The other day, American Enterprise Institute scholar Mark Perry wrote this postdetailing the astonishing unproductivity of the solar sector, which boasts of 20 percent of all electric power payrolls yet produces less than 1 percent of the electric power in the United States. Perhaps there is a strong argument that funding a “clean energy” economy is worth the trouble because one day it will save the Earth, but right now it exists only as a morally pleasing proposition that serves little economic purpose.
The reaction to Perry’s tweet, though, was a revealing exposition of progressive economics ideas. Which is to say, productivity doesn’t matter if your heart is in the right place. Take Sally Kohn, a CNN analyst, who mocked Perry’s article by saying, “In case you mistakenly thought conservatives mean it when they say they believe in creating good jobs…”Christopher Hayes and Sam Biddle responded to Perry in similar fashion on Twitter.
Harsanyi quite appropriately offers up the Milton Friedman "why-not-use-spoons-instead-of-shovels" quip.
He then returns to Kohn, who also claims in a subsequent tweet that solar energy is cheaper than normal-people energy forms, thinking she's come across a real gotcha, because that would render the inefficiency argument pointless.
Um, reread your supposed substantiation of this "cheaper" business, Sally:
If solar is also CHEAPER why do we need subsidies and state mandates? Surely Americans would turn away from fossil fuel immediately if this were the case. I know I would. Now, the piece Kohn linked to (but didn’t read apparently) only forecasts that prices will be cheaper, while ignoring the many supplementary costs of creating an entire new infrastructure, not to mention the cost of the fossil fuel capacity necessary to back up a system that runs on the vagaries of sunlight. But that’s another story.I am particularly pleased that Harsanyi concludes by castigating the populist impulse to bellow about "bringing back" manufacturing jobs, although I wish he'd fleshed out how said impulse is situated on the right side of the ideological spectrum. The case could be made that his use of the phrase "many conservatives" is unfortunate, as I believe that right-of-center types who so exhort are not actually conservatives, but rather boneheads guided by shoddy thought processes.