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So whatever you do, make it. You with Windows and HP, see how at Windows Dotcom slash HP. Hey there, Stephen Dubner, and August 21st, the Freakonomics Radio Network is launching another new podcast, but not just any podcast.
It's an interview show hosted by my Freakonomics friend and co-author Steve Levitt.
It won't take you long to figure out that I'm not your regular interviewer. I'm not very polished.
I'm not very articulate, but I just think differently than other people. The new show is called People I mostly Admire.
Some of them are going to be household names and some of them are going to be people that you would never hear of otherwise.
It has a tendency to ask questions that most people wouldn't. Well, you kind of bad at that job.
It doesn't seem like you have a lot of the traits that would make someone a good computer programmer.
Subscribe now to people I mostly admire. It's available on Apple podcast, Spotify, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks. I grew up on the outskirts of London, my mum's florist, my dad's a businessman that didn't really know much about that. It's Kate Raworth. I'm a renegade economist passionate about rewriting economics. It needs to be rewritten. Let's do it. Raworth teaches at Oxford University's Environmental Change Institute. She admits that as a kid, she was a bit sheltered.
I let you know, happy, pretty innocent life, saw the world on the TV news and that was much bigger than the world I lived in. Through that TV screen, Raworth saw the Ethiopian famine of the early 1980s, which killed an estimated one million people. She saw the widening hole in the ozone layer and other environmental problems. And I thought economics would be the subject to help me have the tools to help sort it out. Boy, were you wrong.
As I said on Raworth did go on to study economics at Oxford. She learned all the foundational knowledge. She was asked to learn. She memorized the diagrams she was asked to memorize. She felt she had a pretty good grip on basic theories like supply and demand. But she was frustrated. There just was no option to study anything environmental. It didn't exist.
Then it gradually began to creep up on me that that was a real problem. Still, Raworth did get her economics degree as well as a Masters in Economics, also from Oxford.
She then went to work as an economist for the government of Zanzibar, for the United Nations, for the anti-poverty agency Oxfam. Along the way, she finally figured out what had been missing from her economics, education, a focus on humanity and the planet.
She began redrawing those economics diagrams she'd memorized so diligently at university. Doodling away, she came up with something totally different, rather than jagged lines and aggressive arrows. She came up with a circle inside another circle. It was essentially a donor.
I know it sounds ridiculous, right? A doughnut. But within that doughnut, Raworth saw great promise.
Think of it as a compass for human prosperity in the 21st century. How does this work? So imagine a donut, the kind. It's got a hole in the middle of your standard doughnut and we want everybody to be living in the doughnut.
I'll be honest, I had a hard time getting the visuals of the doughnut idea at first, so stick with it.
That means no one is in the hole in the middle where they're falling short on the essentials of life without food or water, health care, housing, education, political voice.
OK, so the doughnut is good, the hole is bad, but at the same time don't overshoot the outer crust of the doughnut.
So again, the doughnut itself is good, the safe zone.
But beyond the outer crust there we put so much pressure on our planet, we begin to push her out of balance and we cause climate breakdown and we acidify the oceans and create a hole in the ozone layer. So it's a balance. Meet the needs of all people within the means of the planet. Donuts are beloved by many people in many places, but rarely are they considered a symbol of balance. And yet that's how Kate Raworth saw things. In 2017, she published a book called Doughnut Economics.
It was avidly consumed in certain circles, especially in places that pay attention to standard economics, but feel that standard economics comes up short. And then came the global covid-19 pandemic health crisis, an economic catastrophe and more rolled into one. The pandemic has underscored the inequalities that Raworth was already concerned with inequalities in income and health care, access and labor markets to many people being pushed toward the doughnut hole. But the crisis has also threatened progress in the environmental arena, pushing too much activity beyond the doughnut's crust.
China and Japan, for instance, have recently proved large numbers of new coal burning power plants. While the covid crisis was a shock to the system that no one saw coming.
It has also shown just how vulnerable our modern economies are. So today on Freakonomics Radio, Raworth talks about a new economic framework whose key feature is sustainability.
How do we create economies that are compatible with Earth's capacity to regenerate resources and absorb all wastes?
We also hear why, in the middle of the covid crisis, the city of Amsterdam has aggressively embraced Raworth Donat model.
The biggest worry that people in Amsterdam have is Can I pay my rent or can I pay my mortgage or actually can I live in Amsterdam? And the political realities that a doughnut friendly framework will face when people hear degrowth, they think that sounds like a recession growth vs. degrowth carrots versus sticks. And can the donut prevail? It's coming up right after this. From Stitcher and other productions, this is Freakonomics Radio, the podcast that explores the hidden side of everything.
Here's your host, Stephen Dubner. I asked Ray Wirth how her ideas about a sustainable global economy differ from the standard economic model she learned years ago as a student at Oxford.
So the standard economics I learned was not based on a delicately balanced living planet. There wasn't really a planet. Anything natural was called an environmental externality, you know, degradation of air or water, environmental externality, as if this was just no sound in space, kind of blank sheet beyond which so much lies.
And we never need to ask where it comes to an end.
And the shape of progress that we're told in theory of 20th century economic thinking is never ending growth.
So we started delicately balanced living planet and then ask ourselves, how do we create economies that are compatible with Earth's capacity to regenerate resources and absorb our wastes? How do we live in harmony with that? And that's completely different to any macroeconomic thinking, which just presumes growth is good in some countries over the past.
Well, really quite a long time. A great amount of policy has been established by economists and economic thinking. As you write, economics is the mother tongue of public policy. Can you give me some examples of what you see as the worst manifestations of this privilege enjoyed by economists and policymaking, as well as manifested in speeches of politicians who stand up and just talk national success in terms of growth?
You know, GDP is growing point 25 percent faster than it was this time last year is an indication that everything is going well and everything's fine. So that's the sort of top level at the micro level. I think it's the obsession with what's known as cost benefit analysis by Treasury. And you can completely lose sight of the much bigger picture, the dynamics, the knock on effects of systems that just can't get picked up in there.
So I think, you know, at the macro level and the micro level, we need to release ourselves from these devilish tools that tie us to very short term calculations.
When she worked at the UN, Raworth was a co-author of the Human Development Report, whose Human Development Index measures countries not by economic power, but by factors like standard of living and education and life expectancy.
I asked Raworth whether the Human Development Report really mattered long term or if it was just another important sounding declaration from just another global institution I think is hugely mattered.
A simple reflection of what the World Bank now reflects all those indicators in its own tables. It's spawned so many other indexes of human well-being, the index of social progress, people talking about gross national happiness. I would say, though, what it's missing is what we've now brought into the picture in the early 21st century is the recognition that you can't just focus on human development. You have to focus on planetary health.
At the same time, even before covid-19 crushed GDP's around the world, some people were calling for high income countries to intentionally reduce their GDP to pursue what has been labeled prosperity without growth.
Degrowth is specifically about actively scaling down resources and energy use. That's Jason Hickel.
He is an economic anthropologist in the University of London system. He researches how different cultures organise their economic systems.
Clearly, the objective is to transition our economies to 100 percent renewable energy as quickly as possible. But research and ecological economics and climate economics is quite clear that that can't be done fast enough while we grow the economy at the same time. And the reason is because the more you grow the economy, the more energy it requires and the more energy it requires, the more difficult it is to supply the energy with renewables.
Pikul is also come to think that GDP is a flawed indicator of a country's well-being.
I should actually admit, like I used to believe these things, too. I mean, I've long believed that, you know, GDP growth is really essential for an economy to function and is essential for improving well-being and so on. I remember going to talk by Paul Krugman. This is the middle of the Great Recession. And he was going on about how America needs to really stimulate an economic recovery by getting the economy growing again, cetera, et. And I walked out of that thinking, yeah, that's exactly what we need.
And the person I was with on the way home asks, do you think that America, being one of the richest countries in the entire world, actually needs more GDP? And first I was like, of course, that doesn't mean this is essential for the way an economy runs. But then I realized that I was just basically repeating an idea that I'd heard everyone else always say, and I'd never actually thought through it for myself. But interestingly, my main defense for GDP growth was simply that it's important for improving human well-being.
What do you do with a country like Costa Rica that has higher life expectancy than the US higher happiness indicators than the US and yet 80 percent less GDP per capita? Right. Clearly, and ecological economics has demonstrated this over and over again past a certain point which high income nations have long surpassed. There's actually no fundamental relationship between GDP and human well-being. It completely breaks down. And that, I think, should be a very liberating realization that we can achieve the heights of human flourishing and even improve the lives of people in high income nations without needing more GDP growth whatsoever.
The downside of a constant growth strategy, Hickel says, is that it inevitably pushes up against what scientists call planetary boundaries. That is what lies beyond the outer crust of Kate Raworth Doughnut.
And right now, the planet as a whole is dramatically overshooting planetary boundaries. But crucially, its high income nations that are almost entirely responsible for this. If we were all to consume like the average person in the rest of the world, then we would be almost entirely within planetary boundaries. If we were to consume at the rates of the average person in high income nations, we would be overshooting flimsier boundaries by a factor of four or five, which is clearly not a viable development strategy.
So the key thing here, I think, is to recognize that high income nations need to actively scale down their use of resources and that can be done without harming human well-being at all.
So an easy counterargument or a common counterargument, at least, would be that, well, yes, energy use tied to growth is maybe a core problem. On the other hand, I could say the technology that is a result of our capitalism produces efficiency, which theoretically would require less energy, which would theoretically in the long run, create opportunities for more growth with less energy, but only if aided by the sort of technology and innovation that is made possible by capitalism.
Yes, and this is a marvelous part of capitalism, actually. Capitalism constantly produces efficiency improvements. But what's interesting is that despite rapid improvements in efficiency in terms of resource and energy use, there has not been an absolute decline in either of those. We have relative decoupling where GDP rises faster than resource and energy use, but long term, absolute decoupling has never happened. Right.
But I mean, that's partly a function of the fact that so many people around the world are consuming more energy for the first time. Really, right.
Oh, sure. Yeah. But this is true even in high income nations like the USA. And that's curious, right? Like, we have to ask ourselves, why is that happening, especially given the fact that the USA has shifted so dramatically to services? It's important to recognize that we can target the kinds of technological innovations and efficiency improvements that we want directly without growing the whole economy indiscriminately and hoping that we get the benefits that we want. So if your goal is to create more efficient railways or more efficient solar panels, then why not invest in those objectives directly rather than growing the whole economy?
I can see many people listening to your argument and saying, you know what, this person is intelligent, has evidence, has logic, has a kind of moral view of humanity that I'm in sync with. And I can see getting on board with degrowth, at least to a certain degree. And then I can see other constituencies, many of whom are the entrenched constituencies in government and industry, in technology, in academia and so on, who say, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, this cannot and should not be allowed or encouraged or even listened to perhaps.
So who hates these ideas the most?
Who is going to push back the hardest?
People are enemies when they misunderstands what we're talking about. And it can be easy to misunderstand. I admit that when people hear degrowth, they think that sounds like a recession. But here's the thing is that a recession is what happens when a growth oriented economy stops growing. It's a disaster. People lose their jobs, they lose their houses, poverty rates rise, et cetera, et cetera. Degrowth is calling for a shift to a fundamentally different kind of economy altogether.
What I find is that people are actually really interested in this and really ready for this kind of message. I think they realize on some level that the way we're running the economy right now is not really working for people and certainly not for the living world in which we depend. And also we're seeing in governments as well. Look at New Zealand, which has recently abandoned GDP as an objective in their budget. Another misconception people have is that degrowth sounds like austerity.
Right? But in fact, it's again, the opposite of austerity as a politics is organized around cutting public services, cutting wages in order to get growth going again, and degrowth calls for investment in public services and a fairer distribution of existing income to ensure that growth is not necessary for human flourishing. And so I think that it's really a matter of communication. Yeah, I don't use that word, Kate Raworth again.
And the word she doesn't use is degrowth because I find every time I've ever been in or listened to a debate whether people get confused about what we're talking about.
So I am advocating a global economy that is regenerative by design, works within the cycles of living world, and that is distributive by design share's value far more equitably with everyone who's co creating it. So I would rather talk about what we're for, the dynamics we're trying to create rather than focus on what we're trying to move away from. And I find myself not using the word degrowth. I find that if you generally take it to a public, people think, oh, you're trying to make the economy go down and they misunderstand it.
And I don't want people to misunderstand that, but I want people to be inspired by the direction we want to go. And so I'll talk about Doughnut's instead. We've seen the emergence in the last couple of years of a small group of governments actually saying, you know, we're never going to be the country with the biggest or the fastest GDP growth. So let's go and do something more interesting. And they're called the Well Being Governments Alliance. You've got New Zealand, Scotland, Iceland starting to do something more interesting.
I think that is very powerful and fascinating. And they just happen to have women as prime ministers.
You know, it does strike me. GDP's been around for a long time and almost since the beginning, people have warned of an overreliance on it, that it measures something and leaves out a lot of things. In fact, you know, the person credited with inventing it, Simon Kuznets, warned against an overreliance of it.
It does seem in the last few decades there's more voice raised against it. And many of the most prominent voices are women. So I think of people like yourself, certainly MarineMax, Acardo. I think of the philosopher Martha Nussbaum. Do you think that's a coincidence?
I think many women in professional lives know that their life has always been balanced with managing their personal lives. So, you know, recognising that economic theory was, well, not in predominantly just written by men until almost this last century. It focused on the market and the state, the spaces of monetised interaction, and it took feminist economists. Along from the 1960s and 70s to say hello, there is the household, it's actually the core economy on which everything depends.
There is the commons where people to get together and create goods and services they value in communities. And wow, the last months have really highlighted the importance of that. So I'm not surprised that female leaders in nations are more likely to see the importance of that in the balance of well-being for the nation as a whole.
So, you know, if we think about China now, for decades they pursued a socialist communist agenda that, you know, killed millions and kept many more millions dreadfully poor. And for China, it was the pursuit of economic growth, of GDP growth, as much as one might challenge the methodology of their growth in particular. But that alleviated poverty. So what do you say about or to the millions of Chinese who've benefited from that growth? How can they find succor in your argument that GDP growth per say is dangerous?
So I don't think I've ever said GDP growth per say is dangerous.
What I believe is dangerous is that we have economic systems that are structurally dependent on endless growth. So there are many countries in the world that I believe absolutely need economic growth. I'm thinking of Zanzibar. I'm thinking of low income economies where people are in the hole in the doughnut. They can't meet their needs for food and water and health care and housing and education. And as the economy grows, if that growth is reinvested in the right places, it will meet those fundamental human needs.
But there has to come a point at which nations grow up.
Let's imagine that some years from now that 90 percent of the world's nations have signed on to your notion of planetary boundaries and decided that you know what? We need responsible and sustainable growth and we will do it in concert with giving people their basic needs, keeping them out of the hole in the doughnut, but only 90 percent to it. And within that 10 percent are. Let's just pick Russia and Saudi Arabia and Iran just to pick a few who feel that, you know, now there's an arbitrage opportunity if everybody else is dialing back.
Well, that makes it that much easier for us to keep going forward to ignore those boundaries. So you worked at the U.N. You know that there are sometimes signs of global unity and collaboration, but it's mostly hand waving and signaling and that really countries are out for themselves. So are you concerned that this may become a kind of an arms race? Quite. But, you know, even if the right minded countries go along and pursue this more sustainable economy, that rival nations will have an even wider avenue to pursue their agendas?
Well, I don't know that it's true that all nations are out for themselves. That's like telling us, you know, rational economic man is self-interested and that we become that.
And if all nations are out for themselves, forget it, because we live on one delicately balanced planet and we share her life supporting systems and we will blow right past them. And then no nation can help itself because we've destroyed the Commonwealth, a stable climate and fertile soils and healthy oceans that every nation depends upon. My strategy is I don't try to push the Dow not on anyone. I have never knocked on a door because there is so much energy for transformation in the world that I just go where the energy is.
After the break, we visit a city that has flung its doors wide open to Raworth and her donut plan, if you only wait for the others to start, then nobody will ever move.
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This for the record. There it is, a win for the ages. Tiger Woods is one of our most on spiring sports icons and his story. It comes with many chapters. I am deeply sorry for my irresponsible and selfish behavior, but here it is, the return to glory. And this is All American, a new series from Stitcher hosted by me, Jordan Bell, you realize Tiger Woods doesn't know who he is best in the history of golf?
No question in my mind. And this season, with the help of journalist Albert Chen, we're asking, what if the story of Tiger Woods that the media has been telling? What if it's been completely wrong?
Season one of all American premieres, August 20th. Subscribe or favorite now? Kate, raworth book doughnut economics is essentially an alarm, a warning that the blind pursuit of economic growth leaves out too many people and puts too much strain on the planet's resources. But some policymakers who read the book wanted more practical ideas. So Raworth has been busy setting up a doughnut economics action lab to create customized blueprints for communities in pursuit of sustainable growth.
That very much bespoke approach rates for those cities. She's already created these city portraits for Philadelphia and Portland, Oregon.
This is a very hard look in the mirror of the 21st century reality. How do we actually create more social equity for the most deprived neighborhoods in our city and cut our carbon emissions at the same time? How do we transform diets in our city and improve water quality and improve green roofs and have more green trees in the poorest neighborhoods?
There's one city that has embraced the doughnut philosophy more aggressively than any other.
Hi, my name is Monica from Sumara for the city of Amsterdam, Vandoren Prime Responsibilities, Our Urban Development and sustainability, which has to do with the energy transition, but also circular economy.
What exactly is a circular economy? Well, that's the million dollar question. The economic anthropologist Jason Hickel again.
So the way that the answer plan is going to approach it is to maximize recyclability and minimize the extraction of new resources.
A lot of people are fed up with this kind of we throw away everything like this disposable society that we have created.
Ben Dornoch belongs to Amsterdam's Green Left Party, which is well, which is pretty much what it sounds like. They came to power in twenty eighteen in April of 2020, Kate Raworth and Amsterdam officials announced that the city had formally implemented a version of Raworth Donat plan, focusing on Amsterdam's pain points there, especially high housing prices and high carbon emissions. But the doughnut plan was part of a broader strategy Amsterdam has been working on for years to have a completely circular economy by the year 2050.
That means by 2030, the city's use of primary materials must be half what it is today. This lines up with a similar plan the Dutch federal government has in place. I have to say, when I first read about Amsterdam and the donor plan, I was surprised, mostly because if I think of cities around the world that don't need the doughnut plan, I would think of Amsterdam.
When I think of a progressive view towards sustainability, toward energy, toward transportation, toward housing. We Americans think of you maybe not Amsterdam persay, but you're part of the world certainly as much more of a model than us. But plainly you feel there's an enormous amount of progress that needs to be made still. Yes. On all those fronts. Yes.
A lot of progress needs to be made. Only if you look at the climate crisis that we're in right now, it demands much more drastic solutions. And if you're not very careful, it will be on the shoulders of the people who are already in a social disadvantage situation. For example, if we tax the gas or the oil much more, which is good in order to stop climate change, it will not benefit people with lower incomes. We don't have huge differences in income a bit more than we used to, but it's there.
I think where we're doing that is that the prices of our houses are far too high. The biggest worry that people in Amsterdam have is can I pay my rent or can I pay my mortgage or actually can I live in Amsterdam because it's so expensive. And that is such a strange thing because we calculate our GDP. So how wealthy the city is by the prices of our houses. So we say, OK, we have very expensive houses, so we are doing well.
We're rich city. But actually we're saying there's no access for a lot of young people, but also older people because it's far too expensive. So how could we say that our city is doing well?
Yet another way in which GDP is not a very useful measure sometimes. Yes, it's not.
It's not. It actually shows inequality. So what does Amsterdam doing about affordability but affordability in concert with the sustainability and ecological goals?
Well, we have to build more houses. That's not something that we can solve overnight. But there's two things that we're doing in Amsterdam. And one of the things is that when we have new developments, we always say that 40 percent needs to be affordable housing. So that's a fixed price that Máxima rents can be asked. Then 40 percent has to be middle income and only 20 percent can be free markets. So that's how we try to keep houses affordable.
But at the same time, of course, it needs to be sustainable. So we have quite high standards for building companies who want to build in Amsterdam when it comes to energy use, when it comes to materials that they use, the kind of circularity that they put into their buildings. For example, you build a house for a larger family and later on, you know, there are smaller families want to live there so you can adjust them or you have buildings that were built to be a school.
But after 20, 30 years, there will be less children in the neighborhood and you can easily adapt that building into a new one so you don't have to demolish you can just adapt it. That's very important. Circler, a method that we're using.
I was surprised to see that CO2 emissions in the Netherlands aren't much lower today than in 1990. Again, only because I perhaps wrongly think of Amsterdam in the Netherlands as pretty progressive when it comes to clean energy and pollution and so on.
Amsterdam has grown immensely since 1990. So actually the fact that we have about the same as we had in 1990 says that we already done good. But in order to really make the breakthrough, we have to speed things up. And we couldn't do that by windmills and by solar. But it's not enough. One of the things that we really have to do is to look at production mechanisms or production methods that actually cost much less energy. The energy transition is not only about using green fuels instead of fossil fuels, and then it's over.
We really have to change our behavior.
Are you talking about simply less consumption or when you talk about, you know, different mechanisms, are you talking about a different way to produce goods, a different way to transport goods and realignment of basically that whole supply chain and production chain?
I think is both. I think we have to consume less. We have so much stuff that actually is made to be broken instead of made to last. And I think most people are fed up with it. But we also have to do things differently. So, for example, for transport, how can we have much more emission free transport or different kind of transport? How can we, for example, use the water much more for transport than we're using our roads?
And with the budget crisis next to the climate crisis, we see that we have to look at much shorter supply chains, meaning producing more locally or nationally than importing.
Yes, essentially. Yes, and much more using already existing resources, instead of mining all these new raw materials, shipping them all over the world and make new things and then throw it away and have a huge waste crisis while there's inevitably waste in what you describe, there are a lot of efficiencies in that because you're transporting things in massive quantities.
The flip side is if you were to try to manufacture more things locally or nationally, then there are inefficiencies. And that because, you know, the Netherlands isn't as good at everything as, you know, it might like to be.
So I am curious whether you feel that you're taking steps toward a kind of degrowth mindset.
I don't think degrowth is a goal, but growth is also not a goal. So the whole idea is much more of being a thriving city, a city that is taking care of its inhabitants, but also taking care of its environment and taking care of the rest of the world. Because if we ship all these products from other parts of the world, we have no clue what the labour conditions are. Well, actually, we do have a clue what the conditions are.
They are very bad. It's just quite easy to turn our heads and don't see it. But we know that the products that we use quite often are causing labour exploitation, but also pollution in other parts of the world. And we can't pretend we don't know because we do.
Can you give a specific example of how your plan might encourage the reuse or recycling of something like use clothing or maybe it's even something a little bit more disgusting, that medical waste or electronic waste?
I do think a lot of people are interested in reusing or recreating or recycling things, but right now it's quite difficult because it's still cheaper to, you know, take the mines and get all the raw materials from other parts of the world to the Netherlands. That's cheaper for a producer than to actually recycle. So we need this incentive to make recycling and reusing and recreating a much more interesting for a producer than a mining. One of the things that we need to do is completely change our tax system.
Right now, we do have low taxes on primary resources and we have very high taxes on labour. And actually the circular economy is very labor intensive because all this, you know, reusing recycling, you know, taking things apart and then making new things is very labor intensive. And so I do think that by showing that using things again is not only saving the earth, but it's also creating lots of employment, which at this moment is because of covid a big problem in Amsterdam.
Amsterdam has an economy which is highly dependent on tourists. If the economy goes well, our economy goes well. But also if it goes bad, it goes very bad in Amsterdam. So actually, what we need to have is a much more resilient economy, which actually a circular economy is much more resilient than a linear. For example, right now we are working on a new policy on data centers because they use enormous amounts of energy, but they want to be in Amsterdam because it's a hub.
So we said, OK, you can be here, but you can only use green energy, the heat water that you have as a waste product from your cooling systems, you have to provide that for free in order for us to change our heating system in houses so we can exchange gas by this hot water that comes from the cooling system.
Oh, so you use geothermal from the data centers. Their waste product is your heat source.
Exactly. And we also ask him to have good architecture because quite often data centers are like black boxes somewhere.
So let me propose an unintended consequence of your well-meaning policy. Let's say you go to these big data centers and say, if you're going to be here, you need to use green energy, construct better buildings, reuse your waste, et cetera, et cetera. And at a certain point, they say, you know what, you are making it too expensive and difficult for us to be here. We're going to move to a different province 50 miles away.
And there we can pollute all we want because they don't have the Green Party in power.
Of course, that could happen. And actually it's something that some of the companies tell me. So they say, well, do you want me to stay here or do you want me to go to somewhere else where I can really, really pollute? And I said, do you want to be a company that really pollutes or do you want to be part of the solution? So, no, I don't have all the instruments to force companies to do so.
But if you want to be in a city like Amsterdam, which is an attractive city, which a lot of companies want to be because they can also provide their employees a nice work environment, a green city, a friendly city, and this is the way we do it. So. Yes, we're maybe trying to work with the coalition of the willing, but I do think the willing could be an example for others.
You personally sound like you really appreciate the value of the carrot as opposed to the stick or at least as many carrots as possible. I am curious, have you found industries or instances yet where you think that the stick will be much more necessary? Oh, yes, absolutely.
I do think that we have to have much higher CO2, Texas. I think we need to keep producers much more responsible for what they're making. So I think we should actually forbid a company to make a machine that if one little thing is broken, that you have to throw it away. I think we should make it compulsory that something can be repaired, say the right to repair instead of the right to buy. Also in plastics, you know, quite often plastics are very hard to recycle because in just one little whatever cup, they use three different plastics, which actually cannot be taken apart in the recycling circle.
So I do think that we need to hold companies responsible for how they make their products.
So Amsterdam could go to, you know, zero carbon emissions in five years. And that doesn't affect at all what, let's say, India or China do. So I realize this is not your job, per say, but I am curious to know how Amsterdam feels being a citizen of the world, but knowing that even if you achieve your solutions across the board, not just with climate and pollution, but sustainability, housing, reusing, et cetera, et cetera, what part that may play in the global march toward those sort of solutions?
Well, if you only wait for the others to start, then nobody will ever move that. I know that there are many countries in the world, in many cities in the world who really want to make change, also cities within the United States of America. So I do think as a city who puts a huge ecological footprint on the world because we are rich city and we use enormous amounts of fossil fuels and we use enormous amounts of consumer goods that pollute the world.
But its waste but also, by the way, is being produced. We do have a responsibility.
Let me ask you finally, your plan is plainly dependent on social cohesion, right? People need to understand that you're kind of all in this together. And again, as Americans, we think of Amsterdam and the Netherlands and much of northern Europe as places where social cohesion and social trust are fairly high, certainly much higher than they are in the U.S. right now. So I'm curious whether or how you think this kind of approach could work in the U.S., where the society is different, the economy is different.
The relationship between the individual and the state is very different. And I'm curious if you have any advice for us.
Well, Amsterdam and the Netherlands and Western Europe has a much more history of a welfare system. And I think Americans are much more self-reliant. And some parts of a circular economy are quite self reliant because with the stuff that you have, you can make yourself new things or your neighbor could do that. But at the same time, you could provide other services to your neighbor. For me, the circular economy is about thinking globally, but acting locally. What would a neighborhood be like if actually you can produce your own energy and you can exchanges with others and create these small grids where you don't need the big companies anymore, which would be a complete democratization of the energy supply?
And I think it would take the intrapreneurship that a lot of Americans have on a smaller scale. I think America could do that maybe even better than Western Europe, because you are the people who like to take care of themselves.
Flattery, yes, we are all susceptible, thanks to Marika van Dornoch for speaking with us from Amsterdam today. Also thanks to Kate Raworth and Jason Hickel both speaking to us from England. We will keep our eye on Amsterdam's efforts to embrace the donor and will report back if we learn anything particularly interesting. We have got a lot of interesting episodes in different stages of production, many of them showing how the world is changing directly and indirectly because of covid-19. In the coming weeks, you'll hear about the economics of vaccine development, the economics of noise and the fate of the insurance industry.
Let us know what else you'd like to hear about. We are at radio at Freakonomics Dotcom. We will be back next week. Until then, take care of yourself and if you can, someone else to. Freakonomics Radio is produced by Stitcher and Dubner Productions. This episode was produced by Meredith Duke. Our staff also includes Allison Craig, Greg Rippin, Zach Lapinsky, Matt Hickey, Daphne Chen and Corrine Wallace, or intern is immaterial. Our theme song is Mr.
Fortune by The Hitchhiker's. All the other music was composed by Lewis Carroll.
You can get Freakonomics Radio on any podcast app. If you want the entire back catalog, use the Stitcher app or go to Freakonomics Dotcom, where we also publish transcripts and show notes. As always, thanks for listening. But if you had a sit down, let's say, with Vladimir Putin to pitch the doughnut economics idea, how well do you think it would go over right now?
I would just give Vladimir a doughnut and say, come and think about the health of your people. You depend upon a healthy planet. This is that's a terrible answer. I don't think it's ditcher.
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