Jan Freeman writes The Word column for Ideas.
Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, editor, and multimedia producer.
Christopher Shea writes the Critical Faculties column for Ideas.
Send the Brainiac bloggers a comment on a post.
See the latest Ideas stories that appeared in The Boston Globe.
Visit the Ideas section
Week of: November 11
Week of: November 4
Week of: October 28
Week of: October 21
Week of: October 14
Week of: October 7
Mind the gap
What he learned in the newsroom
Mr. Boffo lays an eggcorn
Curse of the mummy's tummy
More in Word Watch
Thursday, January 11, 2007
On valuing the future planet
Jane Galt, a mostly libertarian economist who writes the blog Asymmetrical Information, has written a post on the very issue I discussed with regard to an Economist post about the Stern Report on the economic costs of climate change -- whether it is valid to value future people and problems at precisely the same weight that we value today's, as the Stern Report appears to do.
Galt's is a rather wide-ranging and perhaps undisciplined discussion; I'm not quite sure what her bottom line is. Surprisingly, she confesses that we need aggressive government action to halt global warming and lends her support to emissions taxing and caps. "(Yes, yes, I know: I'm not a real libertarian. You may have my card and my secret decoder ring back.)" And about Stern's decision to treat future people the same as we treat present ones, hers is a balanced take. She acknowledges that Stern's is a radical viewpoint, even if it doesn't seem so at first glance, that would require a reworking of many of today's policies and practices. Nevertheless, she's unwilling to treat it was a purely economic or practical problem, and this is what seems to me most interesting about her post:
It's a moral philosophy problem: are we, or are we not, entitled to privilege our own interests over the interests of those who are not yet born, but probably will be? Otherwise, the low social discount rate is just a pseudomathematical attempt to dress up your preferences as science....