Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A quick comment on Waxman-Markey and logic

Something that visitors here might be interested in reading: Over at good old Blog Meridian, I have a post up on illogical--but sound--reasons for supporting Waxman-Markey (the huge cap-and-trade/renewable energy bill that just passed the House of Representatives. Here's an excerpt:
If you've read this blog for a while, you've probably figured out without my telling you that I'm in favor of the American Clean Energy and Security Act, the complex cap-and-trade, reduction-in-carbon-based energy, investment-in-alternate-energy legislation that just passed the House of Representatives and faces an admittedly uncertain future in the Senate. My reasons for supporting it, though, include one that may surprise many of you, given that a) it's not usually one that comes up in the debates about the bill and b) that its source is John McCain.

I'll talk about (b) first because it will lead inexorably to (a). At some point during last year's campaign (the primaries, I believe), during a debate when the question was about climate change legislation, McCain said something to the effect that even if reducing carbon emissions does little or no good in affecting what may after all be a naturally-occurring phenomenon, there are still-indisputable goods to be obtained by passing such legislation: a cleaner, healthier environment and greater self-sufficiency (political as well as economic) due to reduced dependency on foreign oil. I agreed with very little McCain offered up as reasons to vote for him, but on these points, at least, he was absolutely right (and would be now, if he still felt it expedient to make them). However, it's equally indisputable that one reason these points don't get raised is that, as desirable as these things are, you can't quantify them so as to include them in any of the various cost-benefit analyses being offered up in support of or against Waxman-Markey. Thus, they become inadmissible as evidence.

Just once, I wish someone would come along and say, When clean-water and clean-air legislation were enacted in the '70s, businesses pitched fits about their increased costs and having to pass those costs on to consumers. Well, sure: and as a result we pay more because businesses were forced to change behavior they were very likely not to have changed out of the goodness of their hearts (because there was a time when it cost literally nothing to dump waste as people saw fit, air and soil and water quality be damned--and it showed, I well remember those days). But is anyone opposed to Waxman-Markey, or anyone opposed to "excessive government regulation," seriously going to argue that that our quality of life would be better if not for the creation of the EPA, given the clear road we'd been heading down? The resounding No we'd hear, true, doesn't fit into a strict cost-benefit analysis, but the fact that it shows people prefer--and benefit from--cleaner air and water surely needs to figure into this debate. Or have our cleaner air and water become such givens (the '60s and '70s becoming ever more distant memories for many of us) that they strangely seem negligible as a consideration?

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