Who needs a "Fairness" Doctrine ...

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

... when everyone is this wrong anyway?

I was originally going to limit my response to this article, about Republican support for imposing an inane "carbon tax" as a response to global warming hysteria, to rolling my eyes. It was on the lefty web site, Slate, after all.

And then I saw this other article, which "opposes" this tax on the very same grounds!

And so I looked into both a little more. Global warming hysteria, as it turns out, is not the only thing that is causing these "fiscal conservatives" to pretend that the government is supposed to forget about individual rights. For example, Alan Greenspan sees the notion of a carbon tax as a "national security issue" -- as if reimposing the Arab Oil Embargo on ourselves through high taxes can take the place of fighting to defeat the Islamofascists.

On reinspection, I must confess to being surprised at myself for not being as alarmed as I should have been about the first article, which opens in this way:

Two days after the election, a movement is afoot to achieve an audacious Democratic goal. The weird part is that the people behind it are Republicans.

In a Nov. 9 Wall Street Journal op-ed, former Bush speechwriter David Frum suggested that President Bush propose a carbon tax. N. Gregory Mankiw, former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Bush White House, suggested the same thing in an Oct. 20 op-ed in the Journal, and former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan talked it up in late September. Harvard's Martin Feldstein and Weekly Standard contributing editor Irwin Stelzer like the idea, too. Slate "Moneybox" columnist Dan Gross took note of this unexpected GOP trend in an Oct. 8 New York Times column ("Raise the Gasoline Tax? Funny, It Doesn't Sound Republican").
Meanwhile, over at TCS Daily, Ted Balaker of the Reason Foundation objects to all of this, praising President Bush for "refus[ing] to budge". Balaker is a Libertarian. That means he opposed all government intrusion into the economy for any purpose other than protecting citizens from crime or enforcing contractual agreements, right?


The following excerpt provides his idea of small government, complete with its rationale. I mean, excuse.
Many hope that higher gas taxes will curb American's appetite for driving. If we drove less, we'd pollute less and wouldn't have to worry as much about global warming.


Our reliance on gas taxes means that drivers pay for roads when they're at the gas station, not when they're actually using them. The result is traffic congestion. And that congestion frustrates the environmental goals of those who support higher gas taxes.


[T]ransitioning to tolls gets harder as gas taxes get higher. At $4.24 per gallon, Britain has Europe's highest gas tax. It's made tolling a tougher sell as Brits demand to know why they should pay more when they already pay so much. American reformers may regard tolling as even more of a political long-shot than raising the gas tax, but there are signs that motorists are warming to tolls. [link dropped]
Got that? The purpose of our government isn't to protect our rights. It is to take money from us in the name of preventing global warming through forcing us to use less gasoline. And a high tax, although it might affect what the proles do, it is not only probably less effective at causing the desired outcome, it may be easier to dupe them into accepting more "effective" tolls instead. As an added bonus, Balaker says nothing about tolls as being a good first step towards privatization of the highway system or even as a replacement for taxes. He sees them as a "revenue source" -- for the government, of course!

In fact, neither article mentions the word "rights" a single, solitary time. It appears that even the "better" part of the conservative movement is infested with such vermin as environmentalists openly calling for higher taxes and those who would rather use national defense as an excuse to smuggle in bad domestic policy than as a rationale to argue for a more vigorous prosecution of the war.

But wait! There's more! Although the Slate article crows about Republican "triangulation" and kicks off with a post-election editorial, note that much of this conservative foolishness was taking place before the election. This means that the Republicans were building momentum for this portion of the Democrat agenda long ago. C. Bradley Thompson is vindicated once again. And Robert Tracinski's advice to rout the left looks farther off the mark by the day, given what is being "debated" on the right.

-- CAV


Anonymous said...

Yes but as Tracinski explained to us in today's TIA Daily, because he is a serious journalist he is connected to the facts of reality and therefore not a floating rationalist like Leanord Peikoff who places too much emphasis on abstract ideas. Tracinski is thus immune from all those errors that other less enlightened Objectivists are and he can continue to give us such stellar political commentary like how important it is that we be "persistent" in our pursuit of the Foward Strategy of Freedom. Also, without Tracinski we would never know that soccer is a socialist, nihilistic game that attacks achievement because players can't use their hands.

I feel better now.

D. Eastbrook

Gus Van Horn said...

"[W]ithout Tracinski we would never know that soccer is a socialist, nihilistic game that attacks achievement because players can't use their hands." [My link. Awhile back, it was actually a top search result for "Tracinski" on Google!]

With commentary like that coming from him, Jack Wakeland's "doing the enemy's work" screed, and the absurdly irregular publication frequency of the print edition of TIA, the team there is certainly not doing a great job of cultivating a receptive audience among Objectivists.

For now, I'm leaving it at that.

Anonymous said...

Here are the two biggest problems with the Tracinski "debate" argument for voting Republican:

1) The best elements of the right that he mentioned (e.g., Victor Davis Hanson) were not, as far as I could tell, actually running for political office.

2) About the Republicans who *were* actually running for office, I learned this from a recent issue of *The Economist*:

"But in general the Republicans have smothered debate. Omnibus bills, thousands of pages long, have been voted through in the small hours on the nod. The number of days the House spent sitting in 2006 was the lowest in 60 years."

Gus Van Horn said...

Thank you for your comment.

The two points you make are true and they speak ill of the GOP, but I do not see them as being the two biggest problems with his argument.

Tracinski's argument, as I understand it, is that all the substantive debate about political ideas now occurs on the right and that the left is only a distraction. The biggest problem is that in many cases (e.g., this one), there is little or no substantive debate going on within the right and that it seems to have simply coopted a slower version of the poison of the left. If this is so, and after examining some evidence like this on my own, I have concluded that it is, the public debate would not have been advanced by trouncing the left.

Instead, a large faction -- evil though it be -- with a vested interest in thwarting the GOP would be sidelined and the path left clear for the GOP to enact the very same agenda unchecked and unexamined because the GOP is not so obviously motivated by animosity towards America. This is the problem with Tracinski's argument.

Perhaps one day, if the GOP learns anything, it will become time for such a step. But that time has not, in my estimation, arrived.