Copenhagen Consensus

by John Quiggin on June 3, 2004

The results of the Copenhagen Consensus are out, and as predicted, that is, with climate change at the bottom of the list. I’ll give a more detailed response later on, but I thought I’d respond to this point in the Economist

The bottom of the list, however, aroused more in the way of hostile comment. Rated “bad”, meaning that costs were thought to exceed benefits, were all three of the schemes put before the panel for mitigating climate change, including the Kyoto protocol on greenhouse-gas emissions. (The panel rated only one other policy bad: guest-worker programmes to promote immigration, which were frowned upon because they make it harder for migrants to assimilate.) This gave rise to suspicion in some quarters that the whole exercise had been rigged. Mr Lomborg is well-known, and widely reviled, for his opposition to Kyoto.

These suspicions are in fact unfounded, as your correspondent (who sat in on the otherwise private discussions) can confirm. A less biddable group would be difficult to imagine.

On the contrary, as I suggested at the outset, a panel that included, say, Joe Stiglitz and Amartya Sen would have been considerably less biddable[1], as well as being better qualified to look at the issues in question.

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by Chris Bertram on June 3, 2004

Check out the “speech”:,11710,1230169,00.html made by art critic Robert Hughes at Burlington House last night, and note the following judgment:

bq. I don’t want to disparage dealers, collectors or museum directors, by the way. But I don’t think there is any doubt that the present commercialisation of the art world, at its top end, is a cultural obscenity. When you have the super-rich paying $104m for an immature Rose Period Picasso – close to the GNP of some Caribbean or African states – something is very rotten. Such gestures do no honour to art: they debase it by making the desire for it pathological. As Picasso’s biographer John Richardson said to a reporter on that night of embarrassment at Sotheby’s, no painting is worth a hundred million dollars.

I wonder what they’ll make of that over at “Marginal Revolution”: ?

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by Kieran Healy on June 3, 2004

Favorite moment from the “Enron Energy Traders gloatfest”:

bq. *Employee 1*: He just f—-s California. He steals money from California to the tune of about a million.
*Employee 2*: Will you rephrase that?
*Employee 1*: OK, he, um, he arbitrages the California market to the tune of a million bucks or two a day.

Always nice to see those technical financial terms (“f—-k”) explained in terms the layman can understand (“arbitrage”). I’m sure the whole thing was the fault of a few bad apples.

Punctuation and human rights

by Chris Bertram on June 3, 2004

Eve Garrard, who figured prominently in our comments last week on my posts discussing Amnesty International (“here”: and “here”: ) has written “an impassioned criticism”: of AI over at Normblog. You should read what she says, although I happen to disagree with her claim — which I regard as obviously misguided — that the universal applicability of a principle entails that all who violate it are equally blameworthy for so doing (penultimate paragraph). The most serious criticism to be made of Garrard’s post, though, is that it seriously misrepresents what Amnesty said.

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by John Quiggin on June 3, 2004

Robert Samelson argues that we should stop using the word ‘reform’. I’ve grappled with this question for a long term, having been generally critical of the neoliberal policies generally referred to as “microeconomic reform”. I’ve tried all sorts of devices, such as the use of scare quotes and phrases like “so-called reform”, before concluding that the best thing is just to use the word in ways that make it obvious that I am not attaching positive connotations to it.

Over the fold is an old post on the subject, from my blog (I needed to repost to fix broken links).

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