JONATHAN CHAIT MARCH 2, 2011
Thumbing through the latest print edition of Reason, I came across Ronald Bailey's article warning about carbon rationing:
Plan A was to get a massive cap-and-trade carbon rationing scheme adopted by Congress. The scheme aimed at imposing mandatory cuts on U.S. emissions of the greenhouse gases, chiefly carbon dioxide, that are thought to be warming the atmosphere. Six months after President Barack Obama’s inauguration, a cap-and-trade bill managed squeak through the House of Representatives—once it was larded up with billions in pork barrel goodies. Attempts to get cap-and-trade through the Senate foundered in July 2010 when Democratic majority leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) admitted that he could not muster the votes. The “shellacking” of the Democrats in the mid-term elections, in which the Republicans took control of the House and increased their membership in the Senate, has shoved Plan A off the table.
Now onto to Plan B. ...
My suspicion is that the Obama administration is strategically rushing these EPA regulations as a way of ratcheting up the pressure on the Republicans in Congress to adopt the lesser of two evils—something like a cap-and-trade carbon rationing scheme that failed last summer. The real Plan B is to make Plan B look so odious that Plan A looks good by comparison. It might just work.
Conservatives and libertarians are very defensive about Koch funding, but this is the sort of thing that grounds liberal suspicion. Bailey, the author of "Global Warming and Other Eco Myths: How the Environmental Movement Uses False Science To Scare us To Death," is a former journalism fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. CEI, like Reason, is backed by the Kochs.
I've recently been debating Radley Balko, also of Reason, who argues that the Kochs are mostly interested in libertarian ideas, as opposed to defending their own interests:
Yes, like most corporations, the Kochs spend money on the political process to protect their interests, sometimes on unlibertarian politicians and unlibertarian causes. Sure, go ahead and criticize them for that. But though I've never met either of the Koch brothers, I suspect that like most libertarians, they'd rather avoid the unseemly world of politics as often as possible, where winning generally means forcing other people to bend to your will. (David Koch did run for Vice President on the Libertarian Party ticket in 1980, but on a platform of legalizing drugs and prostitution, and abolishing the FBI and CIA.) They seem more interested in contributing to voluntary, civil society, by promoting ideas (yes, through think tanks and magazines like Reason), the arts, research, and by fighting particularly pernicious laws like the PATRIOT Act through the courts instead of through contributions to generally spineless politicians.
It seems to me that the line between "ideas" and "interests" is, at best, a lot less clear than Balko makes it out to be. Libertarianism is an idea with many possible interpretations. The notion that corporations should be able to pollute the commons with harmful greenhouse gases at no cost whatsoever is just one such interpretation, and not necessarily the most natural one. Likewise, the notion that reducing the size of government is best achieved by, or even rationally related to, debt-financed regressive tax cuts is also highly contestable. Yet these are interpretations that are very congenial to the Koch brothers' bottom line, and they're also the interpretations promoted by Koch-financed groups. So this presumed dichotomy between their narrow interests and their belief in libertarian ideas seems to be a pretty shaky concept.