22 Aug 2014

Conservatives Shouldn’t Trust Irwin Stelzer on Carbon Tax

Climate Change, Shameless Self-Promotion 13 Comments

Irwin Stelzer is an establishment figure in conservative circles (he was editor of The Neocon Reader for example). He has been pushing conservatives to embrace a carbon tax, and recently had a piece in The Weekly Standard to that effect. I respond at IER. An excerpt:

As Stelzer himself notes, many of the people clamoring for a carbon tax are not doing so because they are sleepless at 3am, worrying about atmospheric CO2 concentrations. No, many of the most powerful people pushing a carbon tax (and other “green” policies) do so because they have a disposition of favoring central planning over market outcomes. (That’s why, for example, so many of the people who warn about the imminent threats from CO2 emissions also oppose nuclear power, even though it is emission-free.)

Stelzer is right when he considers Krugman’s hypocrisy on these matters;Krugman only pays lip service to the “market solution” of a carbon tax, and has no problem with the EPA acting directly to shut down coal-fired power plants since Krugman thinks it’s obvious that this is the “optimal” outcome.

Yet Krugman’s hypocrisy on this point is hardly a reason to call his bluff, as Stelzer recommends. If the U.S. government were to implement a carbon tax, and if this allowed coal-fired plants to survive, Krugman then would claim that the carbon tax wasn’t high enough, or that it needed to be supplemented by other top-down interventions. He wouldn’t shrug his shoulders and say, “Aww shucks, you wily conservatives got me, I guess coal-fired power plants are good for America after all.”

13 Responses to “Conservatives Shouldn’t Trust Irwin Stelzer on Carbon Tax”

  1. Josiah says:

    Who cares what Krugman would say?

    • Bob Murphy says:

      You read the whole article right?

      • Z says:

        You know, in India, some people dry cow dung and then burn it for fuel. Maybe the EPA will recommend that as an excellent alternative. Some of their employees are experts on this subject:


        • Joseph Fetz says:

          Yes Z, they do do that. But they also shit in the streets whenever the feeling hits, and there are cows–who are left to roam wherever they may decide to go–shitting everywhere all day long. So flammable shit is probably a very good resource.

          In fact, they also have pig farms where they direct the gases to a funnel at the roof and light it in order to ensure that there is always a lit flame by which they can ignite their other organic fuels.

          I’ve actually been to India, as well as many other countries, nations, and cultures around the world. They’re essentially doing the best that they can with the resources and capital that they have.

          It’s no different than in the West, the only difference is the amount of accumulated capital at their disposal and a few cultural disconnects.

          • Z says:

            Yeah, I wasn’t poking fun at Indians, more the EPA in the news story.

            • Joseph Fetz says:

              I knew that you weren’t, just as I knew that Josiah didn’t read the article. And I obviously don’t fall into that category either (I was just explaining India). To be honest, I was just injecting my own opinion in response to these things.

              In fact, if you read what I said above, I was actually agreeing with you, even if it was indeed somewhat provocative.

  2. Philippe says:

    “That’s why, for example, so many of the people who warn about the imminent threats from CO2 emissions also oppose nuclear power, even though it is emission-free.)”

    you don’t think there’s any other reason why environmentalists would oppose nuclear power?

    • Z says:

      Nuclear power is natural and organic, like everything else we make, including plastic. It’s great for the environment, because it’s a part of the environment.

    • Ivan Jankovic says:

      why do they oppose fracking, in addition to nuclear power? They haven’t yet met any marginally successful form of energy they would not hate. They like only those energy sources that are patently incapable of providing cheap and reliable energy, such as wind or solar.

    • Grane Peer says:

      Philippe, I don’t really know what motivates an environmentalist, presumably the environment. Seems like if they were concerned about the environment they would be advocating shutting down old plants and building new “safer” plants. If I was an environmentalist I think I would advocate capping volcanoes and tsunami prevention devices. Oh, wait a minute, those are natural parts of the environment. I guess my motivation is just controlling what people do.

  3. Tel says:

    There’s good and bad in a carbon tax. If you are not sure of any of the outcomes (neither what the tax will do, nor what the climate will do in response) you can bring in a carbon tax at sa low level and gradually crank it up.

    This still doesn’t solve the problem of government spending (which remains out of control) nor does it solve the problem of government regulating all business activity to death. Those are separate problems, but the fact is government is going to tax something. Carbon tax is easy to repeal if it turns out badly, while trying to repeal other things like carbon trading requires government to take back property rights.

    The bad thing is that we can be pretty confident that none of this has significant effect on the climate.

  4. Tel says:


    I guess a lot of the problems we face are trust problems one way or another.

  5. Robert says:

    Why does every progressive proposal have to be a secret attempt to control people? Could it be possible that they are not supervillians with plans for world domination? Maybe its tome to ease off on the paranoia.

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