Daniel Mitchell article The European Union’s Carbon Protectionism

The European Union’s Carbon Protectionism

The European Union’s Carbon Protectionism

Over the past four years, Donald Trump presumably was the biggest threat to global trade.

His ignorant protectionism hurt American consumers and businesses – and undermined the competitiveness of the U.S. economy.

Over the next four years (and beyond), it’s quite likely that the biggest threat to global trade will be the European Union.

More specifically, politicians and bureaucrats in Brussels want to toss a hand grenade into cross-border commerce by imposing trade taxes on nations that don’t impose carbon taxes.

The Wall Street Journal has a must-read editorial about this threat to world commerce.

Western politicians have failed to persuade their own voters to commit economic suicide by banning fossil fuels, and forget about China, Russia or India. The climate lobby’s fallback, which is starting to emerge, is to punish the foreigners and their own consumers with climate tariffs. Bureaucrats at the European Commission are due to unveil the proposed Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) later this month…Brussels wants to impose tariffs to bring the cost of carbon-dioxide emissions tied to an imported good into line with what a European producer would pay to produce the same good. …a carbon tariff would impose an enormous burden on companies seeking to sell to the EU—even the low-emitting firms—and as a result probably will trigger a trade war. …Under the leaked plan, foreign firms would have to undertake detailed carbon audits to report emissions to EU regulators, and then would have to work out what proportion of the emissions attributable to goods shipped to the EU already were covered by carbon taxes elsewhere. …The choice between costly compliance or a punitive default tariff risks deterring smaller foreign companies from trying to navigate this system.

Needless to say, the so-called carbon audits will create big openings for cronyism and favoritism.

Lobbyists will be fat and happy while businesses and consumers will get hit with higher costs.

The editorial’s conclusion wisely warns that it would be a big mistake for Europeans to trigger a trade war.

Western elites haven’t convinced their voters to pay the price of their climate obsessions. Like Donald Trump, they now want to blame foreigners. In the process they’ll force their consumers to pay more for imports and domestic goods, and they’ll harm their own exporters if countries retaliate. The last thing the world economy needs as it recovers from a pandemic is a climate-change trade war.

Writing for Forbes, Tilak Doshi speculates whether the United States will copy the Europeans.

…the European Parliament overwhelmingly endorsed the creation of a “carbon border adjustment mechanism” (CBAM) that would shield EU companies against cheaper imports from countries with “weaker” climate policies. …Now that the Biden administration has elevated climate change to its highest priority across the whole of government,it would seem that the EU and the US working together with like-minded governments in Canada and the UK would be in a position to set up a “trans-Atlantic climate club”  and thereby impose a global cost on carbon emissions. …Australian Trade Minister Dan Tehan labelled carbon tariffs “a new form of protectionism.” …For most developing countries, “worries of an increasing carbon footprint generated by economic growth are second to worries that growth many not happen at all.” …What sets off this new protectionism from its predecessors is the sheer scope of its application.

I’m actually hopeful on this issue.

Biden and his team doubtlessly are sympathetic to the E.U.’s initiative, but I don’t think Congress will approve a carbon tax on the American people.

And if the U.S. doesn’t have a carbon tax, there wouldn’t be any reason to impose discriminatory taxes on other nations that also don’t have that levy.

That being said, the Biden Administration would have some leeway to cause problems. For instance, would they push for the World Trade Organization to accept the E.U.’s attack on free trade?

When dealing with politicians, I always hope for the best, but assume the worst.

P.S. Here are my seven reasons to support free trade, as well as my eight questions for protectionists.

P.P.S. You shouldn’t be surprised to learn that the French were early advocates of carbon protectionism.

P.P.P.S. Some American politicians have pushed for regulatory protectionism.

Walter Williams, RIP

One of America’s leading public intellectuals, Walter Williams, has passed away.

In 2014, I shared a teaser for Suffer No Fools, a video biography of his life. To commemorate the life of this great man, here’s the full video.

 

I first got to know Walter when I was a Ph.D. student at George Mason University in the 1980s, where my then-wife was his research assistant, but I was fortunate to become a friend later in life when I got to become a member of the “Politically Incorrect Boys Club”  with Walter, Ed Crane, and Richard Rahn. This meant lots of fun dinners featuring everything from juvenile humor to grousing about the foolishness of ever-expanding government.

I had an opportunity to reminisce about Walter for WMAL this morning, and you can hear my remarks by clicking here.

But there’s so much more to say. When I learned yesterday of Walter’s death, I wondered what sort of tribute I should write, especially since so many thoughtful essays already have been published (Don Boudreaux, Thomas Sowell, Veronique de Rugy, Alex Tabarrok, Mark Perry, and Nick Gillespie, to list just a few).

Then I recalled a left-leaning friend once telling me that Walter must be some sort of “Uncle Tom” because he opposed racial preferences and the welfare state.

This statement struck me as ludicrous because Walter was a take-no-prisoners troublemaker who got in trouble as a young man (everything from arrests to a court martial) because he refused to tolerate racism.

Here are some excerpts from his must-read autobiography, Up from the Projects, staring with this passage about his time at Fort Stewart after getting drafted.

Numerous forms of troublemaking made me unpopular with many of the soldiers, including black ones. Some warned that was going to get into a lot of trouble, to which I’d flippantly reply, “What kind of trouble? Is somebody going to paint me black and send me to Georgia?”

And here’s some of what he wrote about his assignment to South Korea.

We had been told to fill out forms that contained vital personal information such as blood type, race, religion, next of kin, etc. …I had checked off “Caucasian.” A warrant officer told me I had made a mistake. …He wanted to know why I would say Caucasian when I was actually a Negro. “I’m not stupid,” I replied. “If I checked off ‘Negro,’ I’d get the worst job over here.

Here’s a passage from his time as a Ph.D. student at UCLA.

My fellow students were in awe of someone who’d challenge Professors Alchian and Hirschleifer as I did. One notable challenge occurred when Professor Alchian  said to me in class, “Williams, I bet you’re against discrimination.” I replied that no, I favored discrimination. Smiling, he asked whether that included racial discrimination. “Yes,” I said. “I practiced it a lot when I was dating.”

I should point out that while he believed in freedom of association (including the right to discriminate), Walter also noted that capitalism was the best way of punishing bad types of discrimination.

He appreciated that his professors didn’t relax their standards because of his race.

Flunking economic theory the first time around, I later realized, did have a benefit. It convinced me that UCLA professors didn’t care anything about my race. …The university’s economics professors weren’t practicing affirmative action with me. …Sometimes I sarcastically, perhaps cynically, say that I’m glad I received virtually all of my education before it became fashionable for white people like black people. …I encountered back then a more honest assessment of my strengths and weaknesses.

Walter also had the self-confidence to deal with white mistakes, such as this anecdote from when he lived in a rich suburb of D.C.

Being among the very few blacks in Chevy Chase taught me a lesson about racial relationships. Living in a corner house…prompted a Saturday chore of picking up trash that people discarded from passing cars. One Saturday, while doing that, an elderly white neighbor approached me to ask me whether, when I completed my tasks, I would be interested in working that afternoon in his yard. I told him very nicely that I would be spending that afternoon putting the final touches on my Ph.D. dissertation. The man’s face turned red with embarrassment and he apologized profusely. Some blacks might have been insulted and charged the man with racism. But I realized that the man was a Bayesian…, meaning that if a black person was spotted in Chevy Chase, picking up trash, the overwhelming probability was that he was a worker as opposed to a homeowner. Playing racial odds doesn’t make one a racist.

Many years later, he wrote a very insightful column on racial and sexual profiling.

Here’s a final excerpt showing how he enjoyed shocking people.

At the leftist reception, …the questioner asked, “How do you feel about the enslavement of your ancestors?” They were all shocked by my response… I started off by saying that slavery is one of the most despicable abuses of human rights. …But I went further to tell them that I, Walter E. Williams, have benefited enormously from the horrible suffering of my ancestors. …my wealth and personal liberties are greater having been born in the United States than in any African country.

Indeed, Walter relished the opportunity to tease his white friends and colleagues, often granting them a pardon for their skin color.

The bottom line is that Walter was a man, not a victim. He fought and achieved.

Since I’ve cited so many of his columns over the years, it would be impractical to list everything. But I definitely recommend the moral arguments he made in videos on capitalism and profits.

P.S. I also can’t resist suggesting that you watch Walter’s conversation with his Nobel Prize-winning colleague, Jim Buchanan.

 

Author Biography

Eric Schurenberg is Editor-in-Chief of BNET.com and Editorial Director of CBS MoneyWatch.com. Previously, Eric was managing editor of MONEY. As managing editor, he expanded the editorial focus to new interests including real estate, family finance, health, retirement, and the workplace. Prior to MONEY, Eric was deputy editor of Business 2.0. He was also the managing editor of goldman.com, a Web site for Goldman Sachs Group’s personal wealth management business, and an assistant managing editor at Fortune magazine. Schurenberg has won a Gerald Loeb Award for distinguished business journalism, a National Magazine Award, and a Page One Award.

In his article “5 Social Security Myths That Have to Go, ” Schurenberg notes:

Social Security isn’t the only cause of America’s fiscal problems, but it is Exhibit A in why it is so hard to fix them. No serious solution to our debt can ignore a program that will tax and spend about 4.8% of GDP this year and account for about 20% of all federal spending-and that within a few decades will count almost a third of the population as beneficiaries. But whenever I write about Social Security here at CBS MoneyWatch, I’m always struck by how much disagreement there is about how the system really works.

A handful of misconceptions tend to crop up repeatedly-often having to do with that fiscal fun-house mirror, the Social Security trust fund. And despite the efforts of writers like Allan Sloan and experts like the Urban Institute’s Eugene Steuerle, the myths won’t die. This column won’t kill them either, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take a whack. Here goes:

Myth: Social Security benefits are earned; reducing them amounts to confiscation

It’s not hard to see why this illusion exists, since Social Security’s own website refers to “earned credits” and sometimes refers to payroll taxes as contributions. But despite Social Security’s fetish for language that echoes private pensions, no one ever vests in Social Security. You don’t own your benefits until you cash the check.

It’s more accurate to say your benefits are an entitlement granted by act of Congress and subject to change at any time by another act of Congress. As long as voters consider benefits inviolate, they will be. When voters decide fiscal responsibility is more important, then Social Security benefits- “earned” or not-will be up for review.

__________________________________________

Professor Williams explains what’s ahead for Social Security

Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: