Thursday, June 9, 2011

Right level of government

I'm curious to talk to some of my libertarian friends about the recent NYT argicle on the development of Gurgaon, India. Oppressive conditions related to corrupt central and local governments led to private development of the city, so they should be shouting that from the rooftops. On the other hand, private industry and society are struggling with the failure of government to create and support infrastructure such as transportation, water, sewage, and security. IMHO, the optimal size for government is significantly greater than zero, though like all organizations government is open to corruption.

Speaking of finding the right size of government, clean energy advocates continue to press the Feds to adopt standards for energy conservation and clean energy development. US standards lag far behind those in England, for example, and as a result we waste a lot of energy but save ourselves those pesky loss prevention costs.

And speaking of costs, a nice little op-ed piece reflects on how land intensive solar and wind farms can be. The discussion of wind seems to overlook the fact that other simultaneous uses of land with windmills are hardly precluded (though of course some uses are) but the point is a good one. Now if only more attention were paid to the land use externalities associated with corn & ethanol subsidies, the local food movement, etc.

Update: Alex Tabarrok of Marginal Revolution responds (probably independent of my post) touting the points I made above and adding that the only problem was insufficient libertarianism, as a state agency was tasked with providing some of the infrastructure but failed. That doesn't really get at the basic problems, it seems to me, such as the complete lack of water or sanitation. Commenters on Tabarrok's post include people who have spent time in the area and find little to tout as well as libertarians who contend that whatever the shortcomings, the city is still preferable to the rest of the country. Still seems to me that the best answer is good government- if the best you can say about libertarianism is that it's just as good as kleptocratic cronyism, that's hardly a sturdy support beam in its defense.

Taking a step back, I suppose this could be just confirmation bias: I see what I want to see and so does Alex. Is that really all we can get out of this?

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