And now for something completely different
Those of us who fear global warming want to make it more expensive to burn coal. One way to do this is to impose absurdly high wages and restrictive work rules on coal mines. We know how to drive prices up. It is easy. Militant unions have shown the way.
I propose the American Power and Give Coal Miners a Break Act. The idea is to impose a special minimum wage for coal miners (which must be even higher than the wages they get) *and* to require time and a half if they work more than 30 hours a week. This implies a higher price of coal, lower demand for coal , and, oh look 30 hours a week, just as many employed coal miners.
More flaky anti market ideas after the jump.
The idea is to pit the coal miners against the coal consumers. Resistance to cap and trade among Democrats is concentrated in coal mining states. Buying off the coal miners is politically necessary. It is easy to help workers at the expense of consumers. If we want it to be expensive to consume coal, that’s what we want.
And coal price supports, let’s have coal price supports. Why do farmers get all the subsidies ?
And tougher safety regulation, which will drive up the price and make mines safer.
Finally make exempt coal companies from the Sherman antitrust act.
The general idea is that regulators, unions, and cartels have vast experience in finding ways to hurt consumers. There are some consumers (of electricity) who we want to hurt. Let’s do what we do best, interfere with the market system to help special interests at the expense of consumers.
And while we handcuff oursleves to the whipping post, China-India and Russia, continue to do whatever the hell they want totally negating any effort in the United States, which makes any effort against coal not only economically painfull for average Americans but pointless.
Robert, it must be so easy to come up with crazy ideas when you live in Italia. At least put a smiley face on your jokes. 🙂
That’s a stupid idea. Planet earth is doomed; the sun can’t last forever, you know. We might as well burn all the coal we can, while we can.
The General Conference of the International Labour Organisation,
Having been convened at Geneva by the Governing Body of the International Labour Office, and having met in its Fifteenth Session on 28 May 1931, and
Having decided upon the adoption of certain proposals with regard to hours of work in coal mines, which is the second item on the agenda of the Session, and
Having determined that these proposals shall take the form of an international Convention,
adopts this eighteenth day of June of the year one thousand nine hundred and thirty-one the following Convention, which may be cited as the Hours of Work (Coal Mines) Convention, 1931, for ratification by the Members of the International Labour Organisation in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution of the International Labour Organisation:
1. This Convention shall apply to all coal mines, that is to say, to any mine from which only hard coal or lignite, or principally hard coal or lignite together with other minerals, is extracted.
2. For the purpose of this Convention, the term lignite mine shall mean any mine from which coal of a geological period subsequent to the carboniferous period is extracted.
For the purpose of this Convention, the term worker shall mean–
(a) in underground coal mines, any person occupied underground, by whatever employer and on whatever kind of work he may be employed, except persons engaged in supervision or management who do not ordinarily perform manual work;
(b) in open coal mines, any person employed directly or indirectly in the extraction of coal, except persons engaged in supervision or management who do not ordinarily perform manual work.
Hours of work in underground hard coal mines shall mean the time spent in the mine, calculated as follows:
1. Time spent in an underground mine shall mean the period between the time when the worker enters the cage in order to descend and the time when he leaves the cage after re-ascending.
2. In mines where access is by an adit the time spent in the mine shall mean the period between the time when the worker passes through the entrance of the adit and the time of his return to the surface.
3. In no underground hard coal mine shall the time spent in the mine by any worker exceed seven hours and forty-five minutes in the day…
Wouldn’t you just end up switching coal mining from underground to surface (e.g. strip) mining? MIght or might not be a good idea depending on the cost and effectiveness of remediation, but I think that you’d want to think a bit before setting out to do that.
“I propose the American Power and Give Coal Miners a Break Act. The idea is to impose a special minimum wage for coal miners (which must be even higher than the wages they get) *and* to require time and a half if they work more than 30 hours a week. This implies a higher price of coal, lower demand for coal , and, oh look 30 hours a week, just as many employed coal miners.”
Congratulations! You have just increased the incentive for coal mine owners to automate……
Aww Gee Tim, yah always gotta bring up one of doze unanticipated cunseequences!
Remember, Robert’s trying to save the Earth from mankind for … duh, ahhh, uhm all living critters except man. 🙂
So what is so wrong with the coal mine owners automating.
I always though that automating was the way we raised our standard of living.
I have never been able to understand the opposition to higher labor costs. It seems to be a desire to turn the US into Bangladesh are some similar country of subsistence labor and subsistence living standards.
“The general idea is that regulators, unions, and cartels have vast experience in finding ways to hurt consumers.”
A very interesting concept which I assume that you’ve postulated with your tongue jutting firmly into your cheek. Though if you’re proposing that unions and cartels are on some equal plane then I suggest that you have your head planted high up into your ……!
Careful what you make jokes about. i don’t recall any coal operator executives that have died in a mine accident subsequent to the flouting of even the least interfering safety regulations and precautions. Nor are there many such executives that have had any serious problem with lung deterioration after a short “career” in the mines. The lives and health of coal miners in this country, and certainly most others, is not a joking matter.
And those regulators that you fear have contributed to the high price of any product? When was the last time any operating entity in this country was hampered by its regulators? I don’t suppose you’ve taken note of the often cozy relationship between the administrators of regulating agencies and the executive cadres of their regulated entities.
Be carefull what you wish for:
what i have heard is that the chinese are pretty heavy into green technology. you will be buying yours from them one day because the genius of american free enterprise has turned to telling stupid lies to people like you so they can stick with business as usual. how are your buggy whip stocks doing?
I hope you don’t mean this. I like those living critters myself, and learned something in skool about the complex web of life. So even if you don’t give a damn about them, you will find that your life depends on theirs.
If I recall, back in the day John L Lewis supported mine automation despite knowing full well that it would cost his United Mine Workers jobs. Lewis felt that anything that made underground mine work less hazardous was in the best interest of the miners.
maybe tim was joking.
China is the #1 polluter on the planet. And gettign worse every day. Lots of its cities have smog that make LA in the ’70s look downright pleasent. They are building a coal plant a week just to keep up with the electrical demand.
China is so far behind the US on green tech, especially fielding green tech, I doubt they will catch up to our current standards in 50 years. The idea that China will have a ‘green revolution’ that will make them suddenly cleaner than the US is a pipe dream.
Lastly the Chinese have the same energy problem we have. You have Coal, Oil, Nuclear and gas. Pick. (and China has lots and lots of coal)
Islam will change
yeah, i have heard about chinese pollution. i understand that’s why they are working so hard on green technology. don’t count those inscrutable little people out.
Yes that’s correct, and we should beat the wimmens and eat the childrinns!
Buggy Whip Stocks are Up! and so are the “Eat My Shorts” stocks!
Go sell your Utopian Politically Motivated Religion of Mother Earth Circle Jerk over to China so you can indulge in all the Green Tech you want.
We all stocked up on Crazy over here!
Jimi If China India and Russia do whatever they want, it won’t negate US efforts. To make your claim, you have to argue that their emissions will be higher if we reduce emissions than if we don’t. That would negate our efforts. If they do the same thing no matter what we do, they won’t negate our efforts. Your argument suggests either that you don’t know the meaning of the word negate or that you are completely befuddled by addition (or both).
The costs to the USA of my proposals are likely to be small as we have methane which is a good substitute for coal. Much consists of a transfer from others to coal miners.
I wasn’t totally sure I was joking when I typed the post 🙂 In fact I am still wondering.
Absolutely VtCodger. As I was typing I considered putting in the logically required additional tax on strip mines, since they have a lower share of labor. Then I decided to keep it brief and simple. I’m sure you are right that the proposal as written would mostly lead to more strip mining (although you know people work in strip mines too and I think they are now paid less than people who work in deep mines).
OK I have it. A tax on coal proceeds given to coal miners equally. A special minimum wage would be needed too. Also a special restriction on ours to share the jobs and subsidies.
This gives to labor intensive mines at the expense of capital and land intensive mines.
It is very directly buy off the coal miners. It could be done with cap and trade revenues too. Oh I am back where we started capping and trading and buying off special interests.
The reason for my original crazy idea (with the Rube Goldberg un do the pro strip mining effect) is that it is very politically important to take and give through regulations and not taxes and spending. This is usually less efficient, but people in the US are much more sympathetic to regulations which make the prices they pay go up than to taxes.
all living critters including man to be saved from our stupidity.
fine by me so long as coal costs more (it will as otherwise they would have mechanized already). I know coal miners want to mine coal, but mechanized mines mean fewer people in danger. Also we subsidize coal miners (humans not machines) with very old special programs, so penalizing employing coal miners is levelling the playing field (I’d go on to tilt it against employment in coal mining but the dead weight loss is lower if you start tilted the other way).
The give coal miners a break part was to get the votes of coal state senators. The long run indirect effects are, I think, underestimated by coal miners (and the people who make a living selling things to coal miners) and I’m after their votes. I think indirect effects are underestimated by coal miners the UMWA priced its members out of their jobs.
I wish them all the best, but global warming is a real problem, and their votes are in the way of saving the earth, so I am willing to try to trick them.
I have an idea Spencer (whether or not tim was joking). A lot of the arguments which totally puzzle economists can be understood using the phrase “good jobs with good wages.” I actually think the non-economists have a point.
The idea is that high wage industries pay employees more than they could make anywhere else — that the high wages are not due to worker characteristics but a characteristic of the industry* (other than compensating differentials). So losing jobs in high wage industries is a social cost. If the high wage firm is indifferent between replacing the high wage worker with a machine or not, then we want the firm to keep the worker, because he or she is better off there than in any other job.
In practice, mining is the highest wage industry. Economists assumed this was true because it is dirty and dangerous, but the fact is that many people really want mining jobs, they don’t quite, many show up whenever there is a vacancy etc.
So basically we want machines to replace people with rotten jobs not people with good jobs. This also makes it possible to understand support for tariffs. The idea is that we want to keep the jobs in manufacturing as they are high wage jobs.
I’ll just conclude by noting that I think the non-economists have a point. There really are good jobs with good wages. This means the labor market doesn’t clear, but who really ever thought it did.
*The good jobs good wages idea is, in fact, strongly supported by observation of what happens to workers when plants close. If they were in an especially high wage industry (say mining) they eventually get jobs with much much lower wages. If they were in a lower wage industry (say textiles) then they get jobs with not much lower wages (I think actually slightly higher wages if the old job was in textiles). Search Jstoor for Gibbons and Katz (not layoffs and lemons the other one).
Hmm unions help there members partly at the expense of consumers. That doesn’t mean I’m against unions. As to regulators, I was thinking exactly of the cozy relationship between regulators and regulated entities. Captured regulators protect the firms who they are supposed to regulate from the consumers they are supposed to protect.
Cases include the Texas railroad commission whih tried to do what OPEC did, the Civil Avaiation Board which was set up to keep airlines from competing with each other, some absurd regulation on interstate trucking eliminated under Jimmy Carter. The department of agriculture’s price supports system.
Local governments still do this all the time. They give out few liquor licenses which give holders of liquor licenses high profits. They issue few tax medalions which make the owners of the medalions wealthy etc. The fact that regulations are designed to help the sellers at the expense of the consumers is often very clear. It is certainly to firm owners in the industries since they become indignant when anyone proposes deregulating them. I live in Italy where more of this is done than in the USA. I have listened to long boring tirades from Cab drivers about how it is too easy to get a license to drive a cab these days (with no claims that the people who got them can’t drive the explanation is that their income is down because of the outrageous deregulation). So I have heard someone saying that deregulation was terrible because it reduced the price of the service which he was selling me. He didn’t imagine that I might have a different perspective (which I kept to myself).
All of these are regulators which caused higher prices by restraining competition. They did it because they were cosy with the firms they were supposed to regulate. Firms want prices to be high. Regulators have helped them get high prices.
When you make a decision let us know and we will respond accordingly. 🙂
What do you mean it won’t negate our efforts? Your whole premise is that you fear Global Warming, (which I find laughable), well if the largest polluters (China, India, and Russia) do not adjust their behavior, what good does it do us to change ours? We are not in the top three air polluters.
It’s like pissing in a lake and trying to the measure how much the water level rose. Pointless!
And if your going to take the position of eliminating coal for pollution purposes, why would we go to Methane? We have no Methane infrastructure to power plants. We would have to build an entire infrastructure just to get Methane mined and piped to Power Plants, who pays for that? And if were in now in the buisness of building infrastrure, well where in the hell in the new Green Infrastructure all “Bleeding Hearts” been whinning about for thrity years? And if were in the buisness of return on investment vs. pollution where the hell are the Nuke Plants?
And don’t you live in Italy? What the hell difference does it matter to you what Coal Miners in West Virginia get paid? There is Nuke Power all over Europe, and your telling us we need to go to Methane?
negate – make ineffective by counterbalancing the effect of
So in other words, “Robert’s idea’s negate common sense”
Oh Robert, I do wish you had not waved that Red Flag: “I wish them all the best, but global warming is a real problem, and their votes are in the way of saving the earth, so I am willing to try to trick them.”
If you can find a reliable paper that makes a falsifiable argument of said Real Problem, then let’s talk. Beware, correlation is not causation the key is falsifiable so causation must be well defined.
it is always nice to learn that the people who disagree with me are as stupid as i suspected they were.
help workers at the expense of consumers ???
what the hell?
since when to consumers have right to a product at a cost so low that workers can’t make a decent living.
the only way you get wages that low is when your society supports a “work or starve” wage regime..
and no, this is not the same “work or starve” ethic of the old colony where it was used to requrie the nobility to get their hands dirty to save the colony, its the work or starve ethic of the industrial revolution where the people had their land stolen so they couldn’t farm and then might, if they were lucky, get a job at subsistence or less.. etc etc.. you know the story.
Oh, on the climate change thing, I’m all in favour of a carbon tax (I prefer tax to cap and trade simply because it leaves less room for politicians to mess things up). But a straight tax on emissions, levied at the mine head,/oil/gas well (James Hansen’s idea).
As to the rate, well, why not take the Stern Review numbers…$80 per tonne CO2. But add Nordhaus’ point, about the technological cycle. We don’t particularly want to have such a huge economic shock all in one go. Bring it in over a couple of decades. Start at $2 per tonne, then add $2 per tonne each year say.
Reduce other taxes (probably employer contributions to Social Security) in lock step so that the tax is revenue neutral overall.
No, we don’t need carbon tariffs on imports because we’re revenue neutral on the tax. No, there’s no handouts for this constituency or that special interest.
i actually agree with this, except the bit about the payroll tax. I’d be glad to see the employers stop paying the payroll tax as long as they give the money directly to the worker, who then uses it to pay his retirement insurance. But it’s pretty stupid to cut retirements in order to keep us from paying to stop poisoning the planet.
People will pay any price for gas if they have the money. The whole point about big cars is “conspicuous consumption.”
If the gas tax reduces the need for other revenues, the tax to cut would be income taxes… real taxes. not payroll taxes… really an insurance premium called a tax because otherwise people are too dumb to pay for it.
cutting the payroll tax is just another scheme so employers can avoid paying a living wage.
There is a kernel of a great idea here.
The issues I can think of:
– While the miners would love the law, the companies would hate it. And its the companies who wield lobbying power.
– The real effect would be a modest increase in price and a major shift to imported coal.
But I love the direction, I bet there is a path here to a great solution.
“Those of us who fear global warming” should do the planet a favor and commit suicide…
I mean do we really need more stupid people?
Look at the last presidential election…