By Robert H.
Charlie's been raising good points in the comments to my last post that have convinced me that 1. The post wasn't well written, 2. My ideas were muddied.
So, rather than simply assert that coming up with a unique, conservative environmental plan is really hard, I'm going to try to demonstrate it. Over the next few days I am going to examine every plausible principle I can think of that could underlie conservative environmental policy. I'll start with the principles that I think underlay conservative environmental policy in the 70's, then look at the new principles that Adler outlined in his paper, then look at all the other principles I can think up. I suspect I'll find that principles either, 1. Aren't that useful, 2. Aren't that uniquely conservative, or 3. Aren't that important. But maybe not!
But first, I want to clarify what I mean when I say "conservatives don't have a workable, unique environmental policy." Because I don't mean a lot of things. I don't mean: 1. Liberals are right on all environmental policy questions, 2. The policies and ideas that comprise the liberal status quo all come from liberals. Cap and trade, for example, was a conservative idea before liberals embraced it. 3. In the future everyone is going to agree on environmental policy. 4. There aren't dumb liberal ideas that conservatives will never embrace, or 5. liberals will, in the future, have a unique environmental vision.
To understand what I do mean, think about military policy. Liberals and conservatives used to have BIG differences when it came to the military: liberal Machiavelli thought the military should be composed of volunteer citizens, conservative Louis IV was all about standing armies, Thomas Jefferson wanted militias, Napoleon liked conscription, conservatives tended to what an officer class drawn from the aristocracy, liberals wanted a meritocratic military, the USSR abolished officers, then it brought them back, etc. Most recently, there have been fights over whether homosexuals can serve and whether women can serve in every role.
Well, most of that is settled in America, and conservatives and liberals don't much have big ideological differences anymore. At least, not compared to centuries past. Large, standing, volunteer, army. Officers class is defined by having a college degree and getting into and passing certain training programs. People are promoted base on need and merit in an up-or-out system. Five branches. Etc.
But that doesn't mean that conservatives and liberals agree on military policy, it just means they aren't fighting fundamental ideological battles. There are still questions of whether funding should go up or down, what wars should we fight, how should we address rape, should we pay more attention to higher education credentials when promoting officers, should we fund this program or that one, etc. So while I think it would be accurate to say, "liberals and conservatives can't articulate plausible, fundamentally different visions about the military," it's still true that there is plenty for them to fight about, and clear differences between the parties.
That's where I see environmental policy headed. The big, fundamental ideological differences between the parties are becoming less and less tenable, and differences are starting to be matters of "is this specific policy right or wrong," not big questions like "should the federal government regulate water?"
So, since I see convergence between the parties, and could just as fairly say "in the future liberals won't be able to articulate a clear, ideological difference on environmentalism," why am I focusing on the conservative side of the story? Because they are fighting this convergence the hardest! Adler's essay outlines three paths for conservatives: 1. Just sort of reflexively oppose all environmental regulation ever, 2. Basically call for the same things as the liberals but on a smaller scale and trying to be more market oriented, 3. Outline a bold new conservative vision for environmental policy. He sees most conservatives these days going down path 1, but he wants path 3. I am writing because I think conservatives need to get over it and accept path 2, or else actually come up with the bold new vision along path 3.
I hope that made more sense than my last post! Anyways, my future posts in this series will be shorter and more concrete. Also, in case you for some reason think I will be, know that I won't be blogging tomorrow because THE US IS PLAYING MEXICO IN WORLD CUP QUALIFYING WHY DON'T YOU KNOW THAT ALREADY.