Climate Change Activists Should Decry Debt Too

Matt Yglesias had a post a couple weeks go about climate change, noting that for those who are going to be alive in 2050, the issue takes on great importance. And it is true that Generation Y has more as stake than their parent’s generation. What strikes me as odd is how this logic is not extended to debt or spending.

In the short term there might be some gains from stimulus spending, someone might have a job for 18 months, we’re seeing an uptick in economic indicators and many think we’ll see some recovery by the end of the year. And similarly, in the short term, waste is easier, letting pollution go unhindered less complicated, and just living as we have without transferring to more expensive green technology is cheaper and much simpler.

But in the long term the environment will be hurt by waste and pollution. Whether or not global warming is real, green house gas emissions should be reduced, and there are things we can do better as a society to preserve the world around us. The answer is not government control and mandates, but we do need to consider the long-term ramifications of our actions on climate change.

Similarly, we need to have a long-term view of spending. We need to consider the negative ramifications of debt. We can’t think deficits won’t be a problem. The policies of the White House and Treasury Department designed to avoid short-term economic adjustment pain might seem good now, but what this will mean to our prosperity in 2020 or 2040 or 2050 is the big question.

I wrote on this topic for Reason Online last fall. See my column here.