Someone who thinks about climate change and markets the way I do (2 of 3).

Here is an April 8th post, titled How Growers Are Gaming the California Drought.

I actually found the analysis of growers gaming the drought the least interesting part of Publius’ work on water.  We’ve gone over it a couple times, recently and back when it was that Levine dude at AlterNet pointing out how the Resnicks captured California water policy.  But I loved the analysis that starts with the header Will the “Free” Market or Government Control Water Allocation.  I’ll bring over some of the good parts:

This is a tricky question, since government always has control.  The question really is, will government surrender control to the billionaires and other capitalists — the “free” market — or take control in the name of the people … actual people?

You’ll hunt in vain for a Forbes mention of the social good, or the most good for the most people. Yet “properly priced water” is seen as the solution, including in an indirect way ..

The Forbes writer asks, in effect, “How else do we allocate water?” Answer: In the old fashioned way — by government telling people what to do. Yes, this is “picking winners and losers,” but government will pick losers anyway if it picks the “free” (billionaire-controlled) market and hands the answer to those who will pick themselves as the only winners. There’s a “free” market for labor. Do you feel free? When there’s a “free” (properly priced) market for water, will you feel fairly treated, relative to, say, Stewart Resnick, the billionaire grower from the quote at the top?

It is possible the first question may be at issue in the next couple years.  If we do design a water market, what controls can be put on it to prevent large-scale monopolization.  Intra-basin transfers only?  Make people pay to participate in the market and reallocate those funds to the poorest participants?  Re-design the market from scratch every fifty years, so at least problems won’t go uncorrected for longer than that?

That next paragraph reminds me of my frequent plea for a priority besides the implicit “economic efficiency”.  Gaius Publius offers a rough “most good for the most people.”  I think more along the lines of “nice to live in, day-to-day.”  That is what I want us to choose and pay for, partially with water and partially with money.

The final paragraph is a reminder that choosing a water market (unless very carefully designed) is choosing that currently wealthy people will be the winners.  Some advocates who haven’t thought through what a “water market” would result in think that they can avoid the choice of winners and losers.  If we want a particular group to be the winners of water rights reform, we’d do better to use law to give them water.

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