In two recent columns, I outlined the essence of James Buchanan’s challenge to neoclassical economics with respect to the nature of individualism and the meaning of market order. Consistently, Buchanan promotes the importance of individual choice and of market exchange against the alternative paradigm of economic efficiency maximization.
Well folks, if you love your cheap incandescent light bulbs and your cheap internal combustion engines, pull your heads out of the neoclassical economics sand and breathe some free market oxygen. Because, if you do not do so, you can kiss these well-loved commodities goodbye. Should you choose to illuminate the darkness and/or to utilize mechanized wheels to move from place to place, you will soon pay much more for very much less. And neoclassical economists will be significantly responsible for your plight. Plus of course, and inevitably, a slew of progressive politicians supported by a progressive President or two.
Neoclassical economists, much more than advocates of spontaneous orders, are always on the look-out for problems with market exchange. In this respect, how they love negative externalities. For negative externalities provide the perfect excuse for them to indulge their appetites for imposing their preferences on the ‘great unwashed’. Global warming has provided not just a gift from the Sun, but a gift from Heaven, for such power-hungry homunculi.
So two terminological inexactitudes are currently flooding the journals of economics and moving their way relentlessly into political imposition across the United States: namely that the removal of the incandescent light bulb and the shackling of the internal combustion engine represent increases in the range of genuine consumer choice. Gee! how we all want to pay $6 each for an inferior version of a 25 cent light bulb! And how we all relish paying $2,000 more for an auto engine that flunks out after 25 miles and has a top speed of 50 mph!
The House of Representatives last week failed to secure the super-majority required to overturn regulations prohibiting the sale of cheap light bulbs beginning in January 2012. The force behind these regulations is the watermelon (green outside- red inside) lobby. The mechanism is that of forcing a switch from incandescent to fluorescent light bulbs. As a sop to the great unwashed, the watermelons will allow the purchase of 72-watt halogen bulbs – at a stiff price premium – until the next round of choice-expansion. For those of you who have not compared the 72-watt halogen with the 150-watt incandescent bulb, well all I can say is that you will grope your way to a quick understanding of what the watermelons have in mind. Remember that the bad guys always prefer darkness to light. And watermelons ripen in the dark.
The watermelons are also ripening at the prospect of handicapping the internal combustion engine. Working through the Department of Energy – a North Korean agency innovation – proposals are now afoot to raise Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency (CAFE) requirements to unattainable levels. Currently, automobile manufacturers achieve an average rating of 30.3. A few manufacturers, like Ferrari, score just 16.2. By elevating CAFE levels to 40 or 50, and by increasing non-compliance penalties, the watermelons will make sure that everyone who drives a new car will clunk around in expensive, poorly-functioning hybrids or in impractical electric cars. The watermelons are especially gleeful that raising CAFE levels will take 2.4 million new cars out of the market-place and eliminate 212,000 auto jobs. Wow! What an increase in individual choice that will represent, with the added bonus of further reducing the resident population of Detroit – the true heartland of the great unwashed!
Hey guys! Don’t listen to Professor Buchanan. You know that this is good for economic efficiency! And rest assured that aggregate happiness – which we can now measure neuro-economically by brain-scans – will increase dramatically in this watermelon economy! The most impressive rise in happiness will be found in the cloisters of Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Ann Arbor, and Berkeley. Virginia? Where is Virginia? Hey! Isn’t that a boonie state somewhere in the South. After all. who won the war?
Hat Tip: ‘The left’s brilliant lie’, The Washington Times, July 22, 2011