Sunday, February 18, 2007

Global Warming?

Want to make a hit at your next party? Just mention casually over a cocktail that global warming is all a crock. That'll liven things up!

I've been copied on some e-mail traffic among friends (at least, they were friends) and the conversation has devolved into diatribe. I'd like to say this is a healthy debate, getting both side's arguments out on the table. And I suppose it could be.

But I've seen this type of debate before. It seems that global warming is modernity's new religion. Either you believe, or you are branded a heretic. And by staking out one's position, and shoring up one's defenses (and constituents), we are simply drawing battle lines, and in the end, I think missing the whole point.

To carry the analogy further, the missed point in the religious debates was spirituality. Left battered and helpless on the doorstep of righteousness.

In this current debate, what is lost is the middle ground, and practical action that can and should be taken.

Free hand of capitalism, with no constraints on one side. Result — depleted natural resources, short-term focus, environmental degradation, monopolistic practices stifling alternative energy innovation (unless they can profit), etc.

Big Government and heavy taxation, with redistribution of wealth on the other. Result — inefficient markets, resulting uncompetitiveness, disincentivizing risk taking, and eventually congress or other bureaucracies picking the winners and losers of the business world, etc.

Nether extreme is a healthy place to be, IMHO.

I like many of the attributes of free market capitalism, but it needs to account for all of the “costs”. Then the efficient market can find those most creative at balancing all of the variables that we are talking about here. Environmental impact. Exploitation of limited, natural resources. Etc.

You can see it will require a wise combination of business and legislation to make this work, not only in the United States, but across the globe (since, after all, we are talking about global implications, global resources, and global ecosystems).

If we stop trying to divide ourselves into camps based on philosophical, political, and ideological grounds, and instead start to suggest the healthy compromises that will make the system and the markets truly accountable, we may get somewhere.

Otherwise, just a lot of fireworks. Which are fun to watch, but after the show, all you have is a cloud of haze, and a somewhat putrid smell in the air.