Maria McCaffery

Sigh, spotted this insane idea again in a piece about wind farms.

And 20 years of wind projects would give Britain a tremendous opportunity for more jobs, manufacturing and investment.

This is a cost, not a benefit, of such schemes.

We lose all of the other things that such manufacturing capacity, such investment and such labour could have been making for us if we weren\’t making windmills.

It is possible that it is still a good idea to be making windmills of course, possible that it\’s a bad idea, but when we try to make up our minds about it we need to put the costs on the right side of the balance. Jobs and investments are costs, not benefits.

12 comments on “Maria McCaffery

  1. Time to ban cars then. We can replace them with Sedan Chairs and rickshaws. Think of the extra employment we would create!

  2. The non-sequitur thinking you highlight is just another example of people talking about “job creation” via subsidy and government projects. It never is.

    900,000 of Gordon Non-Jobs do one thing – lower efficiency, make life more expensive and reduces wealth creation (and by that I mean for people, not for the Government and their cronies).

    We need light, not heat.

  3. I’ve tried to make this point before, but I’ll try again … I’m not sure that I’m right either, so maybe somebody can point out the flaw in my reasoning.

    This is akin to the broken window fallacy. But you could regard the movie industry as equally a waste of productive capacity as breaking windows and then fixing them – the difference, though, is that people get something they regard as valuable from the movie industry and are thus prepared to hand over money for movies. People do not get something they regard as valuable from having windows broken then fixed. But a bizarre twist of tastes might change that – perhaps if a perfectly good window was replaced with one more ‘aesthetically pleasing’ it’s close to the same thing.

    So is building wind farms more like breaking windows or like growing the movie industry? Would you regard the growth of the movie industry, creating jobs etc., as a cost not a benefit? It would still be taking productive capacity away from other possible uses etc. So can you delineate the difference between wind energy and movies? Can we be sure that movie are something of value in a way the wind energy is not?

    Perhaps people are getting something they regard as valuable from expensive wind energy, so we should regard the growth of the sector with the same enthusiasm we would the growth of the movie industry?

    Whether this should be delivered via public subsidy or via the market is a slightly different question. If public subsidy results in less efficient production, or production of the wrong (excessive) quantity, then that is indeed a waste. But perhaps there are public good problems that require collective action to overcome, I don’t know. You can’t be sure that state subsidy is the wrong approach without considering the question more closely.

    Tim adds: Entirely happy with that point of view. All I insist is that the opportunity costs are recognised.

  4. Yah fer sure, but everything comes with opportunity cost – so how do we decide when we can talk about the benefits of job creation and when we can’t?

    My guess is that we can talk about benefits when that job creation involves the production-of-things-we-value-in-a-way-that’s-more productive-than-has-gone-before. But as we are forever creating new things-we-value, or reevaluating or valuations, it’s hard to answer. I guess, again, that’s what the price mechanism is for … but with an externality producing good, hmm, tricky.

  5. Er, I live quite close to the import dock where the towers and turbines are landed, prior to road transport to their final site. I think the hardware is fabricated in Scandinavia, and the only work here is transport and final assembly of the prefabricated sections.

  6. 2 questions:
    1. What is the cost of job creation in solar power vs cost of Gordoon’s non-jobs.
    2. In view of Monty’s point above, wind turbines look a bit like pork barrelling to me. Won’t a big chunk of profit just go to the landowners?

  7. Pingback: Economic illiteracy « Amused Cynicism

  8. Dear Tim

    Do you ever have a periods of doubt?

    Did you consider that Ms McCaffery perfectly understood that investment in Windfarms is a cost?

    The benefit is the continuity and security of supply, the payback in reduced energy costs, the resulting return for investors from a renewable resource rather than a finite diminshing resource, the manufacturing expertise that would be developed in the UK and then sold to economies with less developed renewable energy programmes?

    I understand from your website that you have reservations about climate change. Do you have any reservations about the diminishing oil fields or the new fields that are frequently found in countries with less than democratic governments or the potential risks in nuclear development?

    Maybe I’m wrong.

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