Paul Krugman’s column this morning is, once again, on the urgent need for action to cope with climate change. He attributes our dilatory response to a combination of low attention span by which I gather he means the preference for dealing with quotidian problems over long-term ones, vested interests, and vested ideas:
Nor is it just a matter of vested interests. It’s also a matter of vested ideas. For three decades the dominant political ideology in America has extolled private enterprise and denigrated government, but climate change is a problem that can only be addressed through government action. And rather than concede the limits of their philosophy, many on the right have chosen to deny that the problem exists.
Dr. Krugman then succeeds in tying himself into a pretzel by simultaneously attacking the prioritization of near-term problems first and defending the Obama Administration’s focus on healthcare reform:
I’m not, by the way, saying that the Obama administration was wrong to push health care first. It was necessary to show voters a tangible achievement before next November. But climate change legislation had better be next.
The best I think that can be said for that is that it’s incoherent.
As I’ve said here before in my few remarks on climate change, an area in which I feel that I have insufficient expertise to comment with confidence (an impulse that I wish that Dr. Krugman shared), I would have more confidence in the prescriptions for dealing with anthropogenic climate change if they actually accomplished the goals their proponents set for them. So, for example, if it’s absolutely, positively necessary to accomplish a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, proposing reforms that could, at best, accomplish a 3% reduction should give us pause.
A preference for private enterprise isn’t the only vested ideology involved here. A marked preference for solutions that require the greatest degree of bureaucracy and political patronage is just as vested and just as ideologically founded as a preference for markets with significantly more historical evidence of its dangers.