June 1, 2008


Carbon's Power Brokers (George Will, 6/01/08, Real Clear Politics)

"[C]ap-and-trade" comes cloaked in reassuring rhetoric about the government merely creating a market, but government actually would create a scarcity so government could sell what it has made scarce. The Wall Street Journal underestimates cap-and-trade's perniciousness when it says the scheme would create a new right ("allowances") to produce carbon dioxide and would put a price on the right. Actually, because freedom is the silence of the law, that right has always existed in the absence of prohibitions.

Anglo-American political philosophy is basically the study of why that statement is morally idiotic. The notions that every freedom is a right or that when we choose to regulate behaviors we, thereby, convey upon them the status of rights are both inane and radically misapprehend the source and nature of rights and the meaning of republican liberty.

As for the former, regulation is generally a recognition that no right exists--though even rights are regulated to some limited degree--and that which we regulate we are generally free to prohibit. For instance, while we could simply put in place regulations to make infanticide, pedophilia, dog fighting, or wife beating more humane, it is incontrovertible that we can ban them entirely.

We can do so because you have no right to do these things and had none even before the laws were written. This is the case because, as the Founding explicitly states, our Rights derive from our Creation in God's Image (which grants human dignity), not from some silence of merely human law, and these Rights carry with them obligations (those obligations being the basis for the limited regulation of same).

What Mr. Will has done here, like the Left and the far Right, is seek to elevate personal freedom above duties to God and fellow men, which is antithetical to our culture and, quite literally, unAmerican and antirepublican.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 1, 2008 7:41 AM

Your analysis is correct.

Cap and Trade isn't an affront to rights, it's an affront to intelligence and good government.

When offered the opportunity to regulate intelligently, America always fails, and enacts the policies that enrich the friends of insiders like Gore, Obama, McCain, & Clinton.

It's a regulatory scheme that only Goldman Sachs and Enron can appreciate. If you don't like carbon, just tax it.

In 2012 or 2015, Congress and the trial lawyers will be holding hearings on corruption in carbon trading.

Posted by: Bruno at June 1, 2008 9:00 AM

George Will didn't argue against the concept of cutting emissions by mandate or by directly taxing carbon fuel, but only against government thievery and duplicity.

Therefore Oj's, commentary is off base and I suspect his in liberal is salivating at the chance to tax and regulate.

Power to the Theocons!!

Posted by: Perry at June 1, 2008 9:23 AM

Congress has the enumerated power to regulate interstate and foreign commerce, so it can regulate carbon emissions. The question is whether this is a wise thing to do. The marketplace has always been regulated, and always will be regulated. For example, steamboat inspection began in 1838, and in 1852 the US Steamboat Inspection Service was created to regulate steamboats to prevent the loss of life.

It is properly classified as a power of government, not as a right.

Posted by: Mikey at June 1, 2008 11:57 AM

I think Will's basic premise has been missed here.

The "right" in question is not weather or not the government has the sovereign power to act but rather the degree to which it has diabolically created a "right" for sale. Diabolical of course because it is nothing but a very large hidden tax which according to George be untraceable.

From the article:

"With cap-and-trade, government would create a right for itself -- an extraordinarily lucrative right to ration Americans' exercise of their traditional rights."

Posted by: Perry at June 1, 2008 1:15 PM

This is breaking a butterfly on the wheel. He's not making a philosophical argument, just pointing out a flaw in the WSJ's reasoning.

Unfortunately, rights talk is so degraded these days that "freedom to" is commonly expressed as "right to," which tends to imply that said freedom is irrevocable. But since even the ACLU doesn't care about whether or not corporations have rights, this is something of a moot point.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at June 1, 2008 5:19 PM

To the wheel everyone is a butterfly.

Posted by: oj at June 1, 2008 6:50 PM

Corporations are creatures of the state, they exist because the states have put in place laws to create them, limit the liability of shareholders, and so forth. The creator can regulate them, the question again is the wisdom of the regulation, not whether it can be done.

Posted by: Mikey at June 2, 2008 5:18 PM