I Should Be Sent to the Corner
May 14, 2015 Central Planning

I promised myself this year that I would not comment on what the kids at Vox are up to. I found this one particularly interesting:

The arguments that convinced a libertarian to support aggressive action on climate

Now, the arguments themselves are very reasonable and the position that this libertarian takes seem reasonable enough to many people. The point, rather, well, there are many. Here are a couple. The title says “aggressive action.” If you asked many people what “aggressive action” means, particularly many of the fans of Vox, would they imagine that aggressive action includes, “the removal of other climate regulations, notably EPA carbon rules and state renewable energy mandates?” Would they think that ending CAFE standards and ending green building standards and subsidies for biofuels and subsidies for solar panels and so on constitute “aggressive” action on climate? Well, I will be the FIRST libertarian to have been on record saying he supports very strong carbon taxes in exchange for ending all direct regulation of energy and climate and all subsidies thereof. In addition, when a Voxer thinks, “aggressive action on climate change” and they favor taxes on pollution, do you think they have a sense for how large a tax we are talking?

A decent rule of thumb, based on how much carbon is released in the combustion of common motor fuels, is that every dollar of damage the IPCC thinks a ton of CO2 causes, that the socially optimal gasoline tax (that’s actually not the right tax, but we’ll leave that for another post) would increase by 1 cent per gallon. The mid-range estimate for damages from the most recent IPCC report, which is massively uncertain (actually that’s unfair, it’s not uncertain, it’s almost entirely assumption driven) are on the order of $30 per ton. Let’s double it for the sake of being “aggressive” or perhaps even triple it. How many Voxers think the world would change if the price of gasoline were increased by 30 cents per gallon? 60 cents? 90 cents? Remember, the price of gas just a year ago was pushing $4.00 per gallon. It’s $2.80 by me now.

The other point is that the Voxers per usual have this “Oh My Gosh, we found a formerly dogmatic libertarian who changed his mind, and this is why OUR SIDE is right!” attitude in their writing. If I excerpted stuff from the last 10 days you wouldn’t believe it. I am sure President Obama is going to be coming forth soon with a speech on how polarizing news sources like Vox are. But they dedicate two days of a story on one guy that many libertarians couldn’t even name. ONE libertarian changes his mind and wants “aggressive” action on climate and it’s news? 1 out of how many? Are there more? Look, again, there are good reasons to switch your mind on this issue, that is not what is at issue here, the newsorthiness of it, or the information content embedded in the switch is.

Is Vox going to run articles about climate scientists who no longer support aggressive action on climate? Or of libertarians such as myself who once used to support aggressive action on climate but no longer do? Hey, look, I just found one, and he’s more well known than me, or perhaps even the CEO of the Niskanen Center: Ken Green, who we once had out at our old firm’s conference on climate change. Here he demonstrates exactly the opposite as the Vox piece did. So that’s one prominent “freedom lover” who changed his mind in a pro-Vox fashion and another who changed it away.

If the Voxers wish to convince me that “we” need to take aggressive action on climate change, they will first have to stop doing things like this. My default position is to not trust ANYONE on issues of policy, particularly climate. There would have to be a lot that changes to convince me to believe many people. More on that in a future post.


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