Candidate for Comptroller John Clifton recently commented on the issue of the possibility of shifting the use of state pension money into supporting Green efforts:
“As NYS Comptroller, you would be the sole trustee of the now $180 billion NYS Common Retirement Fund. The CRF, our public pension fund, invests heavily in fossil fuels – especially Exxon Mobil Corporation. What is your position on fossil fuel divestment – from financial, social and environmental perspectives?
What is your position on investing the CRF in beneficial portfolio options such as green energy, energy efficiency and sustainable agriculture?
Thank you. Fossil Free & Green NY”
A Libertarian official who is focused on liberty-based, fiscally responsible outcomes will support measures that end or reduce the coercion of taxpayers, without further burdening the public with being compelled to underwrite high risk ventures that are better absorbed by the private economy. That means seeking the reform of public employee pensions that are typically bankrupting cities, counties and the state. To a Libertarian, just because there is a perceived problem, it doesn’t mean that government force, or more authoritarian centralized planning is the solution. Nor do pro-liberty people subscribe to the the loaded term “sustainable” whatever, as that is a well-known code word for Agenda 21 concepts of Total State planning, many of which are both disputable and overbearing in transferring control to centralized planners.
The answer to corporate welfare for oil and gas companies, is not corporate welfare for the ‘green’ companies. The success of alternative energy is mixed, with some encouraging progress in solar technology, but significant ‘money pit’ problems have developed with implementing wind power, based on the track record so far in European countries. Regardless of the feasibility (or not) of several emerging ‘green’ energy sources, the funding and stabilizing of the new industry should be the voluntary endeavor of private entrepreneurs, not government workers whose funds should be invested in already stable industries, if they are to be invested at all.
The answer is neither divestment nor investment, as it is a false choice in either case that embraces initiation of force to solve problems. Supporters of using public pension funds for subsidizing the green sector, by implication, appear to expect the public to foot the bill for any loss of money invested in failing green companies, so that the pension payouts to retirees get fully funded or guaranteed by taxpayers in any event. They also appear to see the funds used for the green efforts regardless of whether a given pension participant wants their money used for that purpose or not. There are too many layers of direct or indirect coercion in this concept for a liberty-minded Comptroller to accept.
Beyond the secondary issue of the investment of the pension funds, the entire concept of “public pension funds” is subject to reconsideration by a Libertarian Comptroller. Support for public pensions in New York and elsewhere has been dominated by the unions that benefit from unsustainably generous benefit packages. In office, I would advocate or consider dismantling and prohibiting all government unions, as only private sector unions that receive no funding from government should be legal. Ultimately, we should replace government employee retirement packages with Social Security, or an altogether private nest egg.
As Libertarian Alliance in the UK puts it, “Quite simply, everyone should be expected to build up funds for his own retirement, [which] should be paid into one’s own Self Invested Personal Pension (SIPP). It would be a mandatory savings vehicle similar to schemes in Hong Kong and elsewhere and would ensure everyone had some provision.” Let the private pension recipients or retirees then determine what to do with the deposited money, at their own risk or benefit.