Obama's economic mirage

What Obama proposes is a “post-material economy.” He would de-emphasize the production of ever-more private goods and services, harnessing the economy to achieve broad social goals. In the process, he sets aside the standard logic of economic progress…

What defines the “post-material economy” is a growing willingness to sacrifice money income for psychic income — “feeling good.” Some people may gladly pay higher energy prices if they think they’re “saving the planet” from global warming. Some may accept higher taxes if they think they’re improving the health or education of the poor. Unfortunately, these psychic benefits may be based on fantasies. What if U.S. cuts in greenhouse gases are offset by Chinese increases? What if more health insurance produces only modest gains in people’s health?

Obama and his allies have glossed over these questions. They’ve left the impression that somehow magical technological breakthroughs will produce clean energy that is also cheap. Perhaps that will happen; it hasn’t yet.