An Idea Whose Time has Come – Reclaiming the “Conserve” in Conservatism

April 9, 2013

In the video above, I contrasted the wreckage of Fox-encrusted, racist, theocratic, knee-jerk  know-nothing, tea pottied nativist reflexes that “conservativism” has become, with something closer to actual conservatism as we used to know it – featuring Margaret Thatcher’s address to the United Nations in which she warned urgently about climate change.  Thatcher had an actual science background, and shows in the video clips above just how much she was listening to purported “advice” from idiots like “Lord” Monckton.


“We must remember our duty to Nature before it is too late. That duty is constant. It is never completed. It lives on as we breathe. It endures as we eat and sleep, work and rest, as we are born and as we pass away. The duty to Nature will remain long after our own endeavors have brought peace to the Middle East. It will weigh on our shoulders for as long as we wish to dwell on a living and thriving planet, and hand it on to our children and theirs.” –Speech to World Climate Conference, November 6, 1990

More evidence of a gathering initiative  to reclaim the “conserve” in “conservatism”.  This week, former Reagan Secretary of State George Schultz cowrote a piece in the Wall Street Journal arguing the merits of a price on carbon – to begin reflecting something dimly approximating the actual costs to society of fossil fuel dependence.

Daily Caller:

Conservative economists George Schultz and Gary Becker wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal Monday advocating for a revenue-neutral carbon tax on the grounds that it will level the playing field for energy producers and eliminate wasteful energy subsidies.

“Clearly, a revenue-neutral carbon tax would benefit all Americans by eliminating the need for costly energy subsidies while promoting a level playing field for energy producers,” wrote Schultz and Becker in the Journal.

Schultz and Becker invoked the conservative argument that fossil fuel energy producers should not receive any special privileges and should pay the full cost of their actions. In this case, that would mean paying for the social costs imposed on public health and the climate from emitting carbon dioxide.

Schultz and Becker in the WSJ:

Americans like to compete on a level playing field. All the players should have an equal opportunity to win based on their competitive merits, not on some artificial imbalance that gives someone or some group a special advantage.

We think this idea should be applied to energy producers. They all should bear the full costs of the use of the energy they provide. Most of these costs are included in what it takes to produce the energy in the first place, but they vary greatly in the price imposed on society by the pollution they emit and its impact on human health and well-being, the air we breathe and the climate we create. We should identify these costs and see that they are attributed to the form of energy that causes them.

At the same time, we should seek out the many forms of subsidy that run through the entire energy enterprise and eliminate them. In their place we propose a measure that could go a long way toward leveling the playing field: a revenue-neutral tax on carbon, a major pollutant. A carbon tax would encourage producers and consumers to shift toward energy sources that emit less carbon—such as toward gas-fired power plants and away from coal-fired plants—and generate greater demand for electric and flex-fuel cars and lesser demand for conventional gasoline-powered cars.

In the case of administration by the IRS, an annual distribution could be made to every taxpayer and recipient of the Earned Income Tax Credit. In the case of the SSA, the distribution could be made, in terms proportionate to the dollars involved, to everyone either paying into the system or receiving benefits from it. In any case, checks to recipients should be identified as “Your carbon dividend.”

The authors recommended “reasonable and sustained” R&D in the energy area, but subsidies to particular energy forms should be phased out, and would “eliminate any program (loan guarantees, etc.) that tempts the government to get into commercial activities.”

Salt Lake Tribune:

When Utah’s newest congressman opined last month that he isn’t convinced that human activity is responsible for climate change, or that climate change is as much of a threat as scientists are warning it is, he took a position that a new poll suggests increasing numbers of his own Republican Party are abandoning. So, too, are more and more independents who lean toward the GOP.

The results of the poll by George Mason and Yale universities released last week show that more than three quarters of the 726 Republicans and independents polled favor using renewable energy much or somewhat more than it is today. Only slightly fewer indicated that moving toward alternative energies should begin immediately.

Without reading too much into the results of a single poll, it is possible to interpret them as an encouraging sign that the political polarization that has grown up around the science of climate change and development of renewable forms of energy finally is beginning to crack.

Given the gravity of the threat posed by the greenhouse-gas emissions that are causing the planet to warm, it would be welcome news indeed if the poll accurately reflects the beginnings of a bipartisan consensus on climate change and what should be done about it. For without that consensus, still more time will be wasted before the United States acts decisively to limit carbon emissions, time that scientists say is in dangerously short supply if the worst consequences of climate change are to be avoided.

Arnold Schwarzenegger in the LATimes:

This team of top climate scientists has concluded that our region of the country is hotter than it has ever been and that it will get hotter — because of humans. The last decade was the hottest the Southwestern U.S. has experienced — on average 2 degrees warmer than it had been historically. The scientists project a further increase over the next 50 years of 6 to 9 degrees if we do nothing.

The report should be a wake-up call for leaders in Washington to overcome gridlock and start working on solutions. For models of how to proceed, they need only look to California and other states and cities that have begun to move forward in a bipartisan way.

The first step for policymakers — and for ordinary citizens too — is to understand the situation we face, which means carefully reading the National Climate Assessment. It may not be as gripping to look at or have the provocative appeal of a raging wildfire or another act of God, but the knowledge in this report is crucial to understanding how to change, to adapt, to prevent and to prepare for future disasters.

It’s our duty to pay attention.

Cass Sunstein in the NYTimes:

The Reagan administration was generally skeptical about costly environmental rules, but with respect to protection of the ozone layer, Reagan was an environmentalist hero. Under his leadership, the United States became the prime mover behind the Montreal Protocol, which required the phasing out of ozone-depleting chemicals.

There is a real irony here. Republicans and conservatives had ridiculed scientists who expressed concern about the destruction of the ozone layer. How did Ronald Reagan, of all people, come to favor aggressive regulatory steps and lead the world toward a strong and historic international agreement?

A large part of the answer lies in a tool disliked by many progressives but embraced by Reagan (and Mr. Obama): cost-benefit analysis. Reagan’s economists found that the costs of phasing out ozone-depleting chemicals were a lot lower than the costs of not doing so — largely measured in terms of avoiding cancers that would otherwise occur. Presented with that analysis, Reagan decided that the issue was pretty clear.


10 Responses to “An Idea Whose Time has Come – Reclaiming the “Conserve” in Conservatism”

  1. daveburton Says:

    Fortunately, Dame Thatcher changed her opinion about climate change when she got more information. You could learn from her.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      Regretably, as dementia set in. The question remains, could Ms Thatcher have mentioned Darwin favorably at this year’s CPAC, or last years GOP convention, without being booed off the stage?

      • daveburton Says:

        That was beneath you, Peter.

        Thatcher saw the light on climate change before her dementia set it in. Her first stroke was in 2002, after she’d written Statecraft, the book in which she laid out her objections to CAGW hysteria.

        “Margaret Thatcher was the first leader to warn of global warming – but also the first to see the flaws in the climate change orthodoxy”Booker subtitle

        • uknowispeaksense Says:

          Answer the question Dave.

        • andrewfez Says:

          I believe her dementia was first noticed in 2000, by her daughter, when Thatcher was getting the Faulklands mixed up with another war. This was 2 years before her series of mini-strokes (multi infarct dementia), and it was probable that it was Alzheimer’s type dementia, which can sometimes be a long and slow process in the attenuation of cognitive function, thus making it further probable that she was mildly suffering from it before her daughter noticed it. It could even be that her diagnosis was delayed as she was in a position where she was coddled, secondary to her celebrity status: she probably, for instance, wouldn’t be stuck at the grocery store, unable to remember how to get home, as she probably had someone that did that for her.

          Statecraft was published in 2002, and mentions stuff from September 2001, thus at least part of the book was written under the influence of her Alzheimer’s. (Having no interest in Thatcher, nor her books, I cannot with confidence say whether or not it was actually written by her or instead by a ghost writer – such being a common phenomenon, concerning celebrity books).

          In Alzheimer’s Disease, one’s ability for abstract thinking is eventually destroyed. Judgement calls are poor. Their personality can change and as well their emotional state (one can become paranoid/suspicious, depressed, agitated, etc.).

          So the question is then: when one is having trouble discriminating between a war they played a major role in versus some other war (sorry don’t have the details here – google it), and are likely in the mild to moderate stage of Alzheimer’s, are they at all competent on deciding whether or not climate change is a pressing issue? Heck even folks whose wits are totally intact, and are otherwise intelligent people have trouble connecting the dots on climate change.

  2. […] Margaret Thatcher, in her prime, would’ve ended the whole climate change debate. [CDCW] […]

  3. “the wreckage of Fox-encrusted, racist, theocratic, knee-jerk know-nothing, tea pottied nativist reflexes that “conservativism” has become …”

    Now that’s what I call having a view!

    Thanks for the first laugh of the day!!

  4. […] In the video above, I contrasted the wreckage of Fox-encrusted, racist, theocratic, knee-jerk know-nothing, tea pottied nativist reflexes that "conservativism" has become, with something closer to…  […]

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