Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

“Green” as Aesthetic, Ethic, or a Program

In California, Climate Change, Culture, Democratic Governance, Economic Planning, Economics, Environment, Globalization, Industrial Policy, Inequality, Liberalism, Political Ideology, Politics, Politics of Policy, Progressivism, Public Policy, Public Sector, Regulation, Taxes, Trade on March 14, 2012 at 7:37 pm

Introduction:

The internal tension within politics is the fact that politics is carried out in a language of ideological values, and values don’t really lend themselves to empirical analysis, while policy is carried out largely in a language of social science which must be. Difficulty and deception comes where the two languages either overlap or fail to find common ground. Hence the bizarre situation in which values of “fairness” and “progressiveness” were used to both attack and defend the same policies in the U.K.

However, there’s no reason why we can’t interrogate our values as closely we do our policies – to prevent values labels from turning into veils used to mislead and obfuscate. This is especially true for the label “green” where “green”-ness is used as a signifier of goodness and a way to shut down consideration of other values.

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New Urbanism and Industrial Policy – Toeing the Triple Line

In Democratic Governance, Economic Planning, Economics, Environment, Full Employment, History and Politics, Housing, Industrial Policy, Inequality, Liberalism, Living Wage, Mass Transit, Politics, Politics of Policy, Progressivism, Public Policy, Public Sector, Public Works, Regulation, Social Democracy, Urbanism on February 23, 2012 at 5:56 pm

Introduction:

In the past, I’ve written about the way in which new urbanism needs to do a better job attending to issues of class. However, I want to avoid the accusation that new urbanism is classist in the same way that others have made the argument about race. The reality is that the kind of transformations that new urbanism envisions are a lot easier to do with resources, and those are easier to find in a city that’s expanding, and given the history of post-war urban development that tends to be a particular kind of city.

If we want to revive cities, and not just help cities already on the upswing, if we want to bring New Urbanism to the Detroits, Baltimores, and New Havens and not just the Seattles, Portlands, and Denvers, New Urbanists need to bring industrial policy into their worldview.

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A New Deal for California – What Now? (Finance and Green Economy)

In Budget Politics, California, Climate Change, Economic Planning, Economics, Environment, Liberalism, Mass Transit, Political Ideology, Politics, Politics of Policy, Progressivism, Public Policy, Public Sector, Regulation, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Taxes, Welfare State on December 2, 2010 at 9:10 pm

Introduction:

With the belated victory of Kamala Harris as Attorney General, the full results of the 2010 election are in for California. There many things that progressives can be proud of – a sweep of statewide offices, picking up another Assembly seat, defeating prop 23 and passing prop 25. On the other hand, there are also some major disappointments – the defeat of prop 19 (marijuana legalization), the defeat of prop 21 (a VLF to fund the state parks), the defeat of prop 24 (rolling back corporate tax breaks), and the passage of prop 26 (2/3rds requirement for fees). Prop 26 especially complicates what this victory means for California.

Indeed, our situation is a lot like the national picture after the 2008 elections – we have an executive who straddles the line between the left and right wings of the Democratic Party, a big legislative majority, but not the ability to break the fiscal deadlock and really be able to govern our state.

So where do we go from here?

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Green Economy and The Problem of Class

In California, Climate Change, Economic Planning, Economics, Environment, Full Employment, Inequality, Political Ideology, Political Parties, Politics, Politics of Policy, Poverty, Progressivism, Public Policy, Regulation, Social Democracy, Social Policy on July 12, 2010 at 1:27 am

Introduction:

It is in the very nature of a political alliance that there are tensions between the various constitutive elements. If political interests, experience and tradition, ways of thinking were completely identical, one would expect allied groups to have already merged – an alliance grows out of a shared need to cooperate in cases in which different groups have overlapping but distinct agendas.

The same is true of the “Blue/Green” alliance between environmental and labor groups. On the surface, both groups are united around their support for a “green economy,” one in which non-renewable, greenhouse-gas-emitting industries and processes are replaced by renewable, emissions-free alternate forms of energy and production – an economy which labor groups hope involves the creation of many new manufacturing jobs in new “green industries.” However, there are conflicts that emerge when the idea of a green economy runs into the reality of class and political economy in the era of globalization, conflicts that illustrate the different interests and goals of the two movements.

For example, Texas is in the process of constructing a 600-megawatt windfarm in the hills of West Texas, which is enough to power about 450,000 homes. On the face of it, this is a significant improvement of alternate energy production in a major oil state, and something of a coup for the environmental movement. The problem is that the windmills are made in China – and 75% of the world’s windmills are made outside the U.S. American unions are unhappy that alternative energy projects massively subsidized by the U.S government are being used the create green jobs.

However, it is always possible to solve tensions that exist if we think through what it actually means to give life to our common goals.

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Designing the Future – Buses, Streetcars, and Trains

In Budget Politics, Climate Change, Economic Planning, Economics, Environment, Mass Transit, New York, Public Policy, Public Sector, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Urbanism on April 9, 2010 at 9:13 pm

Introduction:

I’m a huge fan of mass transit, and in the past I’ve written about why Federal investments in High-Speed Rail need to go hand-in-hand with investments in local and regional mass transit, why understanding the public aesthetics of mass transit is critical to its success, and why the development of gas-free automobiles still means that we need to invest in mass transit. However, as a public policy scholar, I do have to acknowledge a downside of mass transit: it can be quite expensive to develop, and slow to construct. Even as an eternal partisan of the New York Subway, I have to acknowledge that building subways is an extremely capital-intensive and long-term approach.

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Public Virtues, Round II

In Climate Change, Economic Planning, Economics, Environment, Political Ideology, Politics of Policy, Public Policy, Public Sector, Regulation, Social Democracy, Taxes, Welfare State on December 17, 2009 at 2:20 am

Introduction:

In the first round of the Public Virtues series, I challenged the idea that private corporations are inherently more efficient and productive than the public sector, and the idea that often follows that the private sector should be relied upon for all goods and services and the public sector to remain with the parameters of defense and public safety.  After examining five areas in which the public sector has an advantage over private sector peers – the lack of a profit motive, the longer institutional continuity, the ability to self-fund, the virtues of inherent monopoly, and the government’s rules-making power – our conversation about the proper scope of public economic action can proceed with more

Now in Round II of the Public Virtues series, I will examine six more areas in which public economic can help us think of the public sector as an economic actor in its own right, not merely as a pale copy of the private corporation.

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Local Government Is Ideological – Thinking About Progressive Local Government

In Budget Politics, Economic Planning, Economics, Education Reform, Environment, Full Employment, Housing, Inequality, Liberalism, Living Wage, Mass Transit, Political Ideology, Politics, Politics of Policy, Poverty, Progressivism, Public Policy, Public Sector, Regulation, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Taxes, Unions, Welfare State on December 4, 2009 at 5:19 pm

Introduction:

I’ve always had a problem with the way that we Americans think politically about scale, especially the conventional wisdom that local government is somehow inherently better or more democratic than national government because it’s closer to you. This is a rather problematic belief; local government can be just as dominated by local elites as national politics is by national elites, and the lower profile can actually make local politics less transparent than national politics (thought experiment: how many of you can name your local justices of the peace, or could give an explanation of the platform of the current incumbent?).

But worse of all of our beliefs about scale and politics is the idea that local government is somehow inherently non-partisan, that “there’s no Republican or Democratic way to fill a pothole.”

Because the truth is that, in a democratic government, ideology is everywhere.  There really are progressive and conservative ways to fill in potholes, run public schools, and provide transportation and other social services, and unless we approach local politics with that in mind, it’s very easy to allow conservative methods to become dominant.

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Democratic Planning – Climate Change

In Climate Change, Economic Planning, Economics, Environment, History and Politics, Politics of Policy, Public Policy, Regulation on November 25, 2009 at 3:37 am

Introduction:

(For previous parts in the series, see here)

I’ve written before about the climate change bill that passed the House in June from an environmental standpoint, but it’s also true that the climate change bill is both an expression of our faith in economic planning and an incredible test of our ability as a democratic society to determine our economic future.

So as we follow the progress of the climate change bill through the five remaining Senate committees, we must pay attention not only to how the different elements of the legislation function as environmental regulation, but also how they work as economic planning – and be ready to apply these lessons to the future.

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Gas-Free Cars and High Speed Rail

In Climate Change, Economics, Environment, Housing, Mass Transit, Politics of Policy, Public Policy, Regulation, Social Democracy on September 16, 2009 at 11:04 pm

Introduction:

With the introduction of the Chevy Volt (estimated fuel efficiency – 230 mpg) and the Nissan Leaf (estimated fuel efficiency – 367 mpg), we can begin to see the emergence of a new automotive industry. Eventually, when the Volt and the Leaf and their competitors’ models replace existing Accords, Camrys, and Civics, we will wind up with new vehicle fleets that are 100% gas-free. And with the passage of time, eventually every car on the road will be electric.

However, on its own, this isn’t going to solve America’s problems with oil and CO2 emissions.

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Making the Public (Transit) Beautiful

In Climate Change, Culture, Economic Planning, Environment, European Politics, Inequality, Mass Transit, Political Ideology, Public Sector, Social Democracy, Social Policy, Welfare State on September 13, 2009 at 11:15 pm

Introduction:

One of the rhetorical strategies of the economic right’s cultural politics is to associate the free market with individual pleasure, aesthetic beauty, and technological progress, while associating the public sector with the oppression of the crowd, the spartan ugliness of “civil service issue,” and general associations with low-quality, outmoded, cheap machinery. Nowhere is this better seen than in the rhetorical debate over public services.

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