Is Obama Old School or New?

Is Obama just another neo-Keynesian or a follower of the emerging school of ecological economics?

Ecological economics attempts to assign a positive value to goods and services that promote the well being of the planet and a negative one to those that degrade it. This unapologetically values-oriented approach to the hitherto dismal science is gaining real currency in the post carbon world. Ecological economists (among them former World Bank economist Herman Daly and University of Vermont Gund Institute Director Robert Costanza ) advocate for replacing "Gross Domestic Product" with the "Genuine Progress Indicator." Says Costanza in a recent paper, â''True development should be defined in terms of the improvement of sustainable quality of life, not merely improvement in material consumption.â''

In a recent posting on the Post Carbon Institute website, â''Economists without a Clue,â'' peak oil theorist and ecological economics proponent Richard Heinberg maintains that old- school free marketeers and their neo-Keynesians counterparts are currently in a battle to shape policy responses to the current financial crisis. Neither one is on the right track, according to Heinberg. In a second posting, â''Transport: Time to Think Outside the Metal Box,â'' he warns that while we should be concerned about the welfare of the workers who depend on failing US auto manufacturers, pouring money into the industry to build yet more cars, however fuel efficient, is a suboptimum redeployment of scarce resources.

President elect Obama is now pushing for â''$50 million in loan guarantees to help the auto industry retool, develop new battery technologies and produce the next generation of fuel efficient cars here in America.â'' Heinberg counters:

â''Autoworkers do need jobs, but propping up a failing 20th century industry is a waste of money at this point. Public transit, urban redesign, and low-cost community rideshare programs will help far more in the long run.â''

Will a true ecological economist find his or her way into Obamaâ''s inner circle?

We will know when we see a truly holistic, post-Keynesian solution to the domestic auto industry crisis emerge from the new administration, one that redirects resources away from the old car culture and into mass transit infrastructure, equipment and technologies.


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