Both Sides are Right on Waxman-Markey

Cara asks what people think about the Waxman-Markey bill.  It seems clear to me that both sides are right.  And no, this isn’t a case of realism versus idealism.

Waxman-Markey might be the strongest thing that can get through Congress right now.  And even that might be over-optimistic: Waxman can move the thing through the House, but then the process starts all over again in the Senate, where people like Evan Bayh and Ben Nelson will attempt to show the Beltway Elite what “centrists” they are by watering the bill down even farther.

So to ask, as the anti-ACES coalition does, for a stronger bill, makes little sense.

BUT: the only reason why Waxman-Markey is as strong as it is is that people like the anti-ACES coalition are screaming about strong measures against climate change.  In this sense, they are the most realistic people around.

If you are a law professor or a behavioral economist, you call this “anchoring”: the point at which a negotiation starts has an enormous impact on its outcome, even though rational actor economic theory predicts otherwise (because it sees preferences as endogenous).  If you’re a normal person, you just say that that’s how bargaining works.

We might call the whole thing the FDR principle, from a famous story about FDR that might encapsulate the entire approach of the Obama Administration:

In 1933, the President invited a group of progressive leaders to the White House.  One of them proceeded to lambaste FDR for not taking aggressive progressive measures such as social insurance and labor rights.

“Fine,” said the President, “make me do it.

Make them do it.  That’s how the system works.  And that’s what the anti-ACES group is doing.

I hope.

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Reader Comments

One Reply to “Both Sides are Right on Waxman-Markey”

  1. The problem with Waxman-Markely has been described as “all cost and no benefits.” This is because there are no guarantees that successful implementation would result in any measurable reduction in the average global atmospheric temperature.

    There is a fundamental problem with controlling carbon dioxide emissions. Any reductions would be miniscule when compared to global emissions of carbon dioxide from natural sources, and any effect on atmospheric temperatures would be obscured by factors such as normal fluctuations in solar radiation, humidity, winds, cloud cover, ocean currents, etc.

    Humanity does not yet have the scientific knowledge or technical capacity to successfully adjust the overall average global atmospheric temperature. Waxman-Markely would not achieve any measurable benefits.

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Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic – Land Use, the Environment and Loc…

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