Tim Worstall has written a book, and not only that, he sent me a copy to review. So I have. And this is it.
It is a Slim Tome, as I believe delicate lady poets are wont to publish; yours for £6.74 off Amazon. Being slim is good; far too many books now are bloated and turgid.
First the Good News (if you’re Tim, or are thinking of buying it): the book is worth reading and will stimulate your thinking about the interface between economics and climate change; or possibly greenery in general.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for an excuse not to read it, you’ll find one. You could get hung up on the title, which is an irritating one. It should really be called “On some aspects of environmental economics”, but that would be dull. Or FrECOnomics (geddit?) but that really would be annoying. It is part of Stacey International’s “Independent Minds” series, and so suffers from being in the company of The Hockey Stick Illusion, or even drivel like Carter’s Climate: the Counter Consensus. It is being pushed by the Adam Smith Institute, of which Tim is a fellow. And the language is rather (in-)jokey and bloggish, which can get wearing after a bit. And somewhat like blog postings, Tim frequently takes longish diversions in the middle of an argument and it isn’t always clear when he comes back into line (there is a long and somewhat pointless digression on John Prescott on p89-90). So while I think all of that will sit well enough with his Choir, if he really was trying to reach out to what he says is his intended audience – the Uncommitted – then he hasn’t tried as hard as he could have. [Update: other reviewers note similar. Tim: get some of us to read the next edition before you publish it].
However, most of the substance of the book is good; and having read the chapter on Carbon Tax I’m going to blog it again as soon as I have a free moment (remember: carbon tax good. Cap-n-trade bad – which I now (thanks to Tim) realise has a couple of errors I should correct). An example of a good bit: the initial discussion, on why Jobs are a Cost not a Benefit. You should really go and read Tim discussing that, not me.
To go with the good stuff I should find an example of the kind of errors that Tim makes, and I think his misunderstandings about Authority on growth are probably the best exemplar. Tim is trying (chapter 3, page 46) to convince us that Globalisation Is Good and so (whilst fully aware that argument from authority is wrong) he quotes the IPCC on one of its scenarios. But the problem is the accompanying text: in this whole discussion about climate change we do have an authority…, the IPCC. We are advised to take them as the scientific consensus. And in slightly less emotive language, that is true. But the IPCC have earnt their authority on scientific topics, not economic ones. Whilst I’ve no reason to suppose that their economics is wrong, they are by no means an authority for it. Or p111: if you don’t believe me, perhaps you’ll believe someone from the IPCC instead. Richard Tol… Again, confusing different areas.
I shall pass on my copy to my sister in law (ah, but which one? I’ll have to decide later), with instructions to return it when she is finished. Her reactions will be interesting.
* Chasing Rainbows: A review – worth a look, since it makes the obvious point that I didn’t re jobs.
* Jaw-Droppingly Rude – a better review than I first thought, and more detailed than mine. I like: I see this book as a frustrating missed opportunity. Part of the reason Worstall is hated by so much of the left is precisely because he is sharp… he spots other people’s fallacies, and he points them out in devastating ways… What I was hoping for from this book, however, was the next level: Worstall taking himself seriously as a thinker and constructing something that goes beyond the “yah boo sucks you’re all stoopid” formula of his website