Wednesday, December 23, 2015

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em … sorta

People Who Were Certain Climate Change Is Fake Are Now Certain That Paris Can’t Stop It

By Jonathan Chait, New Yorker

The most unintentionally revealing commentary on the Paris climate agreement came from National Review senior editor David Pryce-Jones. “I know next to nothing about the technicalities of the subject, but caught on television news bulletins great wafts of hot air,” he confessed. “It was highly enjoyable to hear President Obama claiming to be saving the planet that his foreign policy has done much to endanger … You don’t have to be a cynic to think that most countries, China and India in the lead, are never going to do anything that might harm their economic development, nor will rich countries commit economic suicide.” This was a real-time window into the conservative mind processing the Paris climate agreement, beginning from a point of frank incomprehension of (and lack of interest in) any specifics of the issue, and proceeding immediately to the conviction that the deal would fail.

Conservative economic thought is structurally different from liberal thought. Liberal support for expanded government is based entirely in practical expectation that new programs can deliver concrete results — cleaner air, healthier children, higher wages for low-income workers, and so on. Conservative antipathy to expanded government is based ultimately on philosophical opposition. For that reason, data can change liberal economic thinking in a way it can’t change conservative economic thinking. Liberals would abandon, say, new environmental regulations if evidence persuaded them the program was not actually improving the environment, because bigger government is merely the means to an end. No evidence could persuade conservatives to support new environmental regulations, because conservatives consider small government a worthy end for itself. (As Milton Friedman once put it, “Freedom in economic arrangements is itself a component of freedom broadly understood, so economic freedom is an end in itself.”)

(More here.)

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