photo: Joe M500 via flickr.
Back when Whole Foods CEO John Mackey weighed in on-slash-stuck his personal foot in his professional mouth about healthcare, I stayed out of the debate. I assumed, wrongly in hindsight, that most people already knew that there was a decided disconnect between Whole Foods' public face and the private staunchly libertarian beliefs of its co-founder. Well, in a new profile in The New Yorker, Mackey speaks his mind on climate change. It won't be pleasant reading for many of his customers: "No scientific consensus exists..."
Mackey is an avid reader, and when asked what he was currently reading he rattled off a list of a baker's dozen books.
One of the books on the list was "Heaven and Earth: Global Warming--the Missing Science," a skeptical take on climate change. Mackey told me that he agrees with the book's assertion that, as he puts it, "no scientific consensus exists" regarding the causes of climate change; he added, wind a candor that you could call bold or reckless, that it would be a pity to allow "hysteria about global warming" to cause us "to raise taxes and increase regulation, and in turn lower our standard of living and lead to an increase in poverty." One would imagine that, on this score, many of his customers, to say nothing of most climate scientists, might disagree. He also said, "Historically, prosperity tends to correlate to warmer temperatures."
Accepting that there may be some nuance left out of the quotes chosen by The New Yorker, I still can't help but to put it bluntly. Mackey is crazy.
Real Hysteria is About Taxes
The real hysteria in need of examination here is not whether or not global warming is happening (it is) or if there is scientific consensus on its causes (there is, nearly 100%). The real hysteria, the knee jerk reaction, here is by libertarians such as Mackey who hear the word 'tax' and 'regulation' and have some Pavlovian reaction in the mind and see a direct line, in all circumstances correlation with lower standard of living and increases in poverty. It simply isn't the case.
Mackey and his ilk simply fail to see the bigger picture. There are many aspects of a society's fiscal policy, cultural makeup, political landscape, geographical location, et cetera, et cetera that go into increasing and decreasing standards of living and poverty rates. It's just not as easy as increasing regulation and taxes equals decreasing standard of living, full stop.
In fact increasing regulation of environmental pollution (taxing carbon emissions anyone? including negative externalities in prices...) could well lead to an economic situation where less nit-picky government oversight of business activities was needed. Something libertarian's like Mackey ought to like.
Read the original: The New Yorker; and Waylon Lewis' commentary: Huffington Post
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