A recent editorial in New Scientist magazine argues that “evidence-based policy is good medicine for society’s ills (and) political decisions should be based on demonstrable evidence”. The cryptosporidium poisoning of 4700 Havelock North residents provides a topical example of how neoliberal free market economics (hereafter “orthodox economics”) can trump peer-reviewed evidence-based science (hereafter “real science”).
No need for an inquiry, or science. Mike Joy has the answer to what happened in Havelock North. In the same paragraph as he refers to evidence-based policy, he concludes that neoliberal free market economics is to blame!
He is of course right. In countries that turned their back on markets such as the USSR and Venezuela, they have wonderful environmental outcomes.
Orthodox economics has the attributes of a religion rather than real science.
In Mike Joy’s world “real science” is blaming everything on neoliberalism. His views are in fact what approaches religious fervour.
Faith in a mythical “trickle down” mechanism that somehow benefits the poor is contradicted by rampant global concentration of wealth.
Except almost no one who believes in markets espouses a trickle down mechanism. It is a false construct the left used to argue against.
Currently, 85 individuals own one-half of the world’s wealth.
And now Dr Joy gets the most basic facts wrong.
85 individuals do not own 50% of the world’s wealth. They own perhaps 0.7%. So he is only out by a factor of 80. That is what you call evidence-based science.
What Dr Joy is referring to is an Oxfam 2013 report which concluded that the 85 richest people in the world have the same wealth as the poorest 50%. This is not the same as 50% of the world’s wealth. The BBC fact check is here.
Incidentally the BBC also points out:
But if you took all the money of the 85 richest people and gave it to the poor in a one-off payment, she says, it would only increase each person’s wealth by about $500 (£300).
Incidentally one of those 85 richest is Bill Gates, who has donated 99% of his wealth to his charity to held the world’s poorest.
The divide between the rich and the poor, despite “trickle down”, is growing faster in New Zealand than in any other developed country.
Actually income inequality in New Zealand has not changed significantly in the last 15 years – on pretty much every measure.
“Sustainable economic growth”, a principal objective of orthodox economics, is an oxymoron according to a real science conjecture that growth within any closed system – including population and economic growth within Earth’s closed biosphere – is ultimately unsustainable. The Limits to Growth report published in 1972 by the Club of Rome tested this conjecture through computer simulations of a future Earth under various assumptions. Its “business-as-usual” simulation predicts catastrophic “overshoot and collapse” of the global economy, natural environment, and human population from about 2020 onwards. Disconcertingly this projection has accurately tracked 40 years of subsequent statistical data. Accordingly it must be heeded as real science.
Eric Crampton has summarised some of their predictions:
- “Desperate land shortages before the year 2000 if per capital land requirements and population growth rates remain as they are today” [referring to shortages of agricultural land]
- Running out of non-renewable resources, with scary graphs about Chromium. You know about the big Chromium shortage right? Noticed how the cars don’t have chrome bumpers anymore? Totally evidence.
- While rising GDP per capita would reduce family size in developing countries, the proportion of families wanting four or more kids is totally increasing in income in richer places. You’ve seen a lot of families around with four or more kids in rich places, and especially among richer people, right?
- Population greater than 1970 levels is unsustainable.
Crampton does a pretty epic fisking of Joy’s nonsense, saying:
I respect Mike Joy’s work looking at river quality. But man he makes a hash of things when he strays from what he knows about. His oped in today’s Dom Post … it’s hard to know even where to start. It is an embarrassment to the institution that employs him. …
Do university academics’ duties as critic and conscience of society require them to talk nonsense about stuff well outside of their fields of expertise?
The ironic thing is that Joy preaches about evidence based research but ignores it totally in a polemic which has no rigor at all behind it.