Your humble correspondent and people with a similar historical experience know very well how bad, loss-making, and unusually expensive the out-of-control railway transportation may become. Even when it comes to the fuel consumption and environmental impacts, too many trains may always be worse than cars when they're too numerous and too empty. The previous sentence is self-evidently true but folks like Krugman either don't realize such things or they want everyone else not to realize or both.
Krugman also asks the following question in his extraordinarily arrogant and intimidating accent:
But can anyone deny that more drivers means more traffic congestion?Well, it depends what one keeps fixed. More drivers on more roads may lead to less congestion, for example. Moreover, there are scientific papers that present evidence that an appropriate density of artificially added car accidents may reduce congestion (a whole class was dedicated to this question in a seminar by Joel Lebowitz at Rutgers that I have attended). There may exist unexpected laws and patterns in these complex matters.
But the most important sentence in Krugman's text is one about the climate.
And the thing is that these are externalities that everyone can see. You can deny global warming (and may you be punished in the afterlife for doing so — this kind of denial for petty personal or political reasons is an almost inconceivable sin).Many of us have often compared the climate change orthodoxy to traditional religions. But alarmists have rarely been this explicit when it came to proclamations indicating that this comparison is pretty accurate if not very accurate.
First, the whole notion of "externalities" is a major tool for demagogy. Externalities are effects of transactions on parties that are officially not involved in the transaction. Well, in principle, they may exist.
However, they're vastly less important than "internalities" – even though the latter word isn't even used in this sense – i.e. the effects of the transaction on the involved parties (which usually explain why they get involved in the first place). When someone emphasizes "externalities", he's usually doing so in order to completely hide or overlook the "internalities", the things that matter most. The "externalities" typically lead to the opposite recommendations or preferred policies than "internalities" which is why demagogues often focus on these "externalities" even though their importance is negligible relatively to the "internalities" that they overlook.
But let me return to the climate and the afterlife.
I am not sure whether Krugman is really thinking in this way or whether it is just a metaphor of a sort. Well, I don't believe in the afterlife.
More importantly, it's preposterous to suggest that it is a sin to be a climate skeptic – to realize that the climate change panic is an irrational and immoral social construct that is driven by ideology and petty personal interests of those who promote this garbage.
You may think that the attitudes are symmetrical: alarmists say that skeptics are sinners and vice versa. But there's a difference here that breaks the symmetry: the skeptics' interpretation is valid while the alarmists' interpretation is not. And I am not talking just about the science that clearly shows that all ideas about a climate threat are incredibly unlikely and strongly disfavored by the experimental data and sensible theories that agree with these data; and about the huge amounts of money that pretty much only the alarmists are getting for their dirty tricks and dishonest papers.
Even if there were a threat, it would be indefensible to say that those who think that the threat doesn't exist are sinners. By believing something about the future and about the scientific predictions, you're just not killing anyone, you're not violating any other commandment, you're not contradicting any other meaningful moral rule. Even if you had personal or political reasons for that – and this is just a nasty, unjustifiable accusations by Krugman, of course – it would not be a sin.
At most, in a fictitious world where the carbon dioxide is dangerous, you could be a sinner if you were actually emitting this gas. That's why Al Gore would be a sinner in that world just like he is a sinner in ours. But by believing something, you're just not harming anyone. You're not a sinner. You have an unquestionable right to believe whatever theory about the future that you like. An attempt to steal this basic right from you is what may be included among inconceivable sins.
The very fact that Paul Krugman disagrees with these basic moral principles – pillars of any modern, enlightened, democratic, free, civilized society – means that he is on par with the religious fundamentalists who are murdering others for "blasphemies", for their opinions, for their beliefs, for their knowledge. This sort of totalitarian behavior and obscurantism just doesn't belong to the Western world of the 21st century. Paul Krugman doesn't belong to the Western world of the 21st century. He's a posthumous child of the unconstrained and evil medieval religious systems and of the 20th century totalitarian systems. Americans should be ashamed of sharing the citizenship with this megalomaniac jerk.
And that's the memo.