At the start of each year we collectively reflect upon the previous year’s achievements — or, too often, failures — and project our thoughts on the year ahead. On a wide scale, newspapers summarize the previous year’s news, give pop quizzes on the best gossip and make predictions on what key events will happen. As individuals, though, we have a certain degree of control over our future and so not only make predictions but resolutions about our future.
In 1997 the Kyoto Protocol became the first major international treaty, (although not quite completely international) to feature a cap and trade scheme. Yet the idea to extend cap and trade schemes to individuals has not been taken up widely. Ed Miliband, Britain’s new leader of the opposition, proposed a radical idea to introduce individual credits to pollute when he was head of the Department of Energy and Climate Change, but his idea has largely been ignored. Now, more than ever, MIT needs to set an example of radical policy by introducing a permit to ask questions.
One of Keynes’s less emphasized ideas was to make economists “humble” and “competent people, on a level with dentists.” In addition to macroeconomic forecasts, they could provide analysis to our day-to-day lives. Keynes’s idea, however, is objectionable on many levels. First, my personal experience with dentists has been one of arrogance and control rather than of deference to the patient. Second, in light of the economic crisis, many people would question if economists are even capable of competence; economists have already led the world into a major recession, imagine the carnage if they took control of our intimate surroundings too.