Tim Worstall is a Fellow at the Adam Smith Institute. I first heard of the Adam Smith Institute a long time ago when I took an interest in Henry George’s land value tax. The Adam Smith Institute were looking after his papers for the Henry George Foundation.
I still like the idea of taxing the value of land that occurs – not because of the efforts of the owners – but because of the location of surrounding activity. A plot in Park Lane owes its value to it’s location in London next to Mayfair and Hyde Park not to any effort of the land owners. I also like the start of the Adam Smith Institute’s Planning in a free society which considers London as a case study for a “spontaneously planned future”:
Planning policy has proven to be one of the most resilient pillars of the post-war command-and-control state.
… [It has] an unswerving faith in the ability of a bureaucratic planning process to achieve superior outcomes to those achieved in the spontaneous order resulting from voluntary action.
I suppose I like their Planning in a free society for its criticism of some of my bêtes noires of the planning system such as the ridiculous green belt policy, the product of NIMBY self-interest and muddled thinking.
I am uplifted when I read the Adam Smith Institute’s web page Learning About Liberty – the Adam Smith Institute cares about liberty and freedom – just like I think I do. I met some of their people at a conference arranged jointly between the Fabian Society and the Adam Smith Institute (True! But it was a decade or so ago) and came to believe they have a set of principles that they think will make the world a better place.
I am also impressed to their analysis of issues of pollution as in A free market solution to pollution by Sam Bowman
A free market solution to pollution would, through courts or voluntary agreement, force polluters to compensate the people they pollute against. If the property rights of the polluted-against were upheld, this would lead to a situation where both parties would agree a pollution premium: a middle-point where the polluter is compensating local people enough to continue polluting.
In short, I regard the Adam Smith Institute as a right wing, possibly very right wing, organisation but principled – really quite principled.
This makes the ASI approach to climate change very interesting. Will they stick to their principles when the full force of climate change becomes apparent and their principles dictate actions to the disadvantage of fossil fuel industries? That will put them at odds with most of right wing opinion.
In an article in Forbes Magazine Tim Worstall says
As so many do in fact ask the wrong question about a carbon tax. For while it is true that a carbon tax is the complete solution to climate change it isn’t because it would stop climate change … the very point of a carbon tax: it is not, not at all, in order to stop climate change. It is to enable us to have the right amount of climate change.
He’s right. As he points out in the article, it is possible to pay a too high a price to completely stop the warming of the planet. (For example, it would be stopped by a nuclear war that caused a nuclear winter but I think we would all agree that this price was too high.)
My comment was
An excellent and clear article.
But what if the IPCC is not keeping up with the pace of climate change? What if top scientists and government reports won’t tell us we are heading toward catastrophic climate change?
I judge that your correspondent Chrisy may be correct in that we need a carbon price of $1000 per tonne of CO2e (or more).
I read that paper that Hansen coauthored making the case for a $1,000 per tonne CO2 tax. And I have to say that it was an extraordinarily bad paper.
Essentially, what they did was take the extreme values of everything and then say that if we use these extreme values, all with low probability, then perhaps the optimal carbon tax could be as much as $1,000. It’s possible that that is true as well: if climate sensitivity is much greater than we generally think it is, if emissions roar on at the very peak of current projections and so on.
But note that the finding is that the correct tax “could be as much as $1,000″. If, and only if, we take all of the extreme and low probability numbers from the current literature.
Readers that have seen some of my recent pieces on the Brussels Blog will realise that I believe that “the extreme and low probability numbers from the current literature” are more extreme and much higher probability than official science admits.
The “current literature” lags the real world of climate change by a large margin and this will become increasingly obvious.
The question is “Will Tim Worstall stick to his principles when the official science catches up with the real world?”. I really think he will – but he will at odds with most right wing opinion.
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