state's climatically meaningless, economically suicidal state-level adoption of the Kyoto agenda, called AB 32.

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On the flight out I pulled out my pocket Bastiat reader, which I carry everywhere but hadn't re-read in a while. There, in the opening, brilliant essay "What is Seen and What is Not Seen" -- a work that perfectly nails Obamanomics, and the entire 'green jobs' fallacy that is the latest re-branding of central planning (if in its most devastating form: mandating energy price hikes on top of generational debt) -- I ran across a stunning reminder:
In noting what the state is going to do with the millions of francs voted, do not neglect to note also what the taxpayers would have done—and can no longer do—with these same millions. You see, then, that a public enterprise is a coin with two sides. On one, the figure of a busy worker, with this device: What is seen; on the other, an unemployed worker, with this device: What is not seen. The sophism that I am attacking in this essay is all the more dangerous when applied to public works, since it serves to justify the most foolishly prodigal enterprises. When a railroad or a bridge has real utility, it suffices to rely on this fact in arguing in its favor. But if one cannot do this, what does one do? One has recourse to this mumbo jumbo: “We must create jobs for the workers.”This means that the terraces of the Champ-de-Mars are ordered first to be built up and then to be torn down. The great Napoleon, it is said, thought he was doing philanthropic work when he had ditches dug and then filled in. He also said: “What difference does the result make? All we need is to see wealth spread among the laboring classes.”

Spread the wealth around. So here we have Obamanomics in a nutshell.



Elsewhere, the great French economist also bemusedly notes that schemes a la 'green jobs' are as sensible as cutting off everyone's left arm, or paying children to run around town smashing windows. Imagine the jobs these inefficiencies would create! As I detail in Power Grab: How Obama's Green Policies Will Steal Your Freedom and Bankrupt America, the same logic holds that Hurricane Katrina, like the recent Pakistani floods, was an economic Godsend.

Worse, however, 'green jobs' schemes do not reconstruct but are instead destructive. They are make-work but, as noted above, make work that inflicts far more harm on the economy, and therefore the people, than merely incurring debt through ditch dig-and-fill programs.

Well, what of 'global warming', the original, presumed best argument for 'green jobs', that has oddly fallen by the wayside in favor of the risible economic rationale? Not that anyone on the planet has dared assert, as opposed to imply, that the temperature would be detectably different under Kyoto, California's AB 32, or all of the green jobs schemes in the world. Still, in response to challenging the 'green jobs' boondoggle, greens hysterically shriek that one is in favor of 'doing nothing!!!" Well, dear, so are you, as the sentence immediately preceding that makes clear; we just propose doing no harm, leaving the world richer rather than poorer to deal with what you and your precious computer models assure us is our fate, with or without 'green jobs', AB 32, Prop 23 or Kyoto.

While digging ditches and filling them up may beat "doing nothing" in limited circumstances, it definitely beats "doing something" if that something is subsidizing and/or mandating uneconomic energy sources like windmills and solar panels.

Mandating we use more inefficient energy -- be it horsepower, producing electricity by running on giant hamster wheels, or windmills and solar panels -- never makes sense, given we have centuries' supply of vastly more efficient energy sources (coal, gas, oil, nuclear). But 'green jobs' projects create mostly temporary make-work jobs whose "bubble" requires continued subsidies and mandates.

The distinction is that state-sponsored ditch-digging does not necessitate higher energy prices, which chase other, largely manufacturing jobs to less hostile environments. But windmill and solar panel schemes did chase, e.g., European steel jobs to India, and other exotic locations like Carroll County, Kentucky (Acerinox's North American Stainless Steel, 175 manufacturing jobs exported from Europe to the US because of an olio of 'green jobs' schemes similar to California's own hodgepodge). In short, you can make windmills from steel, but you won't make steel using windmills.

So possibly Don Quixote is the better European model for our president obsessed with windmills. Regardless, as with Quixote and modern-day men who see Napoleon in the mirror, these policies are delusional.

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