Everything You Need to Know About Politics Today, in 2 Paragraphs

1990s conservatism is the new socialism
More

Let's play a game. See if you can tell the difference between a shrill professor and a couple of former Republican EPA chiefs when it comes to climate change. Here's the first:

A market-based approach, like a carbon tax, would be the best path to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, but that is unachievable in the current political gridlock in Washington..... [W]e held fast to common-sense conservative principles -- protecting the health of the American people, working with the best technology available and trusting in the innovation of American business and in the market to find the best solutions for the least cost.

And here's the second:

Opponents of a strong policy to curb greenhouse gases tend to be fervent believers in the magic of market economies. Yet somehow their faith goes away when it comes to environmental issues. If you seriously believe in markets, you should believe that given the right incentives -- namely, putting a price on emissions, through either a tax or a tradable permit scheme -- the economy will find lots of ways to emit less. You should definitely not believe, as anti-environmentalists claim, that the result would be economic disaster.

Okay, I didn't make that very hard. The first comes from the joint New York Times op-ed by ex-EPA heads William Ruckelhaus, Lee Thomas, William Reilly and Christine Todd Whitman, and the second from Paul Krugman. Taken together, they're a remarkable artifact into the political history of the past few decades. 

See, things that used to be "conservative" ideas, like cap and trade or Obamacare or monetary stimulus, have become "liberal" ones, all while conservatives themselves have moved further and further right. That's what happens when you view negotiation of any kind as an ideological betrayal -- you abandon your ideology. You stop being the party of markets, and become the party of whatever-the-Democrats-are-against (and your donors are for). It's why, as Ezra Klein points out, the idea of the political "center" is such a canard.

And it's how Paul Krugman ends up sounding like a Republican. Or Republicans ended up sounding like Paul Krugman.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Matthew O'Brien

Matthew O'Brien is a former senior associate editor at The Atlantic.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Why Are Americans So Bad at Saving Money?

The US is particularly miserable at putting aside money for the future. Should we blame our paychecks or our psychology?


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

The Death of Film

You'll never hear the whirring sound of a projector again.

Video

How to Hunt With Poison Darts

A Borneo hunter explains one of his tribe's oldest customs: the art of the blowpipe

Video

A Delightful, Pixar-Inspired Cartoon

An action figure and his reluctant sidekick trek across a kitchen in search of treasure.

Video

I Am an Undocumented Immigrant

"I look like a typical young American."

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Writers

Up
Down

More in Politics

Just In