My book entitled, What Environmentalists Need to Know About Economics, comes out this week. The aim is simple: to show in a concise and clear manner why economic reasoning and analysis is crucial for solving the world’s major environmental problems.
But there is a subtext: environmentalists have often been wary of economics and dismissed economic analysis because of its supposed bias towards free markets and the commodification of natural assets. This suspicion has been aided by decades of attacks on environmental regulation by the pseudo-economists that dominate many of the corporate-sponsored rightwing think tanks, who routinely make all sorts of ludicrous claims about the power of markets to solve problems.
Serious academic economists- including Robert Stavins, Paul Krugman, Michael Hanemann, Laurence Goulder, Peter Berck, Gregory Mankiw, William Nordhaus, Martin Weitzman, and many others- have consistently advocated for significant and sustained government interventions to address a host of environmental ills, but often their voices have been drowned out by the righting hacks and their Republican enablers.
As the rightwing is poised to gain considerable power in the coming months, it is imperative that environmentalists gear up for the fight. Embracing the core economic principles that support tough environmental regulation and policy can go a long way to winning the arguments across a wide variety of issues.
Only when environmentalists reclaim economics will we finally be able to beat back the anti-government forces that threaten humanity’s future.