The Corner

NASA’s Hansen: ‘Liberals’ Will Use Carbon Taxes ‘To Make the Government Bigger’

Testifying in favor of a carbon tax yesterday, James Hansen said something rather startling:

“An important point is that such legislation I think needs to be introduced by conservatives, because I’m afraid liberals will try to take part of the money to make the government bigger. Not one dime should go to the government. 100 percent should go to the public.”

That those who would grow the government might benefit from its existence clearly does not render the ”climate change” claim moot. That, as always, is a scientific question, and one that will stand or fall by the evidence. Still, it cannot be denied that the opportunity to tax and control is a boon to those who would tax and control, and, whether or not he is sincere in his warning, it is certainly nice to see a staunch proponent of government action acknowledging openly that many of his acolytes are in it for the wrong reasons.

Milton Friedman famously observed that in any fight over policy there are two sorts of people:

Let me give you a very simple example — take the minimum wage law. Its well-meaning sponsors – there are always in these cases two groups of sponsors – there are the well-meaning sponsors and there are the special interests, who are using the well-meaning sponsors as front men. You almost always when you have bad programs have an unholy coalition of the do-gooders on the one hand, and the special interests on the other.

Thus far, the green movement’s greatest political asset has been its unity. When times were good, it managed reasonably effectively to pretend that a) there was no room for divergence on any questions pertaining to the climate, b) that there were really only two sides involved in the dispute: the selfless Good and the selfish Evil, and c) that any attempts to question proposed legislative responses were beyond the pale. Thus have we been told if you accept that mankind is causing any warming at all, you must accept that it is doing so catastrophically — and if you don’t, you’re a “denier.” Thus has it been implied that if you agree that there is a problem that requires state intervention, you must also agree with the particular policy prescriptions that the Left has forwarded — and if you don’t, you’re a “denier.” Thus has it been suggested that if you believe that there have been some demonstrable changes to the weather, you must acquiesce in the preposterous notion that everything is caused by climate change — hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, heat waves, cooling periods, and so forth — even when this is clearly false.

What James Hansen just did – albeit in a small, reluctant, and possibly even inadvertent way – is to fracture that uniformity a little. “I’m not like those guys,” he seemed to be saying to the Senate. “They just want to serve themselves; I want to help.” That, in no small part, is a testament to the weak position in which the environmental Left currently finds itself. One wonders who will peel off next.

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