Environmental economists unite!

I get called a rampant greenie/hippie by other economists for my interest in environmental issues. On the other hand, environmental activist types tell me I’m a brainwashed tool of the capitalist hegemony. For a long time I’ve been wracked with insecurity, but now John Whitehead assured me I’m not alone and explains why he thinks nobody understands environmental economists:

  • “Environmentalists tend to see only the good… in environmental policies. Environmental economists see the good and the bad … and environmentalists seem to go ballistic about how evil we are.”
  • “…non-economists don’t trust incentives. They don’t think that people’s behavior changes in expected ways to changes in benefits and costs” so they prefer direct command-and-control regulation over the use of incentives.
  • Non-market valuation: “to other economists our methods seem bogus since we consider behavior that is generally outside the market… environmentalists either say it is immoral and/or crass to put dollar values on intangible benefits or that these benefits are infinitely valued.”

He asks if that’s being paranoid, but I think he’s spot on. I can empathise with every one of the things he says, but the one that stands out most is this:

“Environmental economists are sometimes baffled why everyone doesn’t see [their methods] as a good thing.”

Amen!

6 replies
  1. Matt Nolan
    Matt Nolan says:

    I’m not an environmental economist – but I’m definitely not against them.

    It is a great school of thought – like a lot of feminist economics. I think you will find more anti environmental economists sentiment from non-economists than you will from most economists …

    Although I would say that feminist and environmental economics both have a normative tinge on top of standard economics – and if there is any conflict is likely to be on that area. Now, there SHOULD be conflict in that area – after all, normative assumptions are supposed to be the more contentious ones that require strong defence.

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