Ever get the sense that everyone in center-left policy discussions is auditioning for the approval of some imagined economist? A sociologist traces the roots of that kind of thinking & its effects on US policy.
A few things (mostly recommendations for future guest):
1. Person 1 = Mark Blyth. He's an interesting economic historian who does a good job of recognizing bullshit. He also helped introduce me to Asset Manager Capitalism, something outlined by person 2 below. Here's the highlight reel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dHlEkaXfgMw&t=422s.
2. Person 2 & Person 3 = Benjamin Braun and Daniela Gabor. They offer a pretty interesting, although maybe oversimplified, overview of what the options for macro level funding for green initiatives, breaking out the models into five main camps: Economist, Wall Street, Environmental Movement, Left Keynesians, and Ecological Leninists. Here's a link to their talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5tSqwJTyfFA&t=1509s.
3. Person 4 = Saule Omarova. She was the candidate for lead at the Office of Currency Comptroller until bankers/Wall Street helped tank it. She also happens to have a really interesting idea about a National Investment Authority, related to some of the observations Benjamin Braun made. Here's a related video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jvrZgloi6Vc.
4. I think economist have definitely abused mathematical models, and their seeming sophistication, to justify to decision that don't make sense in retrospect (or really at the time). That being said, in my experience, the specificity of the model is important because it is much more clear exactly where the model went wrong (as all models eventually do). I am weary of other forms of analysis as they often devolve into hard to pin down abstractions. Maybe that's just my engineer brain at work.
5. Person 5 = Christine Shoemaker. She was a doctoral student of Andrew Bellman, the mathematician who discovered dynamic programming, the foundation for much of the optimization modelling done from everything from water supplies to financial engineering. I would guess should provide a much more sophisticated critique of the abuse of models than I did above. As well, she might be interesting to you as much of her research relates to problems like physical and biological groundwater remediation, carbon sequestration (with multiphase transport), watershed models, etc.
Hope that wasn't too much! Cheers!
The idea of "choice" in 401k, and in many other places, is really about introducing information asymmetry for the purpose of capitalism to extract even more profit from the populace at large.
I hope to get a chance to read the book, but the topic brought up for me a change in thinking I had after many years working on utility "integrated resource plans" that sought a least cost (and later "least cost/least risk") path for meeting load growth. The differences in the plans were so miniscule compared to the uncertainty over the actual costs, that I came to think we should ditch the whole thing in favor of meeting public policy goals. In other words, "what are we trying to accomplish?" rather than "How can we meet load the cheapest way?" The former seemed far more interesting and meaningfully addressable than the latter. Now to convince the regulators!
Great conversation, thank you!
I was a little surprised that the topic of OMB (and Circular A-94; https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/legacy_drupal_files/omb/circulars/A94/a094.pdf) didn't come up during this podcast discussion!
Does Elizabeth's book cover the history of how cost-benefit analysis came to become an OMB/ White House requirement for all regulations (even for regulations that are authorized by statutes that do not require cost considerations)?
When thinking about "gas bans" in new buildings, I think back to the "lead ban" on gas for new cars in 1975(?) so that catalytic converters would work. We didn't add a lead emissions tax to gas or allow cars to keep being made without catalytic-exhaust treatment if one paid an extra fee, or nonsense like that. Now we need to eliminate onsite emissions (like adding that catalytic converter) so that the building heat will clean up as the grid cleans up. Not possible with gas, or absurdly difficult.
For years I did building energy analysis for LEED "credits" and "points." Eventually it seemed horrifying that the scores were just based on current onsite energy cost comparisons, not on the long term environmental effects.
Wind power produced more electricity than coal and nuclear sources for first time ever
Jordan Mendoza, USA TODAY - 6h ago This headline appeared yesterday. It comes from the preponderance of Wind turbine energy in the USA. The windmills were erected probably from an economic perspective of federal incentives, state laws and utilities adopting them. However, the windmill construction could have an origin by representatives truly wanting to go green, and or, just that they were cheaper than fossil fuels overall.
Actually, the 1999s revisions to the Clean Air Act were extremely effective in reducing sulfur dioxide pollution. They were framed in terms of the economic style of thinking. The reality is that both regulation and market oriented solutions have a place in addressing environmental issues