Rawls, Cohen and the Laffer Hypothesis

I was in Sydney for a fascinating conference on Evidence, Science And Public Policy. It was worth the trip just to hear John Worrall on evidence-based medicine point out this paper on remote retroactive intercessory prayer [1]. Assuming, as appears to be the case, that the study was totally legit (no data mining etc), the obvious question for me was why anyone would think it worthwhile (ex ante) to test this out.

But that’s not the subject of this post.

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Earth Hour

I was in Sydney last night for Earth Hour and the difference from the usual city lights was impressive. This exercise is certainly helpful in reminding people of the issue.

On the other hand, I think the implied message of virtuous self-denial is the wrong one. A typical household would save more CO2 emissions by laying out a few dollars to replace one incandescent light bulb with a compact fluorescent than by turning everything off for Earth Hour once a year, not to mention coming out ahead financially. And what’s true for lighting is true for consumption in general. Efficiency improvements and substitution (videoconferencing for business travel, for example) can do a lot more than any plausible reduction in living standards.

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