The Politics of Feeling Good

by Dave Schuler on February 22, 2013

Rather than doing good. I think that Robert Tracinski’s characterization of subsidies for electric cars as “green paternalism”:

Electric cars never really made any sense. They are cloaked in the sanctimony of the green movement, because they don’t use nasty fossil fuels like gasoline. Instead, they use electricity, which is sent out through power lines from big power plants, which generate this electricity—how? Oh yes, by burning fossil fuels like oil, coal, and natural gas. This is known as the “long tailpipe,” which goes from the car charging up in your garage all the way back to the smokestack of a coal-fired power plant. And don’t forget, electric cars also have giant batteries made from nasty toxic metals like lithium and cobalt, the manufacture of which frontloads carbon dioxide emissions.

So the electric car was always more an exercise in green paternalism—it is the future, as selected for us by our betters—than a serious attempt to solve any real or imagined problem.

isn’t quite correct. Electric cars are perfect for people who want to feel virtuous without actually being virtuous.

An alarming number of the agenda items on the table today fit into that category. Bans on assault weapons (especially bans that “grandfather in” weapons already purchased) will have very little effect on mass murders. Raising marginal tax rates (as opposed to effective tax rates) on the highest income earners won’t raise a lot of additional revenue. Continuing the Head Start program (which I supported for years) won’t give underprivileged children the “head start” it promises because its benefits fade very rapidly. “Cap and trade” or even a gasoline tax won’t do much about global warming. The list is practically endless—feel free to contribute your own examples.

The purpose of these laws is symbolic rather than practical. They’re primarily intended to allow their supporters to signal how virtuous they are without taking the much more difficult steps that would reduce the number of mass murders, increase tax revenues, improve the educational prospects of kids from poor families, or stave off global warming. They’re the equivalent of Ted Turner’s driving his Prius to the tarmac where his personal jet is waiting.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Icepick February 22, 2013 at 10:15 am

Governance is old fashioned, as is measuring results. Marketing and winning elections are the only things that matters. So get with the times. What could possibly go wrong?

Andy February 22, 2013 at 11:42 am

I would add the laws making abortion illegal for the puposes of gender selection.

Drew February 22, 2013 at 12:10 pm

“They’re the equivalent of Ted Turner’s driving his Prius to the tarmac where his personal jet is waiting.”

Heh. Or the greenie driving a Prius to get the Saturday night ice cream cone or a gallon of milk.

I’ve lost track of the “energy or carbon equivalency” of gasoline emmision vs coal emmision to make electricity for a car. It used to be a bad trade. In addition, I’m reminded of a recent Obama speech gave about banning guns noting “…if we could save just one life….” Really? When do we ban those SmartCar death traps? You know, if we could save just one life…….

Drew February 22, 2013 at 12:14 pm
Icepick February 22, 2013 at 1:11 pm

Wow, Drew, that was … random….

Icepick February 22, 2013 at 1:13 pm

Were you trying to make the point that if we can save just one life we should all put mouse in our hair and wear parachute pants again?

Icepick February 22, 2013 at 1:14 pm

I mean, it promises to be at least as effective as anything proposed in Washington lately, and it will probably be more fun.

Icepick February 22, 2013 at 2:51 pm

Here’s a post with a compilation of reasons why things feel so bad for the Millennials. Not enough jobs, fewer still worth having, & high levels of non-dischargeable debt. Add to that that their elders just aren’t retiring and that the nation has switched to a low-growth high-unemployment model for the economy and they’re totally screwed.

This has problems across all generations, as these people will have smaller families and start them later. Don’t look to new household formation to drive growth. That’s going to have an impact as the boomers start sucking more of the life out of the economy with SS and MC. There will be fewer people working to pay for that.

Meanwhile, the country’s elites have decided to congratulate themselves on their open-mindedness and will give citizenship to another few tens of millions of Third World peasants, so there will be even more competition for jobs at the low end. And once interest rates on the debt go up, and that will happen sooner or later, everyone that isn’t rich will feel a huge crunch as the government has to take from several bad options to deal with that crisis.

This can’t end well.

Drew February 22, 2013 at 5:03 pm

“Wow, Drew, that was … random….”

My brain works in obtuse ways…….and I can’t take just about anything from the regulatory men of zeal seriously anymore.

Icepick February 22, 2013 at 5:45 pm

I can’t take just about anything from the regulatory men of zeal seriously anymore.

Not a fan of clowns, then?

Icepick February 22, 2013 at 8:33 pm

Another example of feel good politics screwing the poor:

Why is Wal-Mart worried? Payroll tax could cut consumer spending.

Turns out the Obama tax hikes are hurting the poor the most. But that’s okay because consumer spending is up – the smallest increment they’ll measure, but it’s up! I’m guessing that a detailed accounting would show that the Drew’s of the world are still buying golf clubs, and Obama’s buddies are still building golf clubs, and that the bottom 30 or 40 percent are cutting back to bargain basement toilet paper. (Ugh.)

Also saw a story that Obama is going to use the regulatory power at his disposal to make it well-nigh impossible to build new coal power plants. This to combat global warming, of course. Most likely newer plants would burn more cleanly, but that doesn’t matter. They want infrastructure of just the right (i.e., left) kind. This will be another policy that works out well for the poor.

Drew February 24, 2013 at 7:11 pm

“Not a fan of clowns, then?”
Er,……no.

But a fan of one hit pop wonders. Ice, I implore you. Have some fun, your plight is not terminal……….take an effing flyer and change your life trajectory before you get old……my sister’s plight has taught me many things…..all this faux intellectual happy-crap….gawd….”the politics of dancing, the politics of ooooh, feeling good…….”

We will all die prematurely……let’s hope we did well before the final buzzer.

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