“We believe energy should be in an upward spiral. Energy is the foundational engine of our civilization. The more energy we have, the more people we can have, and the better everyone’s lives can be. We should raise everyone to the energy consumption level we have, then increase our energy 1,000x, then raise everyone else’s energy 1,000x as well.” (- Techno-Optimist Manifesto, below)
Add a new name to the powerful critics of climate alarmism and forced energy transformation. Marc Andreessen is the author of The Techno-Optimist Manifesto, which draws upon the Julian Simon tradition of free minds and free markets to solve real challenges. This is a refreshing anecdote to the doom-and-gloom neo-Malthusians–and a threat to the climate industrial complex.
Sure enough, the critics are out with swords. Having posted The Techno-Optimist Manifesto on LinkedIn to the Climate Change Professionals Group, I was asked: “How is this diatribe from consume-more economics suitable for climate change professionals group??”
Very appropriate where a better worldview about man and nature is the cure for ‘climate anxiety’.
Energy density, consumer welfare, fiscal sanity, and preservation of the living space (from wind and solar) is the way forward, not futile, wasteful Big Brother.
He answered: “It’s actually promoting unabated growth with no consideration of consequences or environmental impacts.”
Not at all. Real pollutants and problems can be addressed via human ingenuity in free market settings.
It is the false pollutant carbon dioxide—and futile, costly climate policy—that needs to be overcome. The Malthusian mindset of doom-and-gloom too.
Energy and free markets are important areas of Andreessen’s Manifesto, which follow:
Energy is life. We take it for granted, but without it, we have darkness, starvation, and pain. With it, we have light, safety, and warmth.
We believe energy should be in an upward spiral. Energy is the foundational engine of our civilization. The more energy we have, the more people we can have, and the better everyone’s lives can be. We should raise everyone to the energy consumption level we have, then increase our energy 1,000x, then raise everyone else’s energy 1,000x as well.
The current gap in per-capita energy use between the smaller developed world and larger developing world is enormous. That gap will close – either by massively expanding energy production, making everyone better off, or by massively reducing energy production, making everyone worse off.
We believe energy need not expand to the detriment of the natural environment. We have the silver bullet for virtually unlimited zero-emissions energy today – nuclear fission. In 1973, President Richard Nixon called for Project Independence, the construction of 1,000 nuclear power plants by the year 2000, to achieve complete US energy independence. Nixon was right; we didn’t build the plants then, but we can now, anytime we decide we want to.
Atomic Energy Commissioner Thomas Murray said in 1953: “For years the splitting atom, packaged in weapons, has been our main shield against the barbarians. Now, in addition, it is a God-given instrument to do the constructive work of mankind.” Murray was right too.
We believe a second energy silver bullet is coming – nuclear fusion. We should build that as well. The same bad ideas that effectively outlawed fission are going to try to outlaw fusion. We should not let them.
We believe there is no inherent conflict between the techno-capital machine and the natural environment. Per-capita US carbon emissions are lower now than they were 100 years ago, even without nuclear power.
We believe technology is the solution to environmental degradation and crisis. A technologically advanced society improves the natural environment, a technologically stagnant society ruins it. If you want to see environmental devastation, visit a former Communist country. The socialist USSR was far worse for the natural environment than the capitalist US. Google the Aral Sea.
We believe a technologically stagnant society has limited energy at the cost of environmental ruin; a technologically advanced society has unlimited clean energy for everyone.
We believe free markets are the most effective way to organize a technological economy. Willing buyer meets willing seller, a price is struck, both sides benefit from the exchange or it doesn’t happen. Profits are the incentive for producing supply that fulfills demand. Prices encode information about supply and demand. Markets cause entrepreneurs to seek out high prices as a signal of opportunity to create new wealth by driving those prices down.
We believe the market economy is a discovery machine, a form of intelligence – an exploratory, evolutionary, adaptive system.
We believe Hayek’s Knowledge Problem overwhelms any centralized economic system. All actual information is on the edges, in the hands of the people closest to the buyer. The center, abstracted away from both the buyer and the seller, knows nothing. Centralized planning is doomed to fail, the system of production and consumption is too complex. Decentralization harnesses complexity for the benefit of everyone; centralization will starve you to death.
We believe in market discipline. The market naturally disciplines – the seller either learns and changes when the buyer fails to show, or exits the market. When market discipline is absent, there is no limit to how crazy things can get. The motto of every monopoly and cartel, every centralized institution not subject to market discipline: “We don’t care, because we don’t have to.” Markets prevent monopolies and cartels.
We believe markets lift people out of poverty – in fact, markets are by far the most effective way to lift vast numbers of people out of poverty, and always have been. Even in totalitarian regimes, an incremental lifting of the repressive boot off the throat of the people and their ability to produce and trade leads to rapidly rising incomes and standards of living. Lift the boot a little more, even better. Take the boot off entirely, who knows how rich everyone can get.
We believe markets are an inherently individualistic way to achieve superior collective outcomes.
We believe markets do not require people to be perfect, or even well intentioned – which is good, because, have you met people? Adam Smith: “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest. We address ourselves not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities, but of their advantages.”
David Friedman points out that people only do things for other people for three reasons – love, money, or force. Love doesn’t scale, so the economy can only run on money or force. The force experiment has been run and found wanting. Let’s stick with money.
We believe the ultimate moral defense of markets is that they divert people who otherwise would raise armies and start religions into peacefully productive pursuits.
We believe markets, to quote Nicholas Stern, are how we take care of people we don’t know.
We believe markets are the way to generate societal wealth for everything else we want to pay for, including basic research, social welfare programs, and national defense.
We believe there is no conflict between capitalist profits and a social welfare system that protects the vulnerable. In fact, they are aligned – the production of markets creates the economic wealth that pays for everything else we want as a society.
We believe central economic planning elevates the worst of us and drags everyone down; markets exploit the best of us to benefit all of us.
We believe central planning is a doom loop; markets are an upward spiral.
The economist William Nordhaus has shown that creators of technology are only able to capture about 2% of the economic value created by that technology. The other 98% flows through to society in the form of what economists call social surplus. Technological innovation in a market system is inherently philanthropic, by a 50:1 ratio. Who gets more value from a new technology, the single company that makes it, or the millions or billions of people who use it to improve their lives? QED.
We believe in David Ricardo’s concept of comparative advantage – as distinct from competitive advantage, comparative advantage holds that even someone who is best in the world at doing everything will buy most things from other people, due to opportunity cost. Comparative advantage in the context of a properly free market guarantees high employment regardless of the level of technology.
We believe a market sets wages as a function of the marginal productivity of the worker. Therefore technology – which raises productivity – drives wages up, not down. This is perhaps the most counterintuitive idea in all of economics, but it’s true, and we have 300 years of history that prove it.
We believe in Milton Friedman’s observation that human wants and needs are infinite.
We believe markets also increase societal well being by generating work in which people can productively engage. We believe a Universal Basic Income would turn people into zoo animals to be farmed by the state. Man was not meant to be farmed; man was meant to be useful, to be productive, to be proud.
We believe technological change, far from reducing the need for human work, increases it, by broadening the scope of what humans can productively do.
We believe that since human wants and needs are infinite, economic demand is infinite, and job growth can continue forever.
We believe markets are generative, not exploitative; positive sum, not zero sum. Participants in markets build on one another’s work and output. James Carse describes finite games and infinite games – finite games have an end, when one person wins and another person loses; infinite games never end, as players collaborate to discover what’s possible in the game. Markets are the ultimate infinite game.