Monday, July 20, 2009

The Global Sensitivity of the Left

We return from the Subcontinent just as Mrs. Clinton is visiting. The clash of perspectives provides us with our first posting after our much-anticipated return.

A visit to India, the world's largest democracy and a nation of singular size, ethnic diversity, cultural complexity, economic potential, and strategic importance, by a US Secretary of State who brings unparalleled celebrity to her office, could be the occasion for various issues to be stressed. Among those that we would have suggested would be:
  • Introduction of more effective labor laws. While it may be argued that American labor laws are unnecessarily restrictive, in India they are virtually nonexistant. Workers in India's booming manufacturing sector work without provision for overtime, minimum wages, or the like. In a country developing through a surplus of unskilled labor, such provisions would be a boon to national welfare.
  • Greater provision for physical infrastructure. India's water and sewer systems are worse than a mess in many cities. Highways are crowded to the point of complete dysfuntion (our proposal for a new video game: Chennai Autorickshaw, with the objective of driving the iconic Indian vehicle as quickly as possible through the boomtown's chaotic traffic). A current project in Delhi was marred when an overpass collapsed, killing several workers. Such occurrences are too common in a country just learning effecient methods of infrastruture development.
  • Greater provision for human rights for all Indian citizens. While the Indian government has made big efforts to ameliorate the effects of Hinduism's inherent disriminatory patterns, some have exascerbated the problems the seek to correct. Renewed effort could do a lot to overcome past inequities and create a brighter future for the bulk of India's citizens.
  • Specifically, greater provision for religious rights for Christians. SWNID participated in a conversation in which a wise Indian friend indicated that if the American government would apply even some pressure to the Indian national government on this matter, the Indian national government would see to it that its northeastern states, including Orissa, would put a stop to the well-doumented persecution of Christians. (By the way, our Indian friend was asking that American Christians petition their government for such pressure to be applied. SWNIDish gentle readers will know what to do.)
  • Provision of free trade between the United States and India. India has an enormous potential to supply manufactured goods and e-servies to the US. In return, India provides the second largest market in the world for American goods and services. India has a particularly big appetite for things that the US does well, like construction equipment, machine tools, and financial services. Free trade will make Indians and Americans better off.

But no. Mrs. Clinton focused on something else: carbon emissions. The previous G8 meeting didn't yield a cap on carbon emitted by India or China. Hence, per the present dogma of the left, all other issues must yield to saving the planet.

Never mind that we don't know whether global climate change represents a pattern leading to something permanent and disastrous. Never mind that we don't know to what degree such change is caused by human activity. Never mind that we don't know whether efforts to restrain carbon emissions will make any difference, assuming that we had answers to the other issues. Never mind that economic analysis shows that (a) other initiatives would yield more benefit to the world's developing populations; (b) if real, climate change can best be adapted to by those populations already enjoying the fruits of economic development. The "inconvenient truth" for Mrs. Clinton and her ilk is that all the world must join the green initiative and restrain CO2.

Within the discussion, the Boss of Foggy Bottom offered this helpful advice:

There is a way to eradicate poverty and develop sustainably that will lower
significantly the carbon footprint of the energy that is produced and consumed
to fuel that growth.

Do tell, Madam Secretary? Please show us this more excellent way! Our utopian yearnings will not be satisfied until you descend Olympus or Sinai or the Ozarks and tell us what you've learned on the mountain from the god(dess). Why are you keeping the details of such an approach a tantalizing secret?

In the background of all the global warming noise lurks an assumption that we now SWNIDishly lay bare. The green left believes, we assert, that even if efforts to restrain carbon emissions prove unnecessary or ineffective, the effort will still yield other benefits in the restraint of industrial development that the left finds aesthetically and politically distasteful.

But we say there's a real cost to all this, and it will be carried by the world's poor. If denied the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of industrialization, they will remain in lives that are sadly nasty, brutish and short. If the world's body politic gives its attention and treasure to reducing the ominous carbon footprint, other courses of action promising real benefit to real people will inevitably be neglected, all assertions that there remains a way to do everything at once to the contrary.


JB in CA said...

It seems to me that making free trade contingent on "effective" (= reasonable?) labor laws is the sort of thing that would lead to a relatively quick resolution of your first and last bullet (eh, flower) points. But isn't that the sort of thing your opponents have been calling for?

Jon A. Alfred E. Michael J. Wile E. SWNID said...

Our gripe is that American labor leaders want equivalent labor laws in developing countries, and will stop free trade as an ineffective strategem to bring about the same, or more likely, to end trade and "protect" inefficient jobs in the USA. We want developmentally appropriate labor laws that will continue to encourage development along with providing better protection for the well being of laborers in a booming economy that still experiences a vast oversupply of unskilled workers.