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.”