I few of you asked me about the Bret Stephens column. I would have preferred something more specific and detailed on climate change uncertainty, but my main reaction was encapsulated by Chris Blattman on Twitter:
Bad sign for science if my impulsive thought is “so glad I don’t work in this area”
And yes, I blame both sides for that.
A related question is: how good is the social science in this area? I would say “not so great.” Try looking for good public choice treatments of how climate intentions end up translated into climate policy. That is a remarkably important question, and yet it is understood poorly.
Or “how many of the people who make proclamations in this area have a decent understanding of Chinese energy and climate policy?”, and the answer is hardly any, even though that may be the most important topic in the area. And I ask that question not only of the casual tweeters but also of the academics who work on climate change. Follow Christopher Balding if you don’t believe me, and by the way praise to the highly rated but still underrated Matt Kahn.
In other words, yes we should do something but still yap less, study more.
How about Ross Douthat on Marine Le Pen?
The way I see it, the case for Le Pen is simply that it might force the (supposed) outsiders to “own” the euro and European Union, and that might be better for liberalism in the long run than having a France limp along under the probably not so popular Macron. In my view, Le Pen has neither the means nor the inclination to actually pull France out of the EU or eurozone, and the whole thing has been a campaign stunt. Of course I find it hard to estimate the probabilities here, and personally I reserve my political “rooting” for my classical liberal mood affiliations and also the Washington Wizards; I won’t support a candidate for reasons of n-dimensional chess, given that I am never the decisive voice. So I’m not rooting for Le Pen, but if someone holds that “strategic” point of view I do think it is defensible, though I hope they are holding it with plenty of humility on the epistemic side.
I thought Ross’s column had the desired and necessary caveats, and furthermore he did not tell people to vote for her or root for her. Rather than try to smear his piece with Nazi associations and the like, it is better to focus on why so many political parties in the West are falling apart. And as for the unsavory associations, keep in mind that oft-praised American presidents have owned slaves, exterminated native Americans, turned back ships of Holocaust victims, and napalmed Vietnam. That doesn’t provide an excuse for bad current behavior, but it does provide some context for the “how could you possibly…?” tendencies we all have.
I would not myself have written either column, but overall I say kudos to The New York Times. It’s their readers I worry about.