Just come back from the sustainable economics conference – it is still going for a few hours, but it is just on politics now and I’m not a politician
It was Green party hosted, so I have the impression that many of the ideas (especially when mentioned by their own MPs) were their ideas.
Now, there are a number of final value judgments I disagreed with, I felt the idea of crisis was overplayed, and the early characterisation of “neo-classical economics” was in many ways wrong and attacked economists too much – also they were too willing to blame the GFC (Great Financial Crisis) on any pet theory that existed. BUT, these are all minor quibbles, and overall I was impressed with the discussion.
My main quibble is that sustainability was treated as the primary goal – this is still a “throughput” towards the main goal which is the welfare of the appropriate group on earth. Assuming sustainability is the sole goal is equivalent to an extreme assumption about the makeup of the environment and/or the welfare function. However, I will let this slide as I got to note it here .
The Green MPs spoke well, and showed a willingness to discuss and think about trade-offs, I was impressed with them. There still seemed to be a feeling of “command and control” among some elements of the discussion, and there were specific issues I disagreed with, but overall I felt that the MPs were actually some of the best speakers – David and Russel spoke very well, and at least in terms of the framework they used I largely agreed with them.
The afternoon economic discussion was civil and sensible – and the policy conclusions that the speakers came too made sense. So much so that if the Green party actually discussed their framework with Labour, National, and ACT (namely thinking about natural capital and accounting for externalities) they would find a large amount of agreement.
Now, this is the thing – the disagreement between parties is about the magnitudes, the quantitative figures, not the qualitative idea of allocation.
Given how much abuse the descriptive economic method took during the morning, I was surprised that the actual discussion on economic policy turned around and used it – surprised in a pleasant way.
Good on the Green party for getting this together – if you focused on discussing these issues and committing to studies that would try to work out the value of any policies objectively, I would vote for you.
If I continue to hear about capital controls and changes to monetary policy (none of which were raised at this conference thank goodness) then I will not vote for you.
That is just me though.