Bernie Sanders doesn’t seem to think so, but we shouldn’t be so quick to believe a socialist when talking about profits…
Bernie, and socialists everywhere, fail to realize just how crucial the role of prices and profits (and losses) are in a free society. It’s true that our planet is important, surely without out we would all die¹; but the reverse is just as important – a planet without humans is irrelevant (just look what happened to Pluto over the years!).
Bernie’s beef is with the fossil fuel industry, namely the Dakota Access Pipeline. Bernie emphasizes the short-term profits to be made do not justify the potential destruction of the planet, but never once does he mention property rights – but that’s a whole different discussion.
Moreover, his misguided account of the problem turns out to be completely fallacious when examined closely. His obsession with profits being evil neglects that lack of profits is exactly why alternative energy isn’t marketable.
As humans we strive to act (purposefully) on means to achieve certain ends by sacrificing the least amount of goods, namely money given our monetary economy. This is the reason why humans will prefer fossil fuels to alternative energies – it gives us more money (means) to achieve other ends as we have to allocate less means to achieve the end of fuel – and all the direct uses we might have for fuel. Profits let entrepenuers know they are satisfying consumers, losses tell entrepenuers they are not.
The only way to present alternative energy as more marketable is to provide some alternative energy companies with subsidies from government. However, government doesn’t raise money like everyone else, i.e. providing value to another, or convincing another to donate. They raise their money by stealing from the population. They’re the only ones allowed to use force to raise money rather than providing value.
Not only is this practice highly wasteful, but then any consumer who wants to buy the alternative energy good is forced to pay twice for it. First with his taxes, then when actually buying the good. Even if you don’t want it, you are still forced to pay at least once for it through taxation. The only other way government can make a non-marketable product marketable is by directly taxing the fossil fuel industry. Subsidies and taxes always translate to higher prices for everyone.
Prices play a key role in allocating scarce resources to their most highly valued uses, depending on every individual’s value scale. In other words, every person votes with his own dollars and the market produces products based on the wants of all the consumers. Whereas government is forcing their product onto consumers whether they actually want them or not – Obamacare anybody?
Consequently, if alternative energy were marketable without subsidies (demanded by consumers), then that would be the precise time for entrepreneurs to focus on bringing it to market. Otherwise, it’s just force.
Lack of demand signals that climate change is not as urgent as government would like you to think it is. Whether it is happening or not is irrelevant but if it were a severe problem, people would demand alternative energies and entrepreneurs would produce products to alleviate that demand, and profit from it. Since that is not the case, climate change obviously isn’t the biggest threat to our country or world.
I believe the economy is much more important than worrying about if climate change is real or not. As I have demonstrated, in a healthy economy, consumers and producers can easily adapt to threatening conditions without the coercive nature of government. They can only make us pay more for goods either by taxing them, or taxing us to give their company of choice a subsidy. Regardless, it means less money in your pocket for other goods you desire. Your standard of living goes down.
An economy controlled by too much government suffocates the people and eventually will turn to disaster. The lack of real market prices leads government to over compensate in some industries, under compensate in others, and leads to surpluses and shortages everywhere. When you have shortages like water and food, people die.
So no Bernie, our planet is not more important than profits.
¹ This is not necessarily true because given a situation in which the planet was actually doomed, moving to Mars would suddenly become marketable and you would see some people trying to evacuate to Mars.
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