This column originally appeared in The Globe and Mail on October 25, 2013.
Why is it that people with good intentions so often suffer from terrible logic?
A good example is the so-called “divestment” movement, popular these days with academics and environmentalists concerned about global warming. The idea is to urge everyone to sell their shares in petroleum companies as a way to punish them for digging up and selling hydrocarbons. The website for one particular movement, gofossilfree.org, smacks the reader in the face, saying:
“It’s wrong to profit from wrecking the climate. It’s time to divest from fossil fuels.”
As with a lot of well-intended causes, the divestment movement tugs on emotional heartstrings but lacks any intellectual basis. There are two non-financial reasons why investors could be persuaded to sell their stocks in an oil company, neither of which makes any sense if carried to their logical conclusion. Worse, both could exacerbate the environmental problems.
This column originally appeared in The Globe and Mail on October 11, 2013.
“Don’t tell me you believe those numbers!” she said, practically laughing. “The government is lying to us!”
I was a bit taken aback, but I shouldn’t have been. The woman in the audience was reacting to my statement that Canadian inflation is currently below the Bank of Canada’s 2-per-cent target. But increasingly, I find that people I meet are losing faith in Statistics Canada’s official figures. And that’s a problem.
The skeptics have a point. Since August, 2008, prices in the all-items basket of consumer goods and services have risen 6.5 per cent. But if you break it down into its components, you quickly sympathize with the disbelievers: Prices for discretionary items have been stable or falling, but prices for many non-discretionary items have taken off.