Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Sustainability Coexists With Wealth and Market Options

Why aren't economic options more widely discussed which could address ecological concerns and generate new wealth at the same time? For instance, dialogue re carbon taxation as a response to climate change, is problematic in that it would be yet another form of internal wealth redistribution. Is this as inventive a market approach as we can get? Still, there's no need to be as pessimistic as Ivan Ascher, who in a recent Project Syndicate article concludes:
Ecological devastation should be expensive, and the world no doubt needs workable strategies to move people away from dirty sources of energy toward greener, more sustainable alternatives. But to defer to markets to overcome the environmental woes of capitalism is a blueprint for disappointment - and a recipe for planetary suicide.
If - as Ascher believes - there's no market solution for climate change, what is realistically better? Why not build broad based market options that don't impose single solution sets on everyone? Indeed: How would we negotiate with one another to organize mutual priorities and obligations, if we didn't have market platforms by which to do so? Why do we act as though earth always has to be compromised by the process? Chances are, it's possible to create wealth which takes climate change into account, and do so without further redistribution of general equilibrium revenue.

Local community infrastructure design could provide market options, especially for those who value environment settings which aren't presently associated with today's ownership structures. One could imagine - for instance - a mutually tended wildflower meadow community which includes an interesting variety of knowledge based challenges as well. For anyone who switched up home ownership patterns over the course of their lives just to see what different arrangements felt like, these market options would make sense.

Just like the challenges of intellectual endeavour, environmental design is a form of experiential product which could integrate time value commitments (arbitrage) as a "cost of local living" component. This approach would provide a wide spectrum of market based options for multiple income levels and lifestyle choices. A few years ago one often heard "there's an app for that". Wouldn't it be nice to hear, "there's a community market setting for that."

Fossil fuel is likely to remain a highly valued transportation option in the near future, especially since it would allow individuals to pursue solitary adventures at long distances which lie well beyond the commuting patterns now envisioned by purveyors of automated transportation. Hence most walkable community options would seek traditional transportation at the periphery, even as they include central core designs that allow groups to coordinate weekday work activity within walkable distances. To imagine how a 21st century society may want to envision transportation priorities (other than electric and/or automated), note four basic sets of transportation preferences:

1) Weekday walking for daily and ongoing activities with others.
2) Weekend (or vacation) walking possibilities for experiential activity.
3) "Traditional" fossil fuel means for daily commuting needs.
4) Fossil fuel means for the transportation of weekends and other exploration.

Much of today's dialogue remains centered around the third transportation option. A recent post from Scott Sumner is a good example, especially since he stresses the importance of expanding equilibrium potential wherever possible.

Since the first two categories are only partially addressed in the present, the equilibrium corporation would give them priority in potential infrastructure design. While the first set of activities is designed at the core (with special emphasis to include children, elderly and disabled), the second and fourth considerations would be placed in a broader set of networked design perspectives. One example could be networks of natural corridors that could extend between community locations at long distances. Corridors such as these would make it possible to walk (or bicycle, for instance) from one community to the next, either on weekend trips or possibly longer stretches of time.

One way to think about these possibilities is the fact that setting aside land for private aspects of shared preservation, recreates travel and local communities as desirable forms of experiential product. While "solid" buildings have been at the center of infrastructure focus for as long as anyone can remember, a 21st century network would highlight flexible building components as supportive of individual and group activity. Already we have begun this virtual process with digital means. By creating ways that people can pay for experiential product with time commitments, it becomes possible to bring variations on public good ideas into a private marketplace - one which makes it feasible to sustain miniature versions of enjoyable and desirable environments, through shared and incremental ownership.

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