Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Weird Science from Obama’s Advisors

There’s, for example, a prominent physicist famous for his neo-Malthusian warnings about stuff that hasn’t and won’t happen. Cutting carbon emissions significantly probably won’t happen and might well not make much difference. But scientists associated with both parties ignore the real possibility of just removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere altogether. The truth is that the Greens just don’t want to believe that there can be technological fix for a technological problem, while their opponents often won’t acknowledge that there’s a problem that needs fixing. The evidence so far, to say the least, is that Obama is not keeping his pompous and misleading promise not to wage partisan war against real science. (Thanks to Ivan the K.)

Discussions - 23 Comments

I call this the Federalist solution: rather than elimating the liberty that causes pollution, we seek to control its effects.

Do we really know its effects? I have heard that in ten years if eveyone does not go back to serfdom then the waterworld scenerio is going to happen. Has Al Gore discussed the rise of the smokers in any recent speaches? Another thing, how is it carbon if the ice caps on other planets were melting. Does my car cause Martian ice caps to melt, or is it more ligical that the sun's warming and cooling causes such things?

There really are no effects so who cares?

I care, because of the proposed tax on driving which would make it 130 dollars or so to drive from Austin to Dallas and be monitered by GPS chips already in cars manufactured after 1998. that is from Fox Bussiness a few days ago.

Here is a strange story, I guess they did not want to have to face any real data. At least they took over 200 million away from the economy, I guess that helps global Climate Change. Global Warming Sat Crashes

The hardline Greens are much less interested in solving this or that particular environmental problem than forwarding a general critique of our promiscuous anthropocentrism...they struggle with technology because while it often pollutes the environment it also sometimes provides the means to correct our polluting tendencies without pushing a cultural or quasi-spiritual revolution of some kind. But they run into contradictions: the Prius would lose alot of its symbolic virtueif we had technology that made the Dodge Durango just as safe for the environment. So the big problem for green techno-junkies seems to be that the very same technology eliminates some opportunities to distinguish themselves from the wasteful, benighted rest of us. The hardline green position is a line drawn in the sands of the culture wars---they don;t want the debate to be rendered moot by some new gadget

Good point Ivan. Also I don't know that the neo-malthusian physicist is wrong. I mean the crude linear malthus is wrong. But I have a hard time believing a physicist would be linear in any simple way with his mathmatics...even then malthus inspires Darwin...and even a bumper sticker malthus isn't horrible...the poor when given higher wages eat more and reproduce more and then starve...boom and then bust...thus the unsustainable linear we are all going to die/starve projection is false because in hard times the poor go broke and starvation culls them. With some humanity, Malthus was troubled about lack of foresight...and folks are still troubled about that...Of course Malthusian projections about peak oil at 140 gave a boom to the drill baby drill folks, who went out and invested in new technology. Now ethanol vats stand overfull and are sold at loss, corn prices have plumeted...investment trusts who gobbled up drilling equipment are stuck between the fixed cost of the investment and the low price of crude. The economy is "bad" but I pumped my own gallon of gas at Swifty for $1.42...boom and bust.

It doesn't trouble me that this guy might be doing psuedo-science with his projections...economists/experts advising Southwestern airlines to hedge oil at $135, screwed the pooch...this was clear at $75...but $35?

Then again had oil hit $200 that expert would have been genuis. The real question is if there is a real science or art of forecasting/projection making or not. With the failure of AIG(well it was not allowed to fail) one has to be pretty sure that foresight is not scientific...or that if it is it spawns its own response/action that it did not account for in its projection.

At the end of the day it is almost impossible to seperate the malthusian doomsday projections from the reason they rarely pan out. Where there is fire there is heat, and while some turn away from fire because they are more sensitive, even the most headstrong and stubborn turns away before stepping directly in.

The extreme environmentalists are overly sensitive, the extreme in the other direction much less so.

I am closer to being in the insensitive latter group that won't acknowledge there is a problem that needs fixing. Nevertheless I will grant that it is the taste and prefferences of the environmentalist/crazy malthusian that create markets for goods like the prius which are simply precursors to the hybrid Escalade(why bother with the dodge durango...when the example is no longer hypothetical?(maybe there is one in the works?)

So it is the folks who preach doom who see first and shelter first from the heat that create markets for goods, that while too expensive for my tastes(since I consider them in terms of value and not moral good)...it is these folk upon whom I freeride with a little derision.

Paradoxically if there weren't enough folk being environmentally activist, there would come a time when I would consider becomming one, but such a time is not upon us.

I think there are too many environmental activists, but when or if the heat comes I will have been glad for the boom and bust cycles that produced the means of navigating around the doomsday predictions.

Another way of looking at the problem of technology and the Greens is this--the underlying premise of modern science is the rational control or the mastery of nature but the Green position seems to constitute a submission to nature--technology is means we create to grapple with a nature that resists our desire for autonomy while the pantheism of the Green position is a denial of our individual significance

Ivan/Peter: you guys want there to be an environmental problem just as much as the "greens" so that you can propose your own ideas to solve it. Everyone wants their shot at the white elephant. I'm pretty sure that the earth has survived without environmentalists-either liberal green ones or "conservative" ones who advocate a more perfect mastery of the earth through clean technology. Shhheeesh, did King Solomon design a fancy system to clean up the pollutants produced by his herds? I don't recall that, but hey, we're still living.

The liberal opposition to a purely technological solution to global warming is only partly explainded by green hostility to technology. There are not doubt some greens who for ideological or other reasons insist that the problems of technology must be contained by restraint on technology.

But that is not true of many of the global warming alarmists. Al Gore and his followers are very gullible and profligate when it comes to "green" technologies (which are after all technology, whatever one might think of their costs and benefits). I suggest that one reason that golbal warming alarmists prefer a political solution to global warming (focused around regulations and subsidies) to one based on a purely technical solution is romantic statism. Transforming society through a web of government regulations and subsidies that punish "bad" economic actors and rewards "good" economic actors is much more emotionally satisfying than a program that just collects tax money and implements a solution to a limited problem.

On Obama's use of the authority of science to advance his political agenda: Obama likes to use the rhetoric of nopartisanship, maturity, dispassionate reason and of course science to rule out all critiques of what he has decided he already wants. I can't get too mad about that. McCain did the same thing with the rhetoric of service and patriotic unity. But there is a big gap between Obama's rhetoric and actions and there is alot of absurdity in that gap. We could use a satirist who can mock Obama's pretensions in a way that resonates with the general public.

Some reasons many conservatives have trouble with the environmental issue (not exhaustive by any means),

1. The liberals who are more focused on environmental issues see to conservatives to be hysterical, power hungry, dishonest fanatics who must be stopped. The style of the Al Gores of the world is almost designed to get conservatives to stop listening.

2. much environmental regulation really does come down to empowering a government agency to empower a functionary to tell someone to stop doing something that doesn't seem to be hurting anybody right that second. This situation grates against both the libertarian and the populist inclinations in conservatism.

3. Conservatives haven't prospered from the environmental issue. Taxes, welfare, crime, national defense, abortion to a lesser extent yes, but not the environment. The tendency is to let the Left have the edge on that issue, hope that the conservative advantages on other issues outweigh the conservative weakness on the environment with the voters and use the ensuing power to block the liberals from implementing their worst ideas. This is similar to how conservatives have dealt with the healthcare issue.

Global Warming was invented to expand government, transfer wealth and soveriegnty to the UN and to sell carbon credits. And to fill the heathen's need for a feel-good yet undemanding religion.

Financially, it is a bottomless rat hole. It is criminal to pour money down it when there is so very much real need. But Obama will use it for it's intended purpose. "Neve let a crisis go to waste"--even a manufactured one.

I call this the Federalist solution: rather than eliminating the liberty that causes pollution, we seek to control its effects.

Interesting thought line. What was the "Federalist" solution to slavery? What is the "Federalist" solution to the problem of who is and who is not a human being (i.e. Abortion)?

Obviously, I am skeptical that the term "Federalist" can even be used today - did not it die when Lincoln destroyed it with his war and centralization? Is not the evidence overwhelming today that the "old Republic" is dead? Do not the anthropology issues (slavery in the past, unborn children today) explode the notion that the USA is in any sense "Federalist"? Could you academic boys stop protecting your jobs and get serious (that's toung in cheak, but with an elament of truth of course)! :)

Pete,

Your three reasons are sociological, tactical, etc. - and in that sense they are cynical. They have nothing to do with the TRUTH of the matter. Perhaps they are worth an academic paper, but they don't address the real issues...

Christopher, sure they address sociological and tactical issues. Those issues shape how many conservatives respond to issues that touch on the environment. They naren't the only issues of course, but they are legitimate for trying to help figure out why our politics is the way it is. Not the whole truth by any means, but a part of it.

Part of the problem for conservatives re: environmental issues is also a lack of internal consensus on principle--the libertarian free market folks want business to be untethered from restraint from either govt or nature and more traditional conservatives who see nature as more than fodder for labor actually want to conserve some of it. In some obvious senses, the cause of environmental conservation is deeply conservative. The greens have done a saavy job of making their advocacy young and fashionable and also have done a good job of selling the drama that always attaches to any screeching alarmism. It would be great if somehow conservatives could win some ground by demonstrating that their position, one of cautious skepticism, is more science based than the leftist politicization of science, especially since making an argument for an anthropocentrism, properly understood probably wont win many converts

Pete,

I think you overstate the case. Such as "Conservatives haven't prospered from the environmental issue." Do you REALLY think any conservative thinks this way? Party hacks might, but not conservatives or anyone else interested in reality.

No, we are interested in the TRUTH, scientifically, morally, politically. You can't explain the reaction to Al Gore as an unthinking "populist" reaction that is disconnected to whether the philosophy Al Gore is proposing is reality...

Christopher, look at conservative journalists, and popularizers over the last thirty or so years. How much energy have they spent putting forward their own environmental policies (as against opposing liberal policies) vs cutting the capital gains tax? Which more engaged the conservative grassroots over the last several years, a postive set environmental issues or earmarks? Its not just a matter of being interested in reality vs. being a party hack. There has been a disinclination among most conservatives to engage in environmental issues. This has led to conservatives responding to issues that matter to the public by (in Ross Douthat's phrase) "answering questions the public isn't asking". This doesn't mean moving in the Al Gore direction. Quite the opposite. Recognizing the need for a positive agenda might help conservatives push environmental policy in a more healthy and rational direction. The more that the public sees the environment as a "liberal" issue, the more liberal our environmental policy will be.

The recognition among conservatives that their failure to offer positive alternatives to liberal welfare policies had made welfare policy more destructive was a major step in creating a conservative movement towards the welfare reform of 1996. What is true of environmental policy is even more true of healthcare policy.

How much energy have they spent putting forward their own environmental policies (as against opposing liberal policies) vs cutting the capital gains tax?

Not much, thank goodness! It's a sign of correct priorities. Responding or "opposing" Green philosophy is all we should be doing, not creating our own "green philosophy" simply because someone else does.

This has led to conservatives responding to issues that matter to the public by (in Ross Douthat's phrase) "answering questions the public isn't asking".

You and Julie make this argument quite often, that conservatives (and the country) need some sort of populist program. You confuse the "public" with liberals. The "public" is not asking for a green policy from conservatives, they are simply asking for the truth. We give them the truth by responding, not inventing our own silly green policy.

Recognizing the need for a positive agenda might help conservatives push environmental policy in a more healthy and rational direction.

Which is exactly what we do when we support clean water, but counter the global warming scare with truth.

The more that the public sees the environment as a "liberal" issue, the more liberal our environmental policy will be.

So whoever asserts falsehood the strongest wins? Whoever makes a "program" or an "issue" defines it, and the way to counter this is not the truth but with yet another "issue" or "program" that is as big and ridiculous as the first. Again, you and Julie seem to go down this road allot. I say the "public" sees right through this posturing and looks for the truth.

What is true of environmental policy is even more true of healthcare policy.

As someone who makes his living in healthcare I fear "conservatives" like yourself meddling more than they already have. "Conservatives" like yourself brought us the Prescription Drug Giveaway. "Conservatives" like yourself respond to entitlements by tweaking the entitlement. You strike me as someone more interested in getting elected (by appealing to base populist instincts) rather than furthering anything resembling a conservative polity...

Christopher, believe me there is nothing that I am less interested in than getting elected to anything.

Developing environmental policies is not at all the same as embracing "green philosophy". The fact that many people are convinced that the two are similar is a sign of conservative problems on the issue.

I don't confuse the public with liberals. You confuse people who trust liberals more on the environment than conservatives with liberals. Some of them are liberals but many are just people who notice that liberals seem to have a plan and interest in the issue. That means that in the long run, worse liberal ideas will prevail over better conservative ideas unless something changes.

Does it occur to you that the slow motion conservative surrender on health care policy is directly related to conservative disinterest is free market reforms of health care policy? Conservative politicians (who have to get elected if they are going to keep their jobs) end up making compormises on liberal terms because the public is concerned about healthcare and liberal policies are the only ones that the public has been exposed to in any detail. The failure is partly the fault of conservative politicians. Bush would have been smarter to use his post 2004 "capital" on a free market oriented healthcare reform program than on his doomed Social Security reform program. But the blame is not Bush's alone. There was very little energy for a conservative healthcare reform program from the conservative grassroots or from the journalistic and popularizing outlets of the Right (some policy wonks to their great credit were working on it but they had a tiny audience). So the Left got the initiative.

Chistopher, take them one at a time,

1. Once again, you are confusing people who prefer liberals to conservatives on the environment (however vaguely) to some ideological group that they may but probably don't belong to, first liberals and then "Big Business Libertarians". I wish Big Business Libertarians were our biggest proplem.

Moving most people to an individually owned insurance system (yes even including HSAs but not as the centerpiece), transparant pricing, and direct subsidies to caregivers (who might be family members) are being talked about by conservatives. Very, very few conservatives as compared to other issues - like earmarks for instance. What fraction of the public that has a middling interest in politics has heard of and has a working compehension of those ideas? Now how many of them know about the bridge to nowhere? That is what I'm talking about regarding conservative disinterest in health care reform.

If you don't think that liberals have the initiative on healthcare, then you won't mind the millions who have been added to the government provided healthcare rolls since January and the likely more to be added in the months and years to come. That doesn't mean the liberal edge is invincible bu they are on a policy roll and conservative counter ideas really are poorly understood by the general public.

I'll ask: Does it occur to you that the worst parts of the prescription drug plan and its support by otherwise conservative politicians is not just the fault of Rokefeller, Libertarian Big Business,psuedo conservative, Republican perfidity, that the public understanding of the issues involved favored an accomadation on liberal terms and that this faulty public understanding is partly the fault of conservatives broadly (with a few notable exceptions) who have neglected the issue in terms of time and energy spend on it.

What fraction of the public that has a middling interest in politics has heard of and has a working comprehension of those ideas? Now how many of them know about the bridge to nowhere?

This comparison is strained. What fraction of the public has a "working comprehension" of the banking system? Now how many of them know we are in an "economic crises"?

Of course more understand the sound bite friendly "bridge to nowhere". How many of them understand the nature of the "bridge loans to nowhere" the gov is passing out to auto, banking, and insurance industries.

Again, I just don't buy your allegation of "conservative disinterest in health care reform". Conservatives understand better than anyone what most are calling "reform" is simply gov takeover of the sector, and THAT has to be communicated first and foremost.

Does it occur to you

Well yes, it occurs to me, but then after due consideration I reject the analysis. The Prescription Drug Giveaway, the WHOLE THING (not "parts" as you describe) is a new entitlement that transfers wealth from everyone else to the richest demographic in our country (those 65 and over). It was a crass attempt to buy the votes of the AARP on one hand, and appear "compassionate" to certain constituencies that don't vote for the GOP in the first place. It was as liberal as it could be. It was NOT due to "faulty understanding" by the public. The public was not even aware they needed it until Big Business Libertarian Rockefeller GOP told them they needed it. It was a complete lack of conservative leadership in the GOP, not a failure of a broader public conversation/understanding.

I think the root of our disagreement lies in who and what is "conservative" and it's relationship to electoral politics, as well as different understandings of what the public perceives...

Christopher, I actually believe that you hit a good point when you say we define conservatism differently and different understandings of public perceptions. By conservatives I mean self described conservatives in politics, media (whether journalists and popularizers) and those who would identify themselves as conservatives in public opinion polls. Now some of them are delusional and some are being dishonest but the vast majority would well be placed in the conservative side of the American debate. My point was that this very broad and diverse group has tended to be less interested in issues of environmental and healtcare policy (in the sense of offering their own policies rather than oppossing liberal policies) vs issues like reforming earmarks or cutting the capital gains tax. I'm comfortable with that conclusion and I think that a study of conservatism's main journals, most popular blogs, or the monologues and callers of your more popular conservative talk show hosts prior to the last year will bear me out - though I'm too lazy to do such a study. You might have a narrower definition of conservatism but then we are talking about two different things.

About the public understanding of conservative welfare reform proposals: I wish. I suspect that maybe one person in a hundred can give you one conservative idea regarding reforming healthcare and what benefits they might bring. With liberals they can at least mention expanding Medicaid coverage "for children". That is not really the general public's fault. Conservative's have managed to communicate their policy ideas on welfare, crime, drilling and a whole bunch of other issues. A conservative healthcare strategy that focuses on oppossing bad liberal plans rather than explaining why conservative changes are better for most people (lower cost, less anxiety if you change jobs or have a short episode of unemployment) is simply a slow motion surrender to liberal plans. That, I think is not a principled difference between us but a tactical one.

You confuse people who trust liberals more on the environment than conservatives with liberals.

And to a pattern, you confuse conservatives with the Big Business libertarians who run the GOP. Of course one should trust liberals more - I trust them more on something you are vaguely describing as "environmental issues". BUT one should trust (and I believe they public does also) trust conservatives more.

Does it occur to you that the slow motion conservative surrender on health care policy is directly related to conservative disinterest is free market reforms of health care policy?

At the risk of sounding confrontational, but what planet are you on? The only folks talking about "free market reforms" are the conservatives. Transparency in pricing for example, or (miracles of miracles) reducing or eliminating the de facto price control structure that government has implemented through Medicare. Where do you think these ideas are coming from? As for "conservative politicians" which ones are you talking about? Certainly not McCain, whose health care reform ideas made Obama's look sensible. Certainly not Bush and the "conservative revolutionary" congress of 94-06 who gave us the Prescription Drug Giveaway in an attempt to buy of the AARP crowd (which did not work).

The failure is partly the fault of conservative politicians. Bush would have been smarter to use his post 2004 "capital" on a free market oriented healthcare reform program than on his doomed Social Security reform program.

I disagree. Bush's attempt at SS reform was one of the few good things he did. His efforts on health care "reform" was simply to expand it. What are you talking about here??

I don't think the left has the initiative, in that more and more folks are realizing what government health care will look like. Conservatives realize how good we have it (our health care system outside of the government ran parts is in pretty good shape) and so are right to point out how ridiculous "universal" health care is without coming up with a grand plan of their own.

Perhaps you should define what you mean by "free market reforms"...

Instead of offering their own policies, just expose the lies. People are suckers for the truth. I think you assume that policy is effected by public opinion though, I am much less in that category. I think the government/media complex does what they want then tells people what they ought to think, the people wearily resist but have no real inclination or method to fight it. By the way anyone else think Wierd Science was an underated John Hughes movie?

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