Note — May 15, 2022

The Whole Field

At Phenomenal World, a great piece by Max Krahé (originally published in Grand Continent) on markets, planning, and coordinating the green transformation. As the American Green New Deal is pretty much stalled out, Krahé starts with a lot of questions on what needs to be done, how and when, to bring about a response to the climate crisis. He then considers three categories of responses to his questions: “independent local decision-making, market-based coordination, and planning,” which he follows up with a study of their respective strengths and weaknesses. He quickly jumps over local solutions, which is disappointing, then gives an excellent overview of the limitations of market-based coordination, which is very useful in understanding some of the mechanisms preventing markets from providing the needed transition, and how plutocrats and “a united bourgeois front” are preventing ‘easy’ intervention from the political side.

He then dives into how planning (not control) might work, using France’s post-WW2 recovery plan as an example. It’s an interesting parallel because, where much of Europe needed rebuilding, today we also need to rebuild much of how our economies operate (obviously everything else is very different). The Monnet plan concentrated on five sectors, and one today might also start from a similar list, “the five sectors driving climate change, land use, and biodiversity loss today: energy, transport, industry, housing, and agriculture.” The details Krahé provides on how that plan worked are worth a read, the central bureau and commissions being of particular interest.

Some hope in the end; “2022 is not 1989. The green transformation is a generational task, not a revolution unfolding in a matter of months. But apparently stable political structures can shift rapidly when pushed across a tipping point.”

The answer is simple enough: reduce net greenhouse gas emissions to zero, re-wild significant parts of the earth, phase down the consumption of animal proteins, and convert material use to a circular economy. […]

Since dollars and francs were not freely exchangeable at the time, they had to be budgeted for separately, acting as a double budget constraint. Today, we again face a double budget constraint: economic and ecological. […]

We can imagine a similar planning process for today: a small core planning unit could be set up as the central hub, whose primary task would be to assemble transition commissions for each of the five sectors, as well as for interrelated issues like financing, labor, and regional balance. […]

Though climate change will be a permanent feature of our politics going forward, the tensions and divisions created by this triple inequality—wealth, carbon, power—may get worse, not better, on current trends.