Tough austerity measures in Greece leave nearly a million people with no access to healthcare, leading to soaring infant mortality, HIV infection and suicide
“Austerity measures imposed by the Greek government since the economic crisis have inflicted “shocking” harm on the health of the population, leaving nearly a million people without access to healthcare, experts have said.
In a damning report on the impact of spending cuts on the Greek health system, academics found evidence of rising infant mortality rates, soaring levels of HIV infection among drug users, the return of malaria, and a spike in the suicide count.
Greece’s public hospital budget was cut by 25 per cent between 2009 and 2011 and public spending on pharmaceuticals has more than halved, leading to some medicine  becoming unobtainable, experts from Oxford, Cambridge and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) said.
Rising unemployment in a country where health insurance is linked to work status has led to an estimated 800,000 people lacking either state welfare or access to health services and in some areas international humanitarian organisations such as Médecins du Monde have stepped in to provide healthcare and medicines to vulnerable people.
The report, which is published today in the medical journal The Lancet, accuses the Greek government and the international community – which demanded swingeing cuts as a condition of bailing out the Greek economy during the debt crisis between 2010 and 2012 – of being “in denial” about the scale of hardship inflicted on the Greek people...”
(Read whole article)

Tough austerity measures in Greece leave nearly a million people with no access to healthcare, leading to soaring infant mortality, HIV infection and suicide

Austerity measures imposed by the Greek government since the economic crisis have inflicted “shocking” harm on the health of the population, leaving nearly a million people without access to healthcare, experts have said.

In a damning report on the impact of spending cuts on the Greek health system, academics found evidence of rising infant mortality rates, soaring levels of HIV infection among drug users, the return of malaria, and a spike in the suicide count.

Greece’s public hospital budget was cut by 25 per cent between 2009 and 2011 and public spending on pharmaceuticals has more than halved, leading to some medicine  becoming unobtainable, experts from Oxford, Cambridge and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) said.

Rising unemployment in a country where health insurance is linked to work status has led to an estimated 800,000 people lacking either state welfare or access to health services and in some areas international humanitarian organisations such as Médecins du Monde have stepped in to provide healthcare and medicines to vulnerable people.

The report, which is published today in the medical journal The Lancet, accuses the Greek government and the international community – which demanded swingeing cuts as a condition of bailing out the Greek economy during the debt crisis between 2010 and 2012 – of being “in denial” about the scale of hardship inflicted on the Greek people...”

(Read whole article)

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Footage of protests in the Ukraine right now. 

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The Abortion War

It has become one of the most vicious, important and divisive battlegrounds in the 2012 US presidential election.

Since it was legalised in 1973, the issue of abortion has polarised the US, but now the battle has been taken to a new level.

Last year, an unprecedented number of laws have been passed across the US, all aimed at restricting abortion or reproductive rights.

But the fight goes far beyond the medical procedure, with Republican politicians even attacking the Obama administration for making contraception more readily available.

The US has seen more anti-abortion violence than any other country in the world. Since 1993, at least eight abortion providers, including four doctors have been killed. And there have been over 200 arsons and bombings against reproductive healthcare clinics since 1977.

Why is a medical procedure being reframed as a deeply divisive moral issue in the US?

Fault Lines travels to California to meet the next generation of frontline troops fighting to ban abortion, and to Ohio and Tennessee to investigate what lies behind the so-called war on women.

"It [Ohio’s heartbeat bill] really only sees a woman as a carrier and she has no other right beyond her ability to reproduce. One of the reasons that these abortion bills are so dangerous is because it chips away at the notion of personal liberty, your right. And what can be more fundamental to your personal liberty than being able to control your own body ….

Women died trying to get back-alley abortions. Do we want to get back to that in the land of opportunities, the land of freedom? When did it become a sin and a shame to be a woman in this country? But that is what is happening in the 21st century in many states across this country and also in our congress and it’s just absolutely shameful to me.”

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Supreme Court strikes down Canada’s anti-prostitution laws
“The Supreme Court of Canada has struck down the country’s anti-prostitution laws in a unanimous decision, and given Parliament one year to come up with new legislation — should it choose to do so. 
In striking down laws prohibiting brothels, living on the avails of prostitution and communicating in public with clients, the top court ruled Friday that the laws were over-broad and “grossly disproportionate.”
"Parliament has the power to regulate against nuisances, but not at the cost of the health, safety and lives of prostitutes," wrote Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin in the 9-0 decision that noted "it is not a crime in Canada to sell sex for money."
The ruling was in response to a court challenge by women with experience in the sex trade, Terri-Jean Bedford, Amy Lebovitch and Valerie Scott that had resulted in an Ontario court ruling that overturned the laws.
The Ontario Court of Appeal later upheld the law against communicating in public, but sided with the lower court in overturning the provisions against living off the avails and keeping a common bawdy house or brothel.
"These appeals and the cross-appeal are not about whether prostitution should be legal or not. They are about whether the laws Parliament has enacted on how prostitution may be carried out pass constitutional muster. I conclude that they do not," McLachlin wrote.
"I would therefore make a suspended declaration of invalidity, returning the question of how to deal with prostitution to Parliament."
That means the provisions stay in the Criminal Code for the next year while the government decides what to do.
In a statement, Justice Minister Peter MacKay said the government would take the time to decide how to address “this very complex matter.”
"We are reviewing the decision and are exploring all possible options to ensure the criminal law continues to address the significant harms that flow from prostitution to communities, those engaged in prostitution and vulnerable persons," his statement said.
MacKay also said there are “a number of other Criminal Code provisions” in place to protect sex-trade workers “and to address the negative effects prostitution has on communities.”
The women in the case had argued that the law prevented them from safely conducting their business as sex-trade workers, arguing that hiring bodyguards and drivers, and being able to work in private homes or talk with potential clients in public were important to their safety.
"Now the government must tell Canadians, all consenting adults, what we can and cannot do in the privacy of our home for money or not. And they must write laws that are fair," Bedford told reporters gathered in the foyer of the Supreme Court building in Ottawa on Friday.
One of her co-respondents in the appeal said a new law won’t work.
"The thing here is politicians, though they may know us as clients, they do not understand how sex work works," said Scott. "They won’t be able to write a half-decent law. It will fail. That’s why you must bring sex workers to the table in a meaningful way."”
(Read Full Article)

Supreme Court strikes down Canada’s anti-prostitution laws

The Supreme Court of Canada has struck down the country’s anti-prostitution laws in a unanimous decision, and given Parliament one year to come up with new legislation — should it choose to do so. 

In striking down laws prohibiting brothels, living on the avails of prostitution and communicating in public with clients, the top court ruled Friday that the laws were over-broad and “grossly disproportionate.”

"Parliament has the power to regulate against nuisances, but not at the cost of the health, safety and lives of prostitutes," wrote Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin in the 9-0 decision that noted "it is not a crime in Canada to sell sex for money."

The ruling was in response to a court challenge by women with experience in the sex trade, Terri-Jean Bedford, Amy Lebovitch and Valerie Scott that had resulted in an Ontario court ruling that overturned the laws.

The Ontario Court of Appeal later upheld the law against communicating in public, but sided with the lower court in overturning the provisions against living off the avails and keeping a common bawdy house or brothel.

"These appeals and the cross-appeal are not about whether prostitution should be legal or not. They are about whether the laws Parliament has enacted on how prostitution may be carried out pass constitutional muster. I conclude that they do not," McLachlin wrote.

"I would therefore make a suspended declaration of invalidity, returning the question of how to deal with prostitution to Parliament."

That means the provisions stay in the Criminal Code for the next year while the government decides what to do.

In a statement, Justice Minister Peter MacKay said the government would take the time to decide how to address “this very complex matter.”

"We are reviewing the decision and are exploring all possible options to ensure the criminal law continues to address the significant harms that flow from prostitution to communities, those engaged in prostitution and vulnerable persons," his statement said.

MacKay also said there are “a number of other Criminal Code provisions” in place to protect sex-trade workers “and to address the negative effects prostitution has on communities.”

The women in the case had argued that the law prevented them from safely conducting their business as sex-trade workers, arguing that hiring bodyguards and drivers, and being able to work in private homes or talk with potential clients in public were important to their safety.

"Now the government must tell Canadians, all consenting adults, what we can and cannot do in the privacy of our home for money or not. And they must write laws that are fair," Bedford told reporters gathered in the foyer of the Supreme Court building in Ottawa on Friday.

One of her co-respondents in the appeal said a new law won’t work.

"The thing here is politicians, though they may know us as clients, they do not understand how sex work works," said Scott. "They won’t be able to write a half-decent law. It will fail. That’s why you must bring sex workers to the table in a meaningful way."

(Read Full Article)

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The Snail Explorer by Vyacheslav Mishchenko

The Snail Explorer by Vyacheslav Mishchenko

This was posted 4 months ago. It has 3 notes. .
New Snowden docs show U.S. spied during G20 in Toronto
“Top secret documents retrieved by U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden show that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government allowed the largest American spy agency to conduct widespread surveillance in Canada during the 2010 G8 and G20 summits.
The documents are being reported exclusively by CBC News.
The briefing notes, stamped “Top Secret,” show the U.S. turned its Ottawa embassy into a security command post during a six-day spying operation by the National Security Agency while U.S. President Barack Obama and 25 other foreign heads of government were on Canadian soil in June of 2010.
The covert U.S. operation was no secret to Canadian authorities.
An NSA briefing note describes the American agency’s operational plans at the Toronto summit meeting and notes they were “closely co-ordinated with the Canadian partner.”

The NSA and its Canadian “partner,” the Communications Security Establishment Canada, gather foreign intelligence for their respective governments by covertly intercepting phone calls and hacking into computer systems around the world.

The secret documents do not reveal the precise targets of so much espionage by the NSA — and possibly its Canadian partner — during the Toronto summit.

But both the U.S. and Canadian intelligence agencies have been implicated with their British counterpart in hacking the phone calls and emails of foreign politicians and diplomatsattending the G20 summit in London in 2009 — a scant few months before the Toronto gathering of the same world leaders.
Notably, the secret NSA briefing document describes part of the U.S. eavesdropping agency’s mandate at the Toronto summit as “providing support to policymakers.”

Documents previously released by Snowden, a former NSA contractor who has sought and received asylum in Russia, suggested that support at other international gatherings included spying on the foreign delegations to get an unfair advantage in any negotiations or policy debates at the summit.

It was those documents that first exposed the spying on world leaders at the London summit.

More recently, Snowden’s trove of classified information revealed Canada’s eavesdropping agency had hacked into phones and computers in the Brazilian government’s department of mines, a story that touched off a political firestorm both in that country and in Ottawa.

The documents have rocked political capitals around the world. NSA spies on everyone from leaders of U.S. allies to millions of Americans. Personal information has been scooped up by the agency’s penetration of major internet and phone companies….”
(Read more)

New Snowden docs show U.S. spied during G20 in Toronto

Top secret documents retrieved by U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden show that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government allowed the largest American spy agency to conduct widespread surveillance in Canada during the 2010 G8 and G20 summits.

The documents are being reported exclusively by CBC News.

The briefing notes, stamped “Top Secret,” show the U.S. turned its Ottawa embassy into a security command post during a six-day spying operation by the National Security Agency while U.S. President Barack Obama and 25 other foreign heads of government were on Canadian soil in June of 2010.

The covert U.S. operation was no secret to Canadian authorities.

An NSA briefing note describes the American agency’s operational plans at the Toronto summit meeting and notes they were “closely co-ordinated with the Canadian partner.”

The NSA and its Canadian “partner,” the Communications Security Establishment Canada, gather foreign intelligence for their respective governments by covertly intercepting phone calls and hacking into computer systems around the world.

The secret documents do not reveal the precise targets of so much espionage by the NSA — and possibly its Canadian partner — during the Toronto summit.

But both the U.S. and Canadian intelligence agencies have been implicated with their British counterpart in hacking the phone calls and emails of foreign politicians and diplomatsattending the G20 summit in London in 2009 — a scant few months before the Toronto gathering of the same world leaders.

Notably, the secret NSA briefing document describes part of the U.S. eavesdropping agency’s mandate at the Toronto summit as “providing support to policymakers.”

Documents previously released by Snowden, a former NSA contractor who has sought and received asylum in Russia, suggested that support at other international gatherings included spying on the foreign delegations to get an unfair advantage in any negotiations or policy debates at the summit.

It was those documents that first exposed the spying on world leaders at the London summit.

More recently, Snowden’s trove of classified information revealed Canada’s eavesdropping agency had hacked into phones and computers in the Brazilian government’s department of mines, a story that touched off a political firestorm both in that country and in Ottawa.

The documents have rocked political capitals around the world. NSA spies on everyone from leaders of U.S. allies to millions of Americans. Personal information has been scooped up by the agency’s penetration of major internet and phone companies….

(Read more)

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Japan’s plan to supply all the world’s energy from a giant solar power plant on the moon
“Shimizu, a Japanese architectural and engineering firm, has a solution for the climate crisis: Simply build a band of solar panels 400 kilometers (249 miles) wide (pdf) running all the way around the Moon’s 11,000-kilometer (6,835 mile) equator and beam the carbon-free energy back to Earth in the form of microwaves, which are converted into electricity at ground stations.





That means mining construction materials on the Moon and setting up factories to make the solar panels. “Robots will perform various tasks on the lunar surface, including ground leveling and excavation of hard bottom strata,” according to Shimizu, which is known for a series of far-fetched “dream projects” including pyramid cities and a space hotel. The company proposes to start building the Luna Ring in 2035. “Machines and equipment from the Earth will be assembled in space and landed on the lunar surface for installation,” says the proposal.
If that sounds like a sci-fi fantasy—and fantastically expensive—it’s not completely crazy. California regulators, for instance, in 2009 approved a contract that utility Pacific Gas & Electric signed to buy 200 megawatts of electricity from an orbiting solar power plant to be built by a Los Angeles area startup called Solaren. The space-based photovoltaic farm would consist of a kilometer-wide inflatable Mylar mirror that would concentrate the sun’s rays on a smaller mirror, which would in turn focus the sunlight on to high-efficiency solar panels. These would generate electricity, which would be converted into radio frequency waves, transmitted to a giant ground station near Fresno, California, and then converted back into electricity.





Unlike terrestrial solar power plants, orbiting solar panels can generate energy around the clock. The part-time nature of earthbound solar power means it can’t currently supply the minimum or “baseload” demand without backup from fossil-fuel plants. However, the cost of lifting the solar panels into orbit would be far higher than for building a photovoltaic power plant on earth.
Not much has been heard from Solaren since then, but last year Michael Peevey, president of the California Public Utilities Commission, said in a speech that the project was still under development. “Although this sounds like science fiction, I am hopeful that recent advances in thinner, lighter-weight solar modules will make this technology feasible,” Peevey said. “I believe it is worth taking a chance on this technology because as a baseload resource, space-based solar may help to displace coal-fired capacity that would otherwise meet those needs.”
But even if the energy that eventually comes from a solar power plant on the the Moon justifies the costs of building one—not to mention the fossil fuel you have to burn to get the machinery up there—Shimizu’s greatest hurdle may be staking a claim on all that lunar real estate, points out Wired. “Outer space law is notoriously difficult to apply in practice and may scupper the plans long before anything gets built.””

Japan’s plan to supply all the world’s energy from a giant solar power plant on the moon

Shimizu, a Japanese architectural and engineering firm, has a solution for the climate crisis: Simply build a band of solar panels 400 kilometers (249 miles) wide (pdf) running all the way around the Moon’s 11,000-kilometer (6,835 mile) equator and beam the carbon-free energy back to Earth in the form of microwaves, which are converted into electricity at ground stations.

That means mining construction materials on the Moon and setting up factories to make the solar panels. “Robots will perform various tasks on the lunar surface, including ground leveling and excavation of hard bottom strata,” according to Shimizu, which is known for a series of far-fetched “dream projects” including pyramid cities and a space hotel. The company proposes to start building the Luna Ring in 2035. “Machines and equipment from the Earth will be assembled in space and landed on the lunar surface for installation,” says the proposal.

If that sounds like a sci-fi fantasy—and fantastically expensive—it’s not completely crazy. California regulators, for instance, in 2009 approved a contract that utility Pacific Gas & Electric signed to buy 200 megawatts of electricity from an orbiting solar power plant to be built by a Los Angeles area startup called Solaren. The space-based photovoltaic farm would consist of a kilometer-wide inflatable Mylar mirror that would concentrate the sun’s rays on a smaller mirror, which would in turn focus the sunlight on to high-efficiency solar panels. These would generate electricity, which would be converted into radio frequency waves, transmitted to a giant ground station near Fresno, California, and then converted back into electricity.

Unlike terrestrial solar power plants, orbiting solar panels can generate energy around the clock. The part-time nature of earthbound solar power means it can’t currently supply the minimum or “baseload” demand without backup from fossil-fuel plants. However, the cost of lifting the solar panels into orbit would be far higher than for building a photovoltaic power plant on earth.

Not much has been heard from Solaren since then, but last year Michael Peevey, president of the California Public Utilities Commission, said in a speech that the project was still under development. “Although this sounds like science fiction, I am hopeful that recent advances in thinner, lighter-weight solar modules will make this technology feasible,” Peevey said. “I believe it is worth taking a chance on this technology because as a baseload resource, space-based solar may help to displace coal-fired capacity that would otherwise meet those needs.”

But even if the energy that eventually comes from a solar power plant on the the Moon justifies the costs of building one—not to mention the fossil fuel you have to burn to get the machinery up there—Shimizu’s greatest hurdle may be staking a claim on all that lunar real estate, points out Wired. “Outer space law is notoriously difficult to apply in practice and may scupper the plans long before anything gets built.”

This was posted 4 months ago. It has 3 notes. .
Content Aware Typography

Content Aware Typography

This was posted 4 months ago. It has 0 notes. .

Sherry Turkle: Connected, but alone?

"…Across the generations, I see that people can’t get enough of each other, if and only if they can have each other at a distance, in amounts they can control. I call it the Goldilocks effect: not too close, not too far, just right. But what might feel just right for that middle-aged executive can be a problem for an adolescent who needs to develop face-to-face relationships. An 18-year-old boy who uses texting for almost everything says to me wistfully, "Someday, someday, but certainly not now, I’d like to learn how to have a conversation.”

When I ask people ”What’s wrong with having a conversation?” People say, “I’ll tell you what’s wrong with having a conversation. It takes place in real time and you can’t control what you’re going to say.” So that’s the bottom line. Texting, email, posting, all of these things let us present the self as we want to be. We get to edit, and that means we get to delete, and that means we get to retouch, the face, the voice, the flesh, the body — not too little, not too much, just right...”

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Op-Ed: A bad week to be Canadian
“Being a Canadian is so embarrassing these days. We seem to be doing everything possible to convince the rest of the world that we are a bunch of morons.

I’m not talking about Rob Ford’s antics at Toronto city hall. I’m talking about the behaviour of our new minister of the environment, Leona Aglukkaq, at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Warsaw this week.
Ford may be getting all the headlines, but what Aglukkaq is doing is far more damaging to Canada’s international reputation in the long run. Her offence is not so much that she is working to sabotage any effective agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions. This is just standard Canadian policy, and while it may make us look like bad people, it doesn’t make us look stupid. After all, everyone knows that our economic interests lie in digging up and selling as much oil as possible before the clock runs out and the remaining carbon becomes “unburnable.”
No, what Aglukkaq did that makes us all look stupid is that she chose to defend Canada’s position using the same preposterous talking points that the Prime Minister’s Office has approved for use domestically. In defending her hostility to carbon taxes, she said that “we know a carbon tax would increase the price of everything in Canada.” This is the same old talking point that we’ve been hearing from the Conservative government since 2008.
The problem with saying this sort of thing at a high-profile international conference is that it’s bullshit, in the technical sense of the term. In other words, it’s a claim that is not only not true, but that doesn’t even pretend to be true. Like the phrase “your call is important to us,” you only have to stop and think about it for a moment to realize that it couldn’t be true.
For starters, if you were to increase the price of everything in Canada, that would be equivalent to increasing the price of nothing. Prices are just the exchange ratio of goods, and so are unaffected by their absolute level. The phrase is literally nonsensical.
On the other hand, if you were to increase the price of everything except money, then that would be called inflation. One could conceivably oppose carbon taxes on the grounds that they would be inflationary, except that central bank policy in Canada right now is intended to be inflationary (that’s why interest rates are low). So increasing the prices of all goods and services would be good for the economy.
But of course, increasing the price of carbon emissions would not increase the price of all goods and services. It would increase the price of exactly one thing, namely, carbon emissions. Whether or not that would result in other prices being increased throughout the economy is a decision that would be made entirely by the free market.
That is precisely why carbon taxes were initially proposed by free market economists, and are favoured by the responsible right everywhere. They are the environmental equivalent of a surgical strike. They hit precisely the intended target, with none of the collateral damage associated with old-fashioned environmental regulation.


Most importantly, carbon taxes leave it entirely up to market forces to determine whether the increased price of carbon emissions is going to raise the price of other goods. If entrepreneurs and consumers are able to substitute away from carbon-intensive power sources (such as coal), toward carbon-neutral power sources (such as hydroelectric or nuclear), there is no reason that prices have to rise.
The important point, however, is that these decisions are all made by the market, not by the government. The only question that the government needs to answer is what the correct price for carbon should be. The current answer in Canada, federally, is zero. Because of this, people who oppose carbon taxes (or cap-and-trade systems, which according to the current government are the same thing) need to explain why zero is the correct price.
Standard economic theory tells us that price should reflect social cost. If your consumption imposes a cost on some other person, then you should have to pay.
Seen in this light, the only way that the correct price for carbon could be zero would be if the social cost of carbon emissions was also zero. And the only way that the social cost of carbon emissions could be zero would be if these emissions made no contribution to harmful climate change. So for people who are willing to think through the consequences of their views, there is practically no daylight between rejection of carbon taxes and the denial of anthropogenic climate change.
But of course, the reason Aglukkaq is making these claims is not that she is incapable of thinking through the consequences. It is because the Conservative government has made the rather cynical calculation that a sufficient percentage of the Canadian population is not really interested in thinking through the consequences, and so there is simply no need to develop rational policies in this area. They have chosen message discipline over message coherence.
I understand the domestic political considerations that led them to this conclusion. My only hope would be that, at least when they travel abroad, Canadian ministers might try a bit harder to avoid insulting the intelligence of the international community. Could we not have some different talking points at least? Especially when we are addressing the victims of our economically self-serving policies, it seems to me that we could at least have the decency to come up with a set of more convincing lies.”

Op-Ed: A bad week to be Canadian

Being a Canadian is so embarrassing these days. We seem to be doing everything possible to convince the rest of the world that we are a bunch of morons.

I’m not talking about Rob Ford’s antics at Toronto city hall. I’m talking about the behaviour of our new minister of the environment, Leona Aglukkaq, at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Warsaw this week.

Ford may be getting all the headlines, but what Aglukkaq is doing is far more damaging to Canada’s international reputation in the long run. Her offence is not so much that she is working to sabotage any effective agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions. This is just standard Canadian policy, and while it may make us look like bad people, it doesn’t make us look stupid. After all, everyone knows that our economic interests lie in digging up and selling as much oil as possible before the clock runs out and the remaining carbon becomes “unburnable.”

No, what Aglukkaq did that makes us all look stupid is that she chose to defend Canada’s position using the same preposterous talking points that the Prime Minister’s Office has approved for use domestically. In defending her hostility to carbon taxes, she said that “we know a carbon tax would increase the price of everything in Canada.” This is the same old talking point that we’ve been hearing from the Conservative government since 2008.

The problem with saying this sort of thing at a high-profile international conference is that it’s bullshit, in the technical sense of the term. In other words, it’s a claim that is not only not true, but that doesn’t even pretend to be true. Like the phrase “your call is important to us,” you only have to stop and think about it for a moment to realize that it couldn’t be true.

For starters, if you were to increase the price of everything in Canada, that would be equivalent to increasing the price of nothing. Prices are just the exchange ratio of goods, and so are unaffected by their absolute level. The phrase is literally nonsensical.

On the other hand, if you were to increase the price of everything except money, then that would be called inflation. One could conceivably oppose carbon taxes on the grounds that they would be inflationary, except that central bank policy in Canada right now is intended to be inflationary (that’s why interest rates are low). So increasing the prices of all goods and services would be good for the economy.

But of course, increasing the price of carbon emissions would not increase the price of all goods and services. It would increase the price of exactly one thing, namely, carbon emissions. Whether or not that would result in other prices being increased throughout the economy is a decision that would be made entirely by the free market.

That is precisely why carbon taxes were initially proposed by free market economists, and are favoured by the responsible right everywhere. They are the environmental equivalent of a surgical strike. They hit precisely the intended target, with none of the collateral damage associated with old-fashioned environmental regulation.

Most importantly, carbon taxes leave it entirely up to market forces to determine whether the increased price of carbon emissions is going to raise the price of other goods. If entrepreneurs and consumers are able to substitute away from carbon-intensive power sources (such as coal), toward carbon-neutral power sources (such as hydroelectric or nuclear), there is no reason that prices have to rise.

The important point, however, is that these decisions are all made by the market, not by the government. The only question that the government needs to answer is what the correct price for carbon should be. The current answer in Canada, federally, is zero. Because of this, people who oppose carbon taxes (or cap-and-trade systems, which according to the current government are the same thing) need to explain why zero is the correct price.

Standard economic theory tells us that price should reflect social cost. If your consumption imposes a cost on some other person, then you should have to pay.

Seen in this light, the only way that the correct price for carbon could be zero would be if the social cost of carbon emissions was also zero. And the only way that the social cost of carbon emissions could be zero would be if these emissions made no contribution to harmful climate change. So for people who are willing to think through the consequences of their views, there is practically no daylight between rejection of carbon taxes and the denial of anthropogenic climate change.

But of course, the reason Aglukkaq is making these claims is not that she is incapable of thinking through the consequences. It is because the Conservative government has made the rather cynical calculation that a sufficient percentage of the Canadian population is not really interested in thinking through the consequences, and so there is simply no need to develop rational policies in this area. They have chosen message discipline over message coherence.

I understand the domestic political considerations that led them to this conclusion. My only hope would be that, at least when they travel abroad, Canadian ministers might try a bit harder to avoid insulting the intelligence of the international community. Could we not have some different talking points at least? Especially when we are addressing the victims of our economically self-serving policies, it seems to me that we could at least have the decency to come up with a set of more convincing lies.”

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