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A racist “race” any rational person wants to lose

As a “lukewarmer”, I am more of a believer in climate change than many here. One thing that pulls me towards scepticism is the habitually dishonest language used by advocates of measures against climate change. Take this BBC article: “Climate change: UK risks losing investment in net-zero race, MPs warn”. It says,

The government is set to announce its revised energy strategy on Thursday.

It argues the UK is a “world-leader” in working towards net-zero.

But cross-party MPs fear investors – and jobs – could move elsewhere if the strategy is not ambitious enough.

The BBC article makes me want to riff on Mary McCarthy’s famous quip about Lillian Hellman – every word in it is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the’.

In particular, the words “race”, “investment” and “jobs” are all used in a sense that means the opposite of their usual meanings. “Investment” means something you buy in the hope that its price will rise so that you can sell it later as a profit. The “investment” the article talks about is simply spending. Argue if you wish that it is justified spending, but that doesn’t make it investment.

The article, taking its tone from the government, talks about “green jobs” as if they are a good thing. As Tim Worstall often points out, all jobs are a cost not a benefit. Perhaps a necessary cost, but a cost. And the purest, costliest, unbeneficialliest jobs of all are jobs that are created solely to comply with government regulations. Not unexpectedly, the people who get these make-work jobs like having them, because they get paid. But the money to pay their wages has to come from somewhere. It comes from (a) taxes, i.e. making everyone a little bit poorer, and (b) companies diverting money that could have been truly invested in making or doing things that people actually wanted made or done (which would have created genuine new jobs) into the hamster-wheel of fulfilling green regulations, filling in government forms to say that they have done so, paying to be trained to fill out the forms, paying protection money to Green organisations to get a little green smiley logo saying they comply, and so on and on and on.

What’s wrong of the word “race” in the phrase “net-zero race”? This word is dishonest because a race is meant to indicate a competition in which some prize or benefit is won by whoever is fastest – and in which said prize or benefit goes in lesser degree or not at all to the other competitors. In this case “the race to net-zero” is a race to lose benefits, a race in which the prize is being hobbled. That is still true even if one accepts the necessity of being hobbled. The choice of the US to hobble itself first by passing Biden’s “Inflation Reduction Act” (another example of dishonest language) hands a competitive advantage to the UK, so long as we do not do likewise.

As to why the race to net zero is a racist concept, only a racist needs such an obvious thing explained.

27 comments to A racist “race” any rational person wants to lose

  • The whole Net Zero bollox is a litany of self-serving lies

  • bobby b

    “Investment” is the one word most used to perpetuate the sunk costs fallacy. We’ve spilled half of our water into the dirt! We can’t stop now or that water was wasted!

    (But . . . irrigate a field to just below seed germination requirements, and then stop. No germination, so wasted water. Add just enough water to hit germination levels, and suddenly that irrigation is no longer wasted. It’s not always a fallacy. That initial bulk of water was an investment.)

    But the best part – Mario Andretti is a racist!

  • NickM

    If only it was just that bobby. The word has been utterly “de-meaninged”. It jsut now means spending including spending on what a normal person might call “running costs”.

  • bobby b

    I understand what you’re saying, NickM. It was never really a bright-line distinction – when I paint my wooden house, is it a maintenance cost or am I protecting my investment by investing more?

    But I think the Net Zero people really are “investing.” Problem is, they’re investing just like I would be investing if I bought a bunch of pyrite – fool’s gold. It would be a STUPID investment, but it still meets the definition. The Net Zero people’s investments seek to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. That’s stupid.

  • Kirk

    Whenever I hear a politician or similar public figure start talking about “investing” in anything, the question I’m aching to have answered is in which specific sense of the word is said public jackass speaking?

    “Invest” is an intransitive verb with at least 11 separate usages and meanings. Which is it?

    The one I think they really mean is this one: To devote morally or psychologically, as to a purpose; commit.

    What they’re asking us to put our money into is not an investment in terms of something we’re ever going to get a return on; it’s more a “Yeah, help me enact my beliefs” sort of thing, and there’s damn little to ever show for actual results with these things.

    They’ve “invested” billions in high-speed rail in California. Any guesses as to when that’s going to pay off, if ever…?

  • The Cowboy Online

    investing; politicians putting our money where their mouth is.

  • Lee Moore

    If they had anything to say that was both persuasive and true, they’d say it. This is a general rule. He who offers up porkies does so because that’s all he’s got.

  • NickM

    Is it stupid though? One could perhaps see it as an “investment” in convincing folk of a certain Worldview?

    No, not an investment in the usual sense but this is all a matter of perspective and if you truly believe reality is a cultural construct then…

  • NickM

    They have taken Green ideology from freakish to mainstream. I’d say that is being fairly damn persuasive. Whether it is objectively true – see my reply to bobby just above.

  • William O. B'Livion

    As Tim Worstall often points out, all jobs are a cost not a benefit.

    I disagree rather muchly.

    I want to start a clothing business. I “invest” in a factory and all of the equipment necessary to make the clothing I wish to make. I buy the fabric. I put the fabric in on one end, and what do I get out of the other?

    Nothing. Nothing at all, because no one is in there doing anything.

    So I hire a designer, a pattern maker, some cutters and sewers and all the other people necessary to take raw fabric off the loading dock and put finished goods in boxes on the loading dock.

    In doing so, if I have priced their labor and my products correctly *I* benefit from their jobs. They also benefit by making a living, among other less easy to quantify results.

    The community benefits because they have new clothes to buy, and the people who have jobs at my factory have money to buy whatever people are selling.

    However, this is really only a benefit IF they are adding value in doing their job.

    A busboy adds value by doing scut work, freeing up the waiter to do what the waiter is better at. A busboy who drops too many dishes, or otherwise ruins more value than whatever benefits he brings has is in fact a cost.

    And this is the problem with so-called “Green Jobs”. Green jobs only exist because they are mandated by government, and they often *displace* a larger number of jobs that were well paying, and more numerous.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    William O. B’Livion,

    The difference between an investment and an expense/running cost is not that one brings benefit and the other does not. All spending of any type is done in the hope and expectation that it will bring a benefit. But there is still a difference between the purchase of an investment that becomes an asset (i.e. something that forms part of the value of a company or the wealth of an individual) and the purchase of labour that, however necessary, however beneficial it is, is gone when it is gone.

    Perhaps someone more knowledgeable about accountancy or business can supply a more precise definition, but I do know from having done our household accounts that the investments held by my husband and me are treated in quite a different way to our ordinary spending, because at a pinch the investments could be sold to pay the gas bill – but not vice-versa.

    That is not to say that investment is good and “ordinary” spending bad. There are wise and unwise examples of both, and, as in your example of the clothing business, investments are frequently optional whereas running costs are not. But calling something “investment” feels nicer because you have “something to show for it”, in the sense of an asset appearing on the balance sheet. This is how the word came to be used as a vague synonym for “worthwhile spending of any kind”. But if the specific accounting definition of investment is lost then it will be necessary to find a new word to do that job. I note that the one branch of government that is not at all prone to use “investment” as a catch-all term for “good spending” is Her, sorry, His Majesty’s Revenue & Customs.

    Edit: I forgot to add that I 100% agree with your statement that, “Green jobs only exist because they are mandated by government, and they often *displace* a larger number of jobs that were well paying, and more numerous.”

  • The Pedant-General

    “And this is the problem with so-called “Green Jobs”. Green jobs only exist because they are mandated by government, and they often *displace* a larger number of jobs that were well paying, and more numerous.”

    Not quite. The problem is the other way round. Let’s say we currently use x jobs to get our energy supplied. If we are forced to use some larger number “y” jobs because – reasons – we are in aggregate worse off. The y jobs used to supply us with x people making our energy and (y-x) doing some other valuable thing we wanted, which we now can’t have (or gets more expensive that it was previously).

    If we could get what we want with fewer jobs, the cost is going to be lower -> jobs are a cost.

    Alternatively, let’s use your factory example. You’ve hired, say, 100 people to do your designing and operate your factory. If someone artificially insists that you have to hire an additional 20 people for no additional output, those additional 20 poeple are a cost -> “jobs” are a cost.

    A very simple accounting definition is whether someone is a P&L Expense or treated as a capital item on the balance sheet. There’s a LOT of fighting as to what goes where and when which – as I am not an accountant – I shan’t opine upon, but in this context, about the only time you get to treat payroll costs as capital is if it is related to R&D.

  • The Pedant-General

    Also, the whole PURPOSE of investment is to do exactly what you are complaining about. If Green jobs genuinely displaced a larger number of jobs _FOR THE SAME OUTPUT_ everyone would have been falling over themselves to do it already so they could make fat stacks of cash. We wouldn’t be discussing this at all because it would already have happened without any coercion.

  • William H. Stoddard

    John Maynard Keynes was a major contributor to the fallacious use of “invest.” His General Theory discusses “investment” in a central chapter, but not in terms of its effect on output of desirable things; his only concern is with the idea that “investment” creates more jobs and more income, and does so, he argues (fallaciously, I believe), more effectively than “consumption” does. In his terms, digging holes in the ground and filling them in again, or waging war, puts people to “work” and therefore counts as investment.

    Why is his argument fallacious? Because he first argues that consumption is a certain large fraction of income, and investment is the residue after consumption and therefore is proportional to income; and then he turns this around and argues that income is proportional to investment, and since investment is a small fraction of income, income is necessarily a large multiple of investment, making investment especially effective in raising income. But that sort of reversal is only effective under conditions of static equilibrium. And while Keynes, a Cambridge man, was naturally disposed to think of markets as existing under conditions of static equilibrium, and only departing from these under the impact of an external shock, the reality is that markets are virtually never static, and while single markets may reach equilibrium (“clear”), the market as a whole does not. So one of his key assumptions is never met.

  • Stonyground

    Talking of packs of lies, a recent gem from the BBC claiming that a very slighly drier than average February means that England is facing droughts. Particularly blatant is a picture of Nidderedale reservoir that was taken in the september of a particularly dry year captioned as if it was taken recently. Up to date pictures of Nidderedale’s waterways are available on their tourism website.


    If climate change really is the catastrophe that the BBC claim it is, why do they need to be so dishonest about it? Surely there would be plenty of genuine issues that they could report on in order to convince the sceptics.

  • jgh

    February has been so dry that I haven’t been able to mow my lawn because it’s a muddy quagmire.

  • Paul Marks

    I watched a government minister by the name of Grant Shapps on GB News the other day – he was claiming that the 20 Billion Pounds to be spent on “Carbon Capture” was a good investment.

    The expression in the eyes of Mr Shapps did not match his smile and his words – it was like watching a hostage video.

  • Paul Marks

    As for the international situation – Natalie is correct, there is no “race”.

    The People’s Republic of China, the leading producer of C02, continues to INCREASE of emissions of C02.

    The United Nations appears to be quote content with this – insisting that evil Western nations reduce their C02 emissions, not the People’s Republic of China (the leading emitter of C02).

    The latest “scientific” document on why C02 is evil, produced by the United Nations, claimed that C02 was known to be bad because of the knowledge of “indigenous peoples” – no evidence was presented that tribal shamans or priests knew anything about C02, but evidence is, we are told, is a Western concept and, therefore, evil – ditto reason.

    It did not use to be like this. Back in the late 1980s James Hanson and others produced scientific claims about C02 with clear predictions about what would happen over the following years and decades – in terms of rising temperatures, rising sea levels and so on.

    But when these predictions failed to come to pass over the last 35 years, things changed. It all became less and less about natural science – and more and more about a religious or spiritual message, with critics being denounced as “deniers” (heretics) – with the demands for absolute and total control over human life by international authorities becoming much more strident over time.

    There has also been a bizarre effort to rewrite history – with such things as the Medieval Warm Period, the Little Ice Age, and even the very hot 1930s, airbrushed from the records. The distortion of such things as historic temperature records has gone far beyond the point where it could be an accident or a mistake – massive fraud is taking place, scientific fraud and historical fraud (for the records are both the raw material of science, data, and a part of history).

    “Paul the theory could still have some truth in it – in spite of the massive fraud, and the obvious totalitarian international Corporate State agenda”.

    Yes it could – it is sill possible (possible) that the theory could have some truth in it. But the antics do rather undermine the credibility of the theory.

  • Kirk

    In most investments, the people making them are taking a risk. What the various fraudsters in government are actually doing when they use that term would be more in terms of a confidence scheme. They’ve no personal stake; if it all goes wrong, it’s the public’s money they’ve lost, not their own.

    Frankly, I think we’d be a lot better off if we told the various numpty government types that if they’re going to do “investment” they need to be risking their own money along with the public’s… I.E., your “investment” in high-speed rail doesn’t prove out? Fine; every dime you have goes to the treasury, all your goods are sold at auction, and you’re left penniless in the street.

    If I invest badly, there are personal repercussions. If a government official invests tax dollars badly, it’s all “Too bad, so sad… La-lala, off to the next adventure in high finance!!”

    This is morally wrong.

  • Lee Moore

    I may be wrong but I would guess that all jobs are a cost not a benefit is intended to mean that all jobs are an expenditure of resources. From the point of view of the worker those hours of labour are hours he’s never going to get back, and which he could have spent down the pub. From the point of view of the employer the job represents money down the drain.
    So the idea is basically that if the same result could have been achieved without the job, that would have been better. Obviously that’s a big if. ie the worker takes the job and all the tiresome work that it entails, in return for a lump of cash. And the employer pays out that lump of cash because as William O astutely observes, it turns out that getting the finished clothes without paying for the jobs is not possible.

    So a “job” is only going to be mutually beneficial if

    (a) the worker thinks his pay is worth more than the irritation of the job
    (b) the employer thinks the value he will get from the job is worth more to him than the pay

    Simply “creating jobs” so that a worker may be employed, might jump over the hurdle posed by (a) but is unlikely to jump over (b). Though each employer may have a different sendse of “worth”, some folk are very eccentric, and eccentricty about “worth” is nowhere more apparent than in government.

    Though even this eccentricity is explicable once you remember that the pay is not coming out of the government’s pocket, but out of the taxpayer’s. Pretty much anything seems a bargain, if it’s somebody else’s shout.

  • Kirk

    This reminds me of the discussion about Marx’s theory of value. He held that “economic worth is determined by the amount of labor required to produce a commodity“, which is a fallacious concept when you consider that all labor is not equal. If you hand a pile of lumber to a master craftsman, and ask him to work on something with it for two weeks, he’s going to come up with something that’s a lot higher in actual value than you’d get by having the local third-graders work on that pile of soon-to-be scrap for two weeks… In other words, it’s not just the raw labor involved.

    Likewise, it’s not just the “jobs”. Every position has a role in the company; what does it do? Do those jobs actually bring in revenue, or are they cost centers? And, again… How to interpret the question; what are your criteria?

    You could say that the guys swinging the hammers and producing the product you sell are revenue centers for your firm, and that the safety inspector that keeps them from doing stupid things is a cost. However, it is all in how you frame it: How much of a cost center are injured revenue-center employees? Is that safety inspector position actually a net revenue enhancer, despite it being a cost mandated by the government?

    It’s hard to winkle these things out. Say you look at secretaries and other support staff as costs; you eliminate them, confident that your executives can do their own typing on computers. Now they’re spending all their time doing document scut-work, rather than executive level labor, and you find you need to hire rather more salaried executive types than you had before…

    Not all outwardly productive jobs are actually productive. Not all “operating expense” jobs are really costing you money, over the long haul and in the bigger picture.

  • Lee Moore

    He held that “economic worth is determined by the amount of labor required to produce a commodity“

    My recollection is that Marx (or possibly Engels) rowed this back a bit, by redefining “labor” as “useful labor.” A slick retreat to deal with the problem that it’s not easy to see why my digging up 500 potatoes in 10 hours, makes those 500 potatoes more valuable than the 500 you dug up in 6 hours.

  • jgh

    It takes one hour to install a jet engine, it takes one hour to fig up 500 potatoes, clearly that jet plane is worth exactly the same as those potatoes.

  • Kirk

    Marx was an idiot and a parasite. You’ll note that he never put his money where his mouth was, and did anything like set up a community based on his ideas. It’s not like there weren’t dozens of other lunatics who did just that, here in the US. The number of failed “communes” like Oneida and all the rest of them are amazingly high. Hell, the sainted Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock came over here with communitarian ideas that didn’t last much past the first winter. The one where they were eating people? Yeah; that’s how socialism and communism all end: In starvation and want.

    What’s amazing to me is how few of his adherents ever note that fact, or that the man never once put his ideals and ideas to the test himself. Anywhere.

    Seems to me, if you’re this world-spanning genius? Maybe you’d be able to make something work, yourself?

    I’ve run into very few cases where pure theoreticians ever got anything working right. I’ve also run into something of a dearth of practitioners who could explain what the hell they were doing, to get things working… Seems like two different skillsets: Talking about doing and actually doing.

  • Lee Moore

    I’m not sure it’s fair to call Marx an idiot – he was obviously pretty smart and he would not have gained the reputation that he did gain amongst crazy lefties, if he had not been pretty smart as crazy lefties go. Nor can we blame him too much for failing to spot that the labour theory of value is crap. Even Adam Smith fell for that one. Nobody worked out the basis for value before the Marginal Revolution.

    As for being a parasite – well lots of folk are parasitical, but ultimately useful. A lot of excellent artists and writers are in that box, living off scraps from family or patrons. And when their true worth is finally recognised, they’re dead.

    You could say Marx falls into this category. He was dead long before some of his acolytes parleyed his ravings into the elixir of power – total power over a whole nation of slaves. Lots of megalomaniacs have dreamed of that over the years, but Marx came up with a new patent formula which has been shown to work in practice time and again.

    The game may not be over yet, but at half time it’s Marx 52 von Mises 0.

  • Paul Marks

    Kirk – as you know Dr Marx did not even invent the absurd Labour Theory of Value, it was suggested by some comments of Adam Smith in his old age, and worked out by David Ricardo (whose theory of land was also awful).

    This theory was refuted by many economists in the early 19th century (including Gossen in the German lands and Ferrara in the Italian lands).

    Even in Britain, the home of the Labour Theory of Value, the theory was refuted by (amongst others) Richard Whately and Samuel Bailey – but J.S. Mill ignored them and in his “Principles of Political Economy” (1848) he clung to the Labour Theory of Value of his father James Mill and family friend David Ricardo.

    Unfortunately the works of Mr Mill were very popular with university students – and so the Labour Theory of Value carried on till the 1870s.

    In the 1870s the theory was finally discredited (by Carl Menger and others) – even in the English speaking world.

    The basis of Marxist “economics” was gone – but Marxism did not disappear in the 1870s, it has gone from strength to strength.

    As Lee Moore comes close to saying – Marxism is not really about economics, or history, or philosophy or any subject. Marxism is about POWER.

    Kirk points out that Dr Marx never tried to establish a community based on his ideas – indeed he MOCKED people who tried to set up egalitarian communities, and never explained how his society was supposed to work (indeed he called any question of how his proposed society would work “unscientific” as “history” would, supposedly, work it all out).

    Karl Marx had no real interest in academic matters (in spite of his doctorate in philosophy) – his interest was in POWER.

    This is true of the Frankfurt School “Woke” Marxists of today – the leaders of this movement do not care that their theories do not make sense.

    They, the leaders, are not idiots – they KNOW their theories do not make sense, they have always known.

    The theories are an excuse for POWER.

  • Paul Marks

    By the way – David Ricardo’s theories on land, which led to the theories of Henry George, were refuted by Frank Fetter more than a century ago.

    Yet these false Ricardian ideas on land are trotted out, by the “World Economic Forum” (which could not care less about truth in economics – it is interested in power) and others, to this day.