Monday, July 28, 2008

If an Environmentalist Tells You He Loves You, Check It Out

Environmental Skeptic Bjorn Lomborg observes that the world spending on anti-terrorism measures far exceeds the "bang for the buck" we would get if we spent the same money on disease prevention, medicine and food for the world's poor.

Same is true with what we are planning to spend on climate change mitigation.

Spencerblog doesn't fully agree with Lomborg's analysis but it is good to see people considering the costs versus the benefits of particular programs and policies.

The hard part is getting the analysis right. Projecting what will happen if and when we change spending and particular policies.

Democrats argue the billions spent on the Iraq war are not cost effective in fighting the overall war on terror. They may be right.

But as a percentage of GNP and inflation adjusted dollars not to mention lives lost, the cost of fighting WWII was much higher. At least forty times higher in monetary costs. Was it worth fighting? Pat Buchanan may not think so. But most historians and others do.

Leaving Iraq under the control of Saddam Hussein would have had high costs too. And accurately guessing the future costs is beyond the ability of economists, environmentals and most others.

The same is true with terrorism. While we spend a lot to combat it per projected life lost, western societies and the people who live in them put a high value on security. That the terrorists have taken their war to easier and smaller targets is regretable and maybe predictable but it is wrong-headed to suggest the world should spend less on efforts to crack down and dissuade terrorists from acting.

It's kind of like blaming the home owner who spends thousands on a home security system for a burglary at neighbor's home.

We don't blame the neighbor for getting robbed, we blame the criminal and use all of society's means to bring them to justice.

There is a psychological aspect to all this. Different societies and cultures are more and less tolerant to these sorts of terrorist or criminal threats.

As Lomborg points out the U.S. tolerates 30,000 highway deaths a year. But we will not suicide bombings that would take the lives of even 300 people a year. Why? Because it offends our sense of justice, peace and security. The lives lost on the highways are accidental and seemingly random. They are not driven by a hatred of our way of life, they ARE our way of life. We're used to them. It's just a cost of 300 million people being free and going about their daily lives. And yet, even those lost lives we constantly try to mitigate with stronger, safer cars and regulations.

Lomborg is on stronger ground when he talks about global climate change and the best, most cost effective way of combating it, if, in fact, it is a real threat to a significant portion of the globe.

In any case, the piece is interesting and deserves a read.

1 Comments:

Anonymous r said...

it is good to see people considering the costs versus the benefits of particular programs and policies.

Right. And this is why level -and honest- heads should be doing. Not letting those liars with an agenda and financial stake in matters -Algore and his "carbon credits"- declaring the debate being "over" when it clearly is not.


It's kind of like blaming the home owner who spends thousands on a home security system for a burglary at neighbor's home.

And there's the Liberalism.

July 28, 2008 at 11:37 AM 

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