I expect better from Scientific American, honestly. But this piece rang warning bells early, and those started clanging ferociously by the section on water. I can’t even deal with his Reisner-era characterization of California’s water situation (“It is well known that 80 percent of the state’s water goes to agriculture and that 40 percent of the state’s water goes to growing four crops: cotton, rice, alfalfa, and pasturage (irrigated grazing land).”), and far, far too facile resolution (“MARKETS!”), although maybe I’ll come back to that this weekend.
You know how I knew that the author’s thinking was shallow and facile in all respects, and not just because he’s applying one ideological lens to a problem that is vastly more complex than he understands, because he
thinks he knows things about the real world because he studied economics is probably a layperson in Water? I knew that on the first fucking page. I knew that he isn’t a close observer of his actual surroundings, and that his stereotypes filter his perceptions when he wrote this bullshit:
This city self-selects people who want to live well. With the exception of me, we are well-tanned, physically fit, attractive people. There is an abundance of plastic surgeons; service providers offering you whiter teeth; swimming pools; and life coaches to pluck, wax, and generally improve every part of your body and mind.
One more time. Los Angeles is a huge, incredibly heterogeneous place, that is majority-minority and has neighborhoods of tens of thousands of people who are immigrants and first-gen. They look, a whole lot of them, like third-world people If what you see when you walk around LA is tanned, teeth-whitened people, your confirmation bias of your own stereotypes is so strong that you are simply not-seeing half the people who pass you on a daily basis. I was suspicious by that paragraph, and was saddened to find out I was right when I got to the section on water.
How does bullshit like that get published? Are there really so many economists who like to masturbate to familiar, self-soothing market theory that they can support entire book runs?