the downsides of green policies.

The German magazine Der Spiegel has a great article on the unintended consequences of Germany’s strict environmental regulations and their effects on everyday life.

This plays into what I mentioned in an earlier blog post: that to a lot of policymakers and voters, negative results of a policy are almost entirely irrelevant as long as the intent is proper. (The corollary is that a positive result of a policy is also irrelevant if the intent wasn’t proper.) In the end, then, it’s not about helping the ecosystem, it’s about the practitioners feeling as though they are.

6 thoughts on “the downsides of green policies.

  1. I remember the moment my friend from Munich, otherwise a pretty smart and open guy, was confronted with some of the information contained in this article (in particular, that bit about the mercury-contaminated waste storage facility). A filmmaker stopped by, that has just finished shooting a documentary about it, and he was quite wide-eyed as he was sharing his experiences. My friend’s reaction was to shrug, and say: “Well I’ve never broken any of the lightbulbs in my household, so…”

  2. This is exactly the emotional phenomenon described in Thomas Sowell’s book, “A Vision of the Anointed”. The (leftist) intellectuals take policy positions only for the sake of feeling superior to other, less enlightened folks. Success or failure of those policies is irrelevant; only the self-congratulation matters.

    • Don’t think that’s only a left-wing phenomenon. Witness the War on Drugs, which is well-supported on the Right. It doesn’t matter how many unintended consequences and bad results the WoD has given us–we need to keep it up, because legalizing drugs would “send the wrong message”. The Left pushes stuff like mercury bulbs for the self-congratulation…the Right pushes stuff like the WoD for the self-righteousness.

      • To be fair, the WoD is a fairly bipartisan issue. Just look at how Obama’s administration has stepped up raids on medical marijuana dispensaries.

    • Yes, I’ve noticed selective cognitive dissonance amongst the zealous proponents of almost any policy. All criticisms of it must be fought off! All heretics must be hunted down and discredited!

      Of course, on the same simplistic level, critics often seem to think that just because they’ve found some flaw they have logically defeated the idea … as opposed to having merely discovered flaw(s) to which one can attach some weight(s) to balance against the positives.

      I’d blame political bumper stickers for trying to condense complex issues down to what you can fit into ~36 square inches viewed at 10 paces and 20MPH, but I suspect our collective refusal to think has broader origins.

      Every decision is a compromise. Most decisions involve choice whose positives clearly outweigh the negatives. Policy decisions are usually far more nuanced and should be approached as such.

      As fond as I am of many green notions, I’ll readily admit that many of their benefits are marginal-at-best. Curbside recycling programs are usually pretty inefficient and often compete with commercial recyclers. Residential lighting is such a small part of power consumption that it’s not really worth all the effort put into condemning incandescents. And truly disappointing for me, even in excruciatingly sunny Texas: residential PV solar is typically a marginal proposition as a retrofit without utility net-metering (or government incentives).

  3. “Of course, on the same simplistic level, critics often seem to think that just because they’ve found some flaw they have logically defeated the idea … as opposed to having merely discovered flaw(s) to which one can attach some weight(s) to balance against the positives.”

    Nicely put. It’s amazing how many articles use the argument that “(isolated case) proves that (general case) doesn’t work.” For example, the cases cited in the article don’t mean that all insulation is bad. They do point out that poorly installed insulation may do more harm than good.