David Francis asks, “Would a touch of protectionism do the United States some good?”. He answers in the affirmative. He points approvingly to President Obama’s new tariffs on Chinese tire imports beginning at 35 percent. Of course, that action is a transparent payoff to a political constituency: organized labor.
Never mind that it raises the price of tires to American consumers by 35 percent and shields an inefficient domestic tire industry from healthy foreign competition. It’s a tax, paid for by American importers, which kills the incentive to purchase Chinese tires. It also kills jobs in China held by young people who have left communes in rural China and traveled hundreds of miles in search of work to help their families. Many fathers at home on the farm in China, I imagine, will worry about their sons and daughters finding jobs in the city as tire factories lay off workers.
Mr. Francis goes on to flip another “solution.” He cites a recent suggestion: “The US should start buying Chinese yuan on the foreign exchange markets.... That would push up the price of Chinese goods.” Indeed, it would. This would leave the Fed with balances in Chinese banks and leave us with billions of newly printed dollars surging through our domestic markets, causing inflation. The American consumer would take it on the chin again.
Mental climate change first
Regarding the article “Green building grows and grows": I am sure that the green building standards of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) are an estimable checklist of sensible measures such as reducing air infiltration, beefing up insulation, and installing energy-efficient water heaters.
Unfortunately, I suspect that they fail to sufficiently emphasize some of the most effective measures for creating sustainable housing. Composting privies, cob walls, direct solar water-heating, graywater reuse, and passive solar designs all offer substantial efficiencies.
The American lifestyle is far from truly sustainable. Reaching it will require substantial change on many levels, both the short- to medium-term that the NAHB and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards address, and the long-term changes noted above.
Fundamental change can only succeed at the grass roots. Many people are now persuaded that humans are causing the lion’s share of climate change. Yet many of these people still hire someone to use a gasoline-powered mower and leaf blower to maintain their front yard. They will discard Halloween pumpkins as yard waste. Before we can change the climate, we have to change our minds.
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