“Invisible” does not equal “not real”

Given that politics is often subjective and contentious I don’t often comment on political matters here, but sometimes such stupid things come out of politicians mouths that I can’t help commenting.

Today, Tony Abbott in response to Labors announcement that the fixed carbon price will be transitioned to an Emissions Trading Scheme a year early said of the ETS

“It’s a so-called market in the non-delivery of an invisible substance to no-one.”

Firstly, an ETS involves buyers, and sellers, and the exchange of money, and the transfer of rights – that sounds like an actual market to me, not a “so called market”.

Secondly, the fact that someone pays for “non-delivery” doesn’t mean its not a market. When you pay an organised crime boss money, to not deliver you a violent beating, that’s a real transaction, with real benefits. Extortion may be be hideous, odious and evil – but it is nevertheless very real.

Thirdly, just because the thing being traded is invisible, doesn’t make it not real. If I buy helium gas for my party balloons – that’s an “invisible substance”, but its still a very real and useful element in party making.

So from start, middle, to finish Mr Abbott’s statement is just foolish. But more importantly in making a statement like this he is completely evading the real question : Will an emissions trading scheme result in a reduction of CO2 emissions?

It seems that economic analysis of the real question is beyond Mr Abbott and he has to fall back to childish ‘proofs’ that ‘invisible’ = ‘not real’.

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