When it comes to conversations about government spending, two subjects tend to get conflated. The first is an ideological debate about whether or not the government is in general any good at doing things. The second regards the actual effectiveness of specific things the government does. And the second conversation is far more concrete, productive, and important, which is why it drives me crazy when the first one prevents people from engaging the second.
Ron Haskins's new book is pretty wonky, but the articles he's written to promote it are quite readable.
If the nations of the world are to keep their pledge to combat climate change, vast amounts of fossil fuel—oil, coal, and even natural gas—must be left in the ground and sea, according to a new study published in the journal Nature. Over 90 percent of U.S. and Australian coal and almost all Canadian tar sands must remain unused, and none of the oil or gas in the Arctic can be used—if the global temperature rise is to be less than two degrees centigrade, as nations have agreed. In the modeling done by this study, the Middle East must keep underground an amount equivalent to Saudi Arabia’s entire reserves (Guardian, January 7).