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John Humphreys and Greg Lindsay promote Carbon Tax for Australia

Greg Lindsay, Centre for Independent Studies

Greg Lindsay, Centre for Independent Studies

Below, 2 videos of John Humphreys, Mannkal Scholar and Research Fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies (CIS)  promoting a Carbon Tax for Australia.

Greg Lindsay, CIS founder, although not seen in these videos excerpts, is present at this Climate Change Policy roundtable discussion.

The ostensive purpose of the meeting is to argue why a Carbon Tax is better than an ETS (Emissions Trading Scheme).

Achieving CO2 reduction is treated as a “starting assumption”.

The “No Tax – No ETS” position is not discussed.

At odds with Greg Lindsay‘s professed understanding and support of Hayek – and presumably Hayek’s extensive writings on Capital Structure – a “revenue neutral” Carbon Tax is proposed and even lauded as a “no regrets” approach.

This is combined with an “extrapolate the past – accelerate the future” narrative, composed of technological “optimism” mixed together with an interventionist re-definition and usurping of the concept of “the price mechanism” by John Humphreys. The effect is surreal.

The complete, un-edited video of this CIS roundtable can be viewed HERE.

Text comments by me inserted throughout both the following two videos:

Video 1:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jsRkjAcYK_E]

Video 2:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lc74QzAlLMg]

Note: Ron Manners, founder of Mannkal Economic Education Foundation, informs me that John Humphreys’ Mannkal Scholarship is not for work relating to Climate Change policy. Recommended links on Environmental issues on the Mannkal website indicate a skeptical position on Anthropogenic Global Warming. I don’t see John Humphreys currently listed on the Mannkal Scholars page.

If that's a book by Friedrich Hayek, now would be a good time for Greg Lindsay, AO, to read it.

If that's a book by Friedrich Hayek, now would be a good time for Greg Lindsay, AO, to read it.

More recommended reading for Mr Lindsay:

Gerard Jackson’s rebuttal of The CIS Policy Monograph, Exploring a Carbon Tax for Australia. CLICK HERE

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29 Comments

  1. Ronald Kitching

    May 25, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    Unless I knew for sure that Greg Lindsay and Ron Manners were associated with this clown, I would not believe it.

    If in the past, The CIS and Mannkal Foundation for Economic Education have had any beneficial educational effects upon the Australian population in the past, they are in serious jeopardy of being nullified by the antics of this clown.

    I simply cannot understand how they have entertained publicizing his lunatic Fascist ideas.

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  2. I have read some of John Humphreys’ articles and blog posts. Can’t see he’s very impressive and some of his quotes are very unsettling. He calls conservatives ‘moderate nazis’ in this thread,

    http://blog.libertarian.org.au/2008/03/29/fitna-popularity-thanks-to-pommy/

    [Moderator: typo fixed]

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    • Greetings Alex,

      Thanks for your comment and for the link.

      Interesting.

      Although the terms “Nazism” and “Fascism” are often used interchangeably and do have significant similarities, there are also significant differences in the origin and meaning of the two terms, and significant differences in the methods, world view, and goals of Nazism and Fascism.

      It is not accurate that “fascism is national socialism”.

      Although the term “Nazism” is derived from the term “National Socialism” and the Nazi program does includes many Socialist type elements, it also includes elements that are not especially socialistic or even especially nationalistic, in my view.

      For instance: The idea of the Aryan race and the “master race”, the idea of racial purity, the notion of what constitutes the “subhuman” (for instance, Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals), and what to do about it, the way Nazism drew on mystical non-political religions and cults and Romanticist philosophies, and the notion of the “Third Reich” – which seems to me more about empire and militarism than about the traditional national state – let alone the Western type national state built on elaborate checks and balances, and limitations of state powers.

      The philosophical roots of Nazism (although derived from the term “National Socialism”) seem to me, quite different from those of Socialism or Communism. I would suggest that the Environmental movement has more in common with Nazism than it does with Socialism and Communism.

      The term “Islamo-fascism” is not one that I’m happy with, but do tend to use as shorthand to emphasize the political and military aspects of what is put forward as a religion: Islam.

      In contrast to Christianity, Islam includes a great deal of instruction and advocacy of military and political methods and goals, as part of “Jihad”, and the Hadith has instances of Mohammed praising and advocating the killing of those who will not convert, or have become apostates, or who have mocked Mohammed.

      As for the term “Conservative”, if our standard is the kind of writers one might find on the pages of Townhall.com or in the writings of Melbourne columnist, Andrew Bolt, this seems a far cry from Nazism or Fascism.

      There is however a type of “old world” Conservative who favored protectionism and some state ownership. But I see them as more fascistic than Nazi-like. More as Mussolini type corporatists.

      Best Wishes,

      PRODOS

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  3. I note that Prodos does not offer a response to the arguments.

    Clearly, Prodos thinks the science debate is important. But my paper & presentation weren’t about the science, so that’s not relevant.

    The issue being discussed is “carbon tax v ETS”. If Prodos disagrees with me, that implies he supports an ETS. If he agrees with me, then it’s not clear why he has produced such a hateful attack on me. And if he thinks it is the wrong question, again it is not clear why he takes the time to produce such a hateful attack.

    Regarding what I would prefer — my latest commentary on climate change is here — http://blog.libertarian.org.au/2009/04/16/climate-games/

    I don’t see what this has to do with Greg Lindsay, who has never given a public comment on climate change.

    I also note that the previous policy of not giving or allowing negative personal comments on this blog seems to have changed.

    A final observation is that Chris Monckton has come out with pretty much the exact same proposal I had in my paper. It will be interesting to see whether Prodos also wants to imply Monckton is a fascist.

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  4. TerjeP (say tay-a)

    May 26, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    I think the differences between an ETS and a revenue neutral carbon tax easily favour the latter. The fact that this might be like argueing over whether losing your right testical is better than losing your right arm isn’t lost on me, but sometimes leaving discussions on the “lesser of two evils” to others just means we get the greater evil. The bottom line is than an ETS is worse (more evil) than a carbon tax.

    Likewise a high income tax is worse than a low income tax even though the latter is still evil. Should we refuse to argue for income tax cuts merely because income tax is evil? I don’t think so.

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  5. Prodos, I don’t think you’re being very fair; John starts his speech stating that they’re not scientists. He’s stating that if the science says x is happening and we need to do something, then this is the cost of doing y, and that’s why it’s better than z which costs more. This is perfectly reasonable.

    I have very little interest in the climate debate because I can’t get interested without definitive science, and there isn’t enough worth considering. I’m disappointed that the Libs won’t grow a pair, make a stand, and oppose the ETS on these grounds. But other people believe their democratically elected government needs to do something. So there needs to be a debate on what they should do. And John is on our side in that debate.

    So long as we’re all pulling in the same direction – towards less destructive government intervention – then we should be encouraging each other. We can worry about how far we’re going to pull later, but let’s just start pulling in the same direction first.

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    • “Prodos, I don’t think you’re being very fair; John starts his speech stating that they’re not scientists. He’s stating that if the science says x is happening and we need to do something, then this is the cost of doing y, and that’s why it’s better than z which costs more. This is perfectly reasonable.”

      But thats the whole damn point Michael. The science does not say that. The science says the opposite. And Humphreys doesn’t want to know. We ought to listen to the science. But Humphreys thinks otherwise. What the science says is that we are on a planet with a one-way-cooling bias. That extra CO2 is good. And that it doesn’t warm the planet but if it did this would be our good fortune.

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  6. Seriously, how about refuting the argument? Putting aside that John isn’t actually in favour of a carbon tax, why would a revenue neutral carbon tax be worse then the status quo, let alone worse then an ETS?

    Sure,replacing the state with anarcho-capitalism might be a better option still, but I don’t think that is on the menu this week….

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  7. Although the videos were kind of amusing.

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  8. Tim how can you claim that John isn’t in favour of the carbon-tax. He has obsessively plugged this outrage through thick and thin and even started plugging it after party policy had been closed during an election. Thats just something that John says to try and make out he’s a free-enterpriser.

    And what argument of Johns is anyone expected to respond to? John appears to believe that the science doesn’t matter. That extra CO2 has to be classified as a purveyor of a “positive-externality” in Pigouvian terms, appears to be totally irrelevant to John. I put it to you that this is straight irrationality. Since whereas it is a pernicious notion that we ought to tax negative externalities a case could sometimes be made in extremis. But its straight irrationality to suggest that we must tax a positive externality. Its a bit embarrassing even bringing Pigou into it. But even in Johns own terms he is rebelling against his version of economic science. Its a ghastly act of triangulation. And he has to expect to take the heat for it.

    The policy must follow the science. Economic policy cannot ignore the science. Because the science is what tells us what the effect of CO2 is on the biosphere. And the effect is that it makes the biosphere more robust. It increases net primary production. Giving benefits to man an nature. In fact any attempt to reduce atmospheric CO2 levels will directly hurt agriculture, supposing they would be successful. This is the direct affect on hunger quite before we start talking about the devastating effect on energy production this tax would have and the appalling precedent that would be set by compromising with leftist dishonesty, irrationality, and with what appears to be the fascist wing of environmentalism.

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  9. Prodos offers a whole string of counter-arguments with his written comments over the video.

    Its straight irrationality to pretend the science doesn’t matter. Since whilst its pernicious to be encouraging the taxation of negative-externalities on a Pigouvian basis, its at least understandable. But to tax positive-externalities is the straight irrationality that Humphreys has stuck with through thick and thin.

    Why cannot Humphreys resolve the scientific question? Is this beyond his powers as an analyst? I’m saying it is. This is another example of an attack on heavy industry. This one-two punch to capital and energy-intensive industry is designed to impoverish us all. It will come hard on the heels of the damage that fractional fiat money already does.

    For Humphreys to advocate a carbon tax and to think that one can do this whilst ignoring the science is irrationality that I’m just not used to.

    The scientific argument MUST PRECEDE the economic argument. As it turns out those that get the science wrong also get the economics wrong. But its important that the science comes first. Yet Humphreys wants to ignore the science and actually thinks he can do this and thats fine. This is consistent with Humphreys behaviour more generally. With arguments in general, Humphreys just ignores the ones he finds convenient to ignore.

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  10. TerjeP (say tay-a)

    May 27, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    Now if we could just focus that creative communications talent on a real opponent of freedom and capitalism we would all be winners.

    Prodos – why not interview John for one of your online broadcasts? You could go one on one with the tough questions about ways and means. At the very least it would be entertaining.

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  11. TerjeP (say tay-a)

    May 27, 2009 at 7:51 pm

    Why cannot Humphreys resolve the scientific question? Is this beyond his powers as an analyst? I’m saying it is.

    Graeme – what do you mean by resolve?

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  12. The science is easy. Since the data has CO2 having no effect on temperature. Which means that the effect is either nothing, or (if a warming effect) too small NOT to be beneficial. Since we live in a brutal and pulverising ice age, and we have to presume we are near the end of what would naturally be an interglacial, obviously we ought not look a gift-horse of industrial society in the mouth were there found to be a warming effect. The science is resolved in that sense. The science is resolved for our purposes since any effect must be too small not to be good (if warming) on the grounds that were it stronger than this it would have shown up in the data.

    The above argument really is unassailable and has been so all along.

    [ … ]

    [Moderator: Off-topic point removed at moderator’s discretion.]

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    • Ah, yes, I was forgetting about the brutal and pulverising ice age. Granted, in this case, a revenue neutral carbon tax will be worse then the status quo. But putting that compelling thesis aside for a moment, is there any other reason that a RNCT is worse then the status quo, let alone an ETS?

      If you have substantial investment in carbon producing industry I suppose you will be worse off, while everyone else who currently pays tax will benefit at your expense. No net costs though.

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      • Yes. A number of very good and compelling reasons. I’ll just deal with one and I’ll try to be brief. But you can get the rest of it in great detail if you question me at my blog.

        For starters you NEVER put forward policy on the basis that it may not be worse than the status quo. You always explain clearly to the public what many alternatives would constitute an IMPROVEMENT to the status quo. The status quo is never good enough and yet takes effort to change. Hence pitching at anything equal to the status quo is unacceptable. Its actively harmful.

        But skipping over that, carbon tax will be a disaster in 2009. It will be a disaster because of the last 30 or 40 years of obstruction to energy production, because of the relationship of energy to capital leaving us with the possibility of falling into a capital-energy vortex. And because we are at a period in industrial history where we must find alternatives to oil, which faces an interim period, probably lasting some decades, of being less available.

        Those alternatives will require a massive buildup in capital. That massive buildup in capital will need a great deal of energy production even to make the transition, quite apart from energy for other capital development and for other purposes. A tax on CO2 will strategically and disproportionately cripple those very companies that can help us make it through this period of industrial history.

        I shall name some names: Cougar Energy. Linc Energy. Carbon Energy Australia.

        The carbon tax will hurt their share price. Thus hampering their ability to raise capital, just when we need them to raise capital AND-LOTS-OF-IT to allow us to produce vastly more energy to “fund” so to speak, the transition to nuclear and synthetics… (as well as down the track oil from the deep ocean and so forth).

        Humphreys seems to think his policy development does not require a discussion about the science. About the specific time period. About the realities of energy economics, or about the specific alternatives in energy in face. He does not need to consider the hydrogen-poor carbon-rich nature of the hydrocarbons that are readily to hand in Australia. Perhaps had we developed more patches of ocean private property we would have the economic basis to harvest the abundant methane-clathrates of the ocean that are more hydrogen rich. The point being that in 2009 carbon-tax is a civilisation-killer like at no other time period.

        Humphreys seems to think his policy DOES NOT EVEN REQUIRE A PROBLEM IN THE FIRST PLACE.

        http://graemebird.wordpress.com/2009/05/27/expansion-of-prodos-tour-de-force-against-shocking-humphreys-irrationalism/

        “Ah, yes, I was forgetting about the brutal and pulverising ice age. Granted, in this case, a revenue neutral carbon tax will be worse then the status quo. But putting that compelling thesis……”

        Its not a compelling theory. Its a scientific FACT. And that is why you must start with the science and have the science at every stage of policy development. Since without the science you have no way of telling real problems from fantasy-problems.

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  13. TerjeP (say tay-a)

    May 28, 2009 at 6:19 am

    And yet the question of how to limit industrial CO2 production doesn’t go away. It crops up in the political rhelm again and again in spite of your best efforts. Is it beyond your power to resolve the political question? I’d say it is.

    As long as the political question remains I think it is worth ensuring that the political masses, those that are persuaded that we must limit industrial CO2 production, at least know about how to do it at least cost to our economic well being. Lest they do it at some higher cost.

    It isn’t unusual to look at the least worst ways to do undesirable things. If society was sending you to jail for 20 years you could plead that it was unjust but you would probably also be wise to try and find the least worst way to live in jail. If John had written a book about how to survive and remain strong in jail would there be howls of protest because he hadn’t written a book about how to stay out of jail?

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  14. “And yet the question of how to limit industrial CO2 production doesn’t go away…”

    No Terje. It has to go away. It must be made to die. WE MUST NOT LIMIT CO2 PRODUCTION.

    CO2 production is good. Limiting CO2 production is bad. So this campaign to limit it must go away. And since as you suggest, its not going away of its own accord, it must be killed. The ultimate disaster will be when atmospheric CO2 levels drop. Have you even thought about what would happen if CO2 levels dropped during an energy crisis?

    Its never occurred to you has it? And energy crisis, aging populations, cold weather and drought,frost damage everywhere, and the CO2 levels suddenly drop? What do you think that would do to a large proportion of the human race?

    This movement has killed too many people already.

    The question is are you all going to continue to ignore science, reason, economics, the specific facts of the case, and just go blundering along like dupes and drunken vandals?

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  15. On what basis do we put aside, for even one moment, the scientific fact that we are in an ice age Tim?
    You’ve lost the debate. None of you have found any reason at all why you, Terje, Humphreys, the CIS, or anyone else ought to ignore the science in order to harm Australia.

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  16. TerjeP (say tay-a)

    May 31, 2009 at 12:38 am

    Graeme – if I read you right you believe:-

    1. That man made CO2 heats the planet by a notable amount.
    2. That this is a good thing.

    In terms of the AGW debate that puts you in a pretty special category.

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  17. No not thats not right. That was my initial assumption. That was my apriori assumption when I first debated you on this issue. If CO2 did have a warming effect that would be a good thing of course it would. That part ought to have been obvious. We are in a brutal and pulverising ice age. We have been in an ice age for 39 million years. But its most brutal phase has been for the last 3 or so million years. When the glacial/interglacial cycle switched from typically around 40,000 years to around 100,000 years.

    So based on what we know we are at the end of an interglacial. Without human action we would go into a glacial period which is of course a disaster. Like a Western Front lasting at least 60 000 years.

    So obviously if CO2 had a warming effect that obviously would be a FANTASTIC BENEFIT. Now that was my initial best guess and you say that would be an odd position. But its so shatteringly obvious that I cannot imagine where you are coming from.

    After investigating this matter I have learned that though the idea that CO2 warms is an attractive one I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO RIGHT TO BELIEVE THIS. Since it is a FACT that no-one has ever found any evidence that CO2 does now, or ever has, warmed the planet near sea level on a global basis. Such evidence is totally missing in the historical and archeological record.

    Now my point is this. It could be the case that CO2 has a tiny net cooling effect. It could be the case that CO2 has a tiny net warming effect. It could be either way since whatever effect it has evades the data. It goes under-the-radar of the data (as it were.)

    Now if the effect of CO2 is a net warming effect, it therefore is an unassailable position that THIS IS A GOOD THING.

    This position cannot be assailed. It is the right position. It is the truth and there is no gainsaying this position. In many areas of life typically objective people who mean well and who are familiar with all aspects of a problem can differ as to their conclusions and these varying views might not be the result of some fault or other in logic.

    But this is not one of those areas. I assure you that my position is totally unassailable on this matter. If the effect of CO2 is a warming effect, it has evaded the data so far, and therefore (if warming)it CANNOT be strong enough NOT to be a GOOD THING. This is the truth of the situation.

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  18. http://www.brr.com.au/event/53901/cnx-2008-annual-general-meeting-mr-andrew-dash-chief-operating-officer

    If anyone wants to look at the sort of activities that the carbon tax will inhibit the above shows a bit of a visual explanation of the good stuff that is going on. One thing that is so horrid about the carbon tax is that it will impose costs on people who try to engage in activities like this even before they make their first dollar in revenue. It will impose millions of dollars of costs on people like this even prior to them breaking even and turning a profit. As bad and as unacceptable as the company tax is thats one feature the company tax cannot replicate for rottenness.

    It actually can be irresponsible in a sense, for company management to conduct in new share issues if their shares are undervalued. You see then they are getting less valuable cash in exchange for more valuable shares. So they dilute their shares at the expense of current shareholders who they are supposed to be working for. Hence if under the depredations of an interventionist economy there are companies with permanently undervalued shares the rate at which they can or should grow is crippled and brought down to a snails pace.

    Putting a carbon tax on companies like this therefore will not just persecute them. But it will persecute the rest of us as well. I would have though singling people out for this sort of abuse for no reason at all ought to discourage anyone from doing so regardless of the consequences for the nation entire. But I’m trying to appeal to all sorts here.

    There is a bit of a story going around that a carbon-tax will help nuclear. Nothing could be more foolish than to think this. Typically nuclear projects don’t get off the ground in less than ten years. And these delays are where the costs are. The delays are caused by environmentalism and the multiple tiers of government these guys would have to work through. Imagine ten years of paying carbon tax on all the energy you are using sticking a nuclear plant up and not a single dollar of revenue!!!!

    The whole idea is to diminish, discredit, trash and walk over under and through the environmentalist movement so that we can bring down nuclear commissioning times to three years. Nuclear and hydrocarbon energy are complements not competitors. Or at least not competitors primarily. Actually nuclear will make all sorts of hydrocarbon projects that much more viable. By providing heat, steam, electricity and hydrogen to help turn pretty much any organic material into a range of hydrocarbon fuels.

    Nuclear fission with Uranium and Thorium will also make deuterium fusion more doable if that ever gets off the ground. Well presumably it will. Because it can potentially supply the neutrons for heavy water.

    This has to be an iron law of energy economics. Or it seems that way to me. The law being the energy sources have to be seen as primarily complementary.

    I’m a technology optimist too. But technological progress is embedded in capital update. And energy is embedded in capital update. So that anything that directly increases the price of energy will reduce the rate of capital formation and update and inhibit the general environment of technological improvement. Its one thing to declare oneself a technological optimist. But then the idea is not to do things which throttle that golden-egg-laying goose. For the sake of the goose primarily. But also for the sake of the rest of us.

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  19. TerjeP (say tay-a)

    May 31, 2009 at 8:46 pm

    Okay. Thanks for setting me straight on where you stand.

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  20. I didn’t tell you where I stand. I told you where the science stands. Thats the problem. You don’t want to take any notice of the science.

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  21. I present the following merely to clear up an error, and not in order to persuade in any way.

    John Humphreys wrote that my two videos have …
    http://chapter5.wordpress.com/2009/06/02/my-growing-fanclub/

    “fascist bubbles” popping over my (John’s) face.

    In fact there are no instances of “fascist” being splashed on John’s face in either videos.

    There are 5 splahes/bubbles across both videos which say “fascism” (not “fascist”).

    The first 4 appear in reference to proposals for an ETS which John is reading out prior to presenting arguments for a Carbon Tax.

    i.e. These “fascism” splashes are not in reference to John.

    The 5th “fascism” (not “fascist”) splash appears when John says: “and many have suggested a Carbon Tax”.

    It is not directly a reference to John at this point. However, since he will shortly – in the video – argue for a Carbon Tax, it will retrospectively include him.

    This instance of “fascism” (not “fascist”) is shortly before a clip is brought in showing Dr James Hansen – who is mentioned by John as a prominent proponent of a Carbon Tax – saying:

    The scientific story is clear … and inconsistent with the small number of contrarians who these fossil fuel companies continue to put forth and confuse the public debate … If they continue to do that, they are guilty of crimes against humanity and nature

    When John says: “… what are we doing to encourage a shift to low-emissions technology?” there is a pop-up which says:

    “Is the CIS free market or fascist?”

    When John says, comparing Carbon Tax with Trading: “While they’re often considered similar and sometimes confused in public commentary, Tax and Trading are different, and differ in important ways” there is a pop-up which says:

    “As ‘different’ as Mussolini and Stalin?”

    When John says: “What are we doing to change the incentives in the production of energy and transport?” there is a pop-up which says:

    “Mussolini would be proud of you”

    At the end of John’s presentation, a video clip of the song, “Springtime for Hitler and Germany” comes in and there is a pop-up which says:

    “Zieg Heil and Thanks Greg Lindsay! John Humprheys! CIS supporters!”

    The above can be verified by seeing the transcript of the videos at: http://prodos.thinkertothinker.com/?p=600

    My use of the term “fascism” is meant literally.

    Along these lines:

    http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/Fascism.html

    “As an economic system, fascism is socialism with a capitalist veneer … Where socialism sought totalitarian control of a society’s economic processes through direct state operation of the means of production, fascism sought that control indirectly, through domination of nominally private owners. Where socialism nationalized property explicitly, fascism did so implicitly, by requiring owners to use their property in the ‘national interest’ – that is, as the autocratic authority conceived it.”

    I believe that both a Carbon Tax and an ETS will provide political/legal/economic instruments that can and will be used to move Australia further towards full-fledged fascism.

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