The following article is an addendum to the original, three-part series on Massachusetts environmental madness.
Before his death in 2006 Sir John Cowperthwaite, in an interview for The American Spectator, disclosed a guiding principle he unwaveringly adhered to during his tenure as Hong Kong’s Financial Secretary from 1961 to 1971. This principle was the economic policy known as positive non-interventionism.
While in British colonial service Sir John Cowperthwaite worked tirelessly preventing bad ideas from being implemented. Sir John clearly understood this one strategy precipitates two important outcomes.
First, stymieing bad ideas allows good ideas, and their consequential benefits, to flourish. Second, it protects people from damaging consequences which are often worse then the original problem. This is particularly important when speaking of government and its affairs.
It is the nature of government bureaucracies to either ignore, or be shielded from feedback. Thus once in place, a bad idea and its’ attending consequences takes years (nay decades) to undo.
Furthermore when governments implement bad ideas, then governments have to provide solutions for the inevitable negative consequences. Lack of both feedback and introspection causes governments to not only believe they are the solution to all problems, but to completely miss the fact their meddling caused the problem in the first place!
In his pursuit of positive non-interventionism, one of the specific policies Sir John Cowperthwaite followed was the abolition of collecting statistics:
“...statistics are dangerous, because they enable social engineers of all stripes to justify state intervention in the economy.”
This is almost exactly what is taking place in Massachusetts except that the statistics being used induce an immediate, disbelieving shake of the head.
Take a look at the page five chart contained in this link to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s Statewide Greenhouse Gas Emissions Level: 1990 Baseline and 2020 Business As Usual Projection document: This chart looks professional and impressive until one reads this paragraph that follows:
“…the lightly dashed lines reflect a reasonable range of uncertainty in emissions given the variability inherent in GHG drivers such as economic activity and fuel prices. These ranges are based on historical variability (50% confidence that expected emissions lie between the two lightly dashed lines) rather than on an analysis of factors that might drive emissions higher or lower than the historical trend line, and by how much.”
This is reasonable to the Department of Environmental Protection? They are only 50% confident in their prediction that greenhouse gas emissions will lie where they say it will in 8 more years?
This is the economy we are talking about, people’s lives and wealth. If someone urged you to buy a house you were only 50% certain would not depreciate in value, would you do it? That dotted line reflects their lack of confidence, and will eventually be used to justify further intervention in the economy on behalf of the environment.