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The Right Conservative Position On The Environment
FrontPage Magazine ^ | November 2nd, 2001 | Robert Locke

Posted on 07/18/2004 12:55:58 AM PDT by Remember_Salamis

The Right Conservative Position On The Environment By Robert Locke | November 2, 2001

THE WAR ON TERRORISM is rightly dominating ideological discussion, but it would be a mistake to forget other issues. While public attention is elsewhere, ideological shifts can occur which will burst into prominence when terrorism, inevitably, recedes as an issue. Sad irony or no, these attacks have given conservatives an enormous boost; we should use this opportunity to clean up our act on issues where we do poorly with the public. If we do this, we can establish a serious electoral lock on this country (provided, of course, we end the immigration of a million future Democrats a year, which makes all our strategies moot). And the key issue in this regard is the environment.

It would, however, be disastrous and absurd to simply adopt the environmental views of the opposition. Conservatives rightly sense that there is something deeply wrong with these views, even if they tend to draw the wrong conclusions from this intuition. Conservatives frequently seem to dismiss environmentalism as such as a mistaken ideal. But the fundamental and inescapable fact is that, in the language of economics, environmental protection is a good. This is true by nature and not, as with things like affirmative action, according to what ideology one happens to subscribe to. Nobody has a sincere preference for a worse environment; some people just prefer different tradeoffs for getting a better one. What we fundamentally need is a way to tell the public that we are environmentalists, just conservative ones. This requires a clear conception of how conservative environmentalism, while differing from the liberal variety, is still serious environmentalism. I propose the following:

Difference #1: Conservative environmentalism believes environmental protection is a good like any other, i.e. a thing that one rationally trades off against other goods to obtain. It is not different in kind from any other public good, like uncongested highways or national defense. Except for the fact that it is a public good, it is not philosophically different from ordinary consumer goods. This is a profound point. Liberal environmentalism believes that it is a good simply, like a moral good, something that one is obliged to do independently of the cost. Once one grasps that environmental protection is a good like any other, it becomes logically clear what is painfully obvious empirically: the more money, i.e. economic prosperity one has, the more of it one can afford. All sorts of good things logically follow, like mandatory costbenefit analysis and the fact that business is not intrinsically the enemy of the environment.

Difference #2: Conservative environmentalism genuinely believes in science; liberal environmentalism is quite happy to exploit mythology. (On one level, this isn't really surprising, as anyone who keeps up with the opposition knows that the intellectual far left doesn't really believe in science anymore because it is a product of the white male capitalist desire to dominate nature, et cetera.) A recent example is Gov. Pataki's recent decision to dredge the Hudson River for toxins, which was emotionally satisfying but in fact just stirs them up from where they lie. Conservative environmentalism has a quantitative attitude towards environmental hazards and does not devote 1,000 times more money to combating a vivid but minor threat than it does to a dull but major one. Conservative environmentalism demands evidence, and it does not seek emotionally satisfying solutions.

Difference #3: Conservative environmentalism is anthropocentric, not biocentric. The environment is a good because it is good for people; mere life, i.e. squirming stuff, is not an end in itself. We protect those parts of the environment, like the air we breathe and the landscapes we cherish, which are of value to us. We do not protect arctic mudflats or trivial little fish just because they exist. The key question to ask about any thing being pondered for environmental protection is: what has it done for us lately? What does it do, other than just exist? If liberals want to define new ways in which lowvalue environments are of value to people, fine, but the onus is on them to do so.

Difference #4: Conservative environmentalism insists on economic rationality. If environmental protection is a good, the rational thing to do is to purchase this good at the lowest possible cost. It is not rational to purchase it in inefficient but emotionallysatisfying ways like recycling materials that cost more in net energy to recycle than to make from scratch. Conservative environmentalism insists on freemarket solutions, like tradable pollution credits, whenever possible. It measures its success by results obtained, not money spent. It insists that costs be measured. It knows that socialist economies have reliably produced less environmental protection than capitalist ones.

Difference #5: Conservative environmentalism is respectful of property rights. Because environmental protection is a public good, the public should pay for it, not the poor clod who happens to own the wetlands being protected. The government does not have the right to protect the environment by stealing it bit by bit from its owners. At the very least, it must pay fair compensation. If we all have to chip in to buy scenic beauty or clean water, fine. It is high time we told the truth about what this costs.

Difference #6: Conservative environmentalism believes environmentalism is not a religion. The respectable facade of the opposition would also say this, but their hard core activists are into things like "deep ecology," which basically asserts that the environment is an end in itself in which man is, honestly, a pest. Or they believe in "circle of life" paganism, which goes by the name The Gaia Hypothesis when it tries to pass itself off as intellectually serious. The conservative alternative is not necessarily JudeoChristian, but it is clearly compatible, as this nonsense is not, with the JudeoChristian idea that God gave Man the Earth for his use.

Difference #7: Conservative environmentalism is respectful of national sovereignty. America has the right to protect its environment on its own terms. International bodies do not, particularly when they are based on ripoff treaties which impose burdens on America while letting our ThirdWorld industrial competitors run free. The fact that pollution is global does not, contrary to liberal opinion, imply that the solution must be globalist. Environmentalism must not be hijacked as one more tool for the globalist usual suspects to push their nationliquidating agenda.

Difference #8: Conservative environmentalism is honest about the number one threat to the American environment: immigration. The neardoubling of our population since WWII, which growth is now almost entirely due to immigration, is increasing the burden on our landscape daybyday. Liberal environmentalists know the facts, but can’t speak the truth because of their own political correctness and the constituency demands of the Democratic party. The single best easy thing we could do tomorrow to save America’s environment is stop issuing immigrant visas.

Difference #9: Conservative environmentalism is just as concerned with the human environment as with the natural environment. People, too, need good habitats. Issues like New Urbanism and antisprawl measures are part of conservative environmentalism. Quality of the environment is a part of our quality of life. The highest quality of life is obviously not identical with the highest possible GNP; belief in conservative environmentalism is therefore one of the key dividing issues between real conservatives and corporatist pretenders who would gladly pave Yellowstone Park for a 10% rise in the Dow.

Difference #10: Conservative environmentalism appreciates the way in which many environmentalist values, like the concept of stewardship, are really longstanding conservative values. For example, the multigenerational stewardship of the land that we are asked to practice is an aristocratic concept that Edmund Burke would have taken for granted 200 years ago. Love of the outdoors and appreciation of the significance of wilderness as a nourishment of the American spirit are rugged, conservative values. Teddy Roosevelt appreciated them. And let's not forget that most major environmental legislation, like the founding of the EPA, was actually passed by President Nixon.

These ten points give us a principled ideological framework for supporting the environmental measures that are actually worthwhile while refusing to go along with the dangerous liberal version of environmentalism and all it entails. I do not claim these are original ideas, and conservatives have been applying them in the daily cutandthrust of politics for years. What is somewhat new is the idea that we need to not just apply these concepts but make known to the electorate that these are the concepts we are applying. We need the public to know in a detailed and explicit way that we have a coherent ideology on the environment and that this is it. We need to get the electorate to grasp at an intuitive level that we DO stand for a form of environmentalism, just not the liberal form. The electorate strongly suspects we don't like environmentalism at all, a suspicion that grows when all we can say is that we're against liberal environmentalism. It needs to be told, explicitly, the nature of what we are for. We can fight for a generation on these points.

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1 posted on 07/18/2004 12:56:02 AM PDT by Remember_Salamis
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To: *Green

2 posted on 07/18/2004 12:57:13 AM PDT by Remember_Salamis (Freedom is Not Free)
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To: Remember_Salamis

The major point here is when you combine private property ownership and stewardship. No one treats the land better than those who must earn their living from that land - FARMERS, RANCHERS, FORESTERS, AND MINERS. Yes, miners.

Those four groups of people are the base of our nation, and they are the ones that are under siege from the left to the greatest extent.

As a farmer, I'd like to see one of the greenies tell me that my land should be allowed to go back to its' natural state, and that it was in better condition when it was that way. Then once the dumb@ss got back up, I'd take him for a tractor tour of the property to show him the difference. (But first I've got to figure out how to put a three point hitch on one of those smelly losers.)

3 posted on 07/18/2004 1:20:44 AM PDT by datura (The Difference Between a Democrat and a Communist Is????)
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To: datura

What type of Farming do you do? Anyway, I've got something for you to read, something I want your opinion on. It's called the FairTax. If you could read the posted article below and if you want to learn more go to this link:

That'd be awesome.

Farm Bureau says FairTax Bill a Priority

HONOLULU--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Feb. 2, 2004--At its national convention, the American Farm Bureau Federation moved to make replacing the income and payroll tax systems a priority, FairTax announced today. On the last day of the convention the AFBF board named the FairTax legislation (HR 25/S 1493), a national retail sales tax, as a priority issue for education and dissemination to its five million members.

The Americans For Fair Taxation ( legislation replaces, rather than "reforms," the current complex income tax/payroll deduction structure with a revenue-neutral retail consumption tax called the FairTax. During the American Farm Bureau Federation annual convention, FairTax Executive Director Tom Wright and National Farm Bureau Liaison John Collet campaigned for farmer and rancher support of this tax change, which is already gaining support on Capitol Hill. The FairTax group has spent the last year working with more than 30 state farm bureau organizations in a coordinated, nationwide effort to raise farm bureau leadership awareness of the bill's details, laying the groundwork for this vote.

"Internationally, income and payroll taxes and the cost of compliance burden our farm exports, making them less competitive on the world market," Wright told farmers in a speech sponsored by The Heartland Institute's Budget & Tax News. "Domestically, the current system targets our working poor for abuse, while burdening them with regressive Social Security taxes. The FairTax improves export competitiveness across the board -- not just for agriculture -- while relieving the burden on our working poor and creating much needed jobs."

According to Mr. Wright, the FairTax proposal is designed to be "revenue neutral," raising the same amount of revenue as do personal and corporate income taxes, payroll and Social Security taxes, and gift and estate taxes, while replacing all these with a system some 90 percent smaller, less intrusive, and less expensive. A dedicated income stream from this broad-based sales tax would replace the narrow, regressive payroll tax currently used to fund Social Security and Medicare.

"The FairTax has been in our policy book for years," stated AFBF President Bob Stallman. "It does address many of our policy issues on federal tax reform, including estate taxes, capital gains, alternative minimum, and more. With this vote of the board, we'll be taking a good look at how the FairTax proposal compares to our current tax system and our desire for needed reforms."

These national retail sales tax measures already have been unveiled in the House and Senate this session, one by Rep. John Linder (R-GA) and Rep. Colin Peterson (D-MN) and the other by Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Senator Zell Miller (D-GA). House Majority leader Tom DeLay is a co-sponsor. The sweeping measure would take farm and ranch producers "out of the tax system entirely," as long as their operations are not involved in retail sales, said Tom Wright.

"With the FairTax, farmers are out of the tax business entirely," continued Wright. "No record keeping, no filing, no complex planning, no audits, no alternative minimum tax, no self-employment taxes, nothing. The only place the tax is charged is 'under the bright lights of the retail counter' to the person who's going to wear the gloves or drive the car. There are no hidden taxes cascading through the system. Producers will make business decisions based solely on what is best for their farm and family, not tax consequences."

What is the FairTax?

The FairTax is a non-partisan proposal (HR 25/S 1493) that will abolish all federal income taxes, including payroll, self-employment, alternative minimum, income, capital gains, corporate and death taxes, and replaces them all with one simple, visible, federal sales tax. It will dramatically change the basis for taxation by eliminating the root of the problem: taxing income. The FairTax will tax us only on what we choose to spend, not on what we earn. It will not raise any more or less revenue; it is designed to be revenue neutral. The FairTax is a fair, efficient, and intelligent solution to the frustration and inequity of our current tax system, which particularly burdens our poor and fixed-income retirees. The FairTax proposal includes specific protections for these Americans, including ending the narrow, regressive Social Security tax, ending income taxes, and beginning a rebate to zero all federal taxes for all Americans (with a legal Social Security number) up to the poverty level.

What is is a non-profit, non-partisan, grassroots organization dedicated to replacing the current tax. The organization has hundreds of thousands of members and volunteers nationwide. Its plan supports sound economic research, education of citizens and community leaders, and grassroots mobilization efforts. For more information visit the Web page:

4 posted on 07/18/2004 1:39:32 AM PDT by Remember_Salamis (Freedom is Not Free)
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To: Remember_Salamis

Envromentalism? Hey, can we please please please start clearing the deadwood off the forest floor before everything (including the trees) in California burns to the ground?

Then again...

5 posted on 07/18/2004 2:47:56 AM PDT by Fenris6
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To: Remember_Salamis; datura; sauropod; ScaniaBoy; SPOTTEDOWL; SandyInSeattle; EternalVigilance; ...
The most compelling arguments for a "conservative environmentalism", as Locke puts it in this article, have been delineated at great length by Bjorn Lumberg.

If anyone has conceived of an alternative to the hackneyed, "Greenpeace" way of doing things, it is Lumberg.

He needs to be listened to, and his views need to be adopted by the Republican Party.

6 posted on 07/18/2004 2:53:44 AM PDT by The Scourge of Yazid
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To: The Scourge of Yazid

who's Bjorn Lumberg?

7 posted on 07/18/2004 3:32:07 AM PDT by Remember_Salamis (Freedom is Not Free)
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To: Remember_Salamis
He is a very distinguished-yet controversial-Danish scientist who has earned the everlasting enmity of the radical eco-terrorists who have dominated the public discussion over all issues green ever since Rachel Carson et. al. made a hostile takeover of the environmental movement back in the 1970s.

He's been blacklisted by his fellow academics, called every possible epithet in the book, yet he still perseveres in his mission to alleviate suffering in the Third World, a mission that is being severely neglected by the same people who profess such empathy-at least in theory-for the downtrodden of the Earth.

I posted a very interesting thread on this subject about two months ago.

8 posted on 07/18/2004 3:38:04 AM PDT by The Scourge of Yazid
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To: Remember_Salamis

Bjorn Lomborg wrote the incredibly powerful "The Skeptical Environmentalist", which should be the Bible (required reading, at least!) for conservative environmentalists. It clearly defines which issues are driven by science, junk science, and myth. And the benefit is, if you give it to a leftie (since one of the strongest recommendations is by a founder and former member of Greenpeace), it shuts them up for a long, long time. It's one of the most fascinating non-politically oriented political books I've ever read!

Thanks for posting this article! For a conservative environmentalist like me, it distills all the important, big ideas into a handy list. The only one with which I mildly disagree is #3: It is too easy to assign "non-worth" to various species simply because we are not omniscient. We don't YET know the full value of certain of God's creatures here on earth (Mosquitos, what WAS He thinking?), but we cannot arrogantly dismiss their importance just because we haven't yet found out what beneficial purpose they serve.

Another excellent, conservative book is "Dominion" by Matthew Scully, by one of President GWB's former speechwriters.

9 posted on 07/18/2004 5:28:30 AM PDT by alwaysconservative (Kerry votes against what he believes because he doesn't believe in believing his beliefs. Steyn)
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To: Remember_Salamis

Issues like New Urbanism and antisprawl measures are part of conservative environmentalism.

Not part of my movement.

Read the anti-sprawl literature. The Sierra Club recommends a housing density of 500 families per acre. That's nearly twice the population density of Calcutta. That's stacking people like gerbils in boxes.

The eco-fascists want people off the land so they can control people. New urbanism is all about socialist control and theft of private property.

Every survey shows that more than 80% of Americans want to live on an acre with a white pickett fence. It's called elbow room. It's the American dream.

The fact that this writer doesn't recognize that anti-sprawl is anti-free market and anti-freedom is troubling.

10 posted on 07/18/2004 6:42:27 AM PDT by sergeantdave (Gen. Custer wore an Arrowsmith shirt to his last property owner convention.)
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To: sergeantdave; farmfriend; calcowgirl; Carry_Okie
"Issues like New Urbanism and antisprawl measures are part of conservative environmentalism."

The only sentence in this entire epistle I had any real trouble with. One of our very own FReepers has the very best overall concept in print I've ever read right here!!!

11 posted on 07/18/2004 7:18:01 AM PDT by SierraWasp (Down with Diabolical Demonicrat Socialistic GovernMental EnvironMentalists!!!)
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To: Remember_Salamis

Ten Points of Environmental Conservatism -- good and useful read.

12 posted on 07/18/2004 7:28:34 AM PDT by GVnana (Tagline? I don't need no stinkin' tagline!)
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To: Remember_Salamis; farmfriend


13 posted on 07/18/2004 7:30:32 AM PDT by DLfromthedesert (I was elected in AZ as an alt delegate to the Convention. I'M GOING TO NY)
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To: Remember_Salamis
Although the fundamentals presented here are necessary for a free market in environmental goods to work, they are not sufficient. Mr. Locke has no clue what a basis for pricing might be, nor how to deal with mobile goods by which to define workable contracts.

All of that it here, published over two years ago with a patent still under consideration.

14 posted on 07/18/2004 7:34:21 AM PDT by Carry_Okie (There are people in power who are truly evil.)
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To: sergeantdave
I have mixed feelings about anti-sprawl. Of course, 500 families per acre is ludicrous (I don't remember ever hearing that number). And I have no trouble with suburbs, indeed I am a suburbanite (but I live 1.5 miles from where I work). But I find the idea of revitalizing urban areas very attractive, we should do something to encourage cleaning up our cities.

Here's a good example: Portland, Oregon. In Portland, they have an urban growth boundary that has forced developers to stay closer to the city center. This caused property values to rise enough that many dilapidated neighborhoods got rehabbed.

If living in the city means living in grimy, overpopulated districts with high crime, then I'm not in favor of "anti-sprawl" or "New Urbanism" either. But if it means living in clean, attractive areas with lots to do, where you can walk to shopping or restaurants or nice parks, fine! Portland is like that. (I myself do live in the suburbs, but only 1.5 miles from work; I would actually prefer living closer to the city center but that would lengthen my commute. I live near Louisville, Kentucky, which is making progress in its efforts to clean up its downtown.)

15 posted on 07/18/2004 10:39:19 AM PDT by megatherium
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To: Remember_Salamis
See The Toxicity of Environmentalism.
16 posted on 07/18/2004 10:54:36 AM PDT by boris (The deadliest weapon of mass destruction in history is a Leftist with a word processor)
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To: Remember_Salamis
Also The New Left: the Anti-Industrial Revolution by Ayn Rand. Every word rings as true today as when she wrote it.


17 posted on 07/18/2004 10:56:50 AM PDT by boris (The deadliest weapon of mass destruction in history is a Leftist with a word processor)
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To: sergeantdave

I think he's talking more about urban renewal than new urbanism. After all, it's not very conservative to hollow out the city then move on to somewhere else.

18 posted on 07/18/2004 11:46:19 AM PDT by Remember_Salamis (Freedom is Not Free)
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To: datura

To claim that 'no one treats the land better than miners' is a joke. Have you ever visited abandoned mining sites?

You might make the argument that in some cases economic benefits outweigh damage to the landscape, but don't try to argue that the average mining operation 'cares about the land'. There's over 150 years of evidence that they don't.

19 posted on 07/18/2004 11:51:07 AM PDT by blowfish
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To: megatherium

Portland is fine if you want to see the theft of private property (no growth zones) and rulership by an unelected, unaccountable bureaucratic dictatorship called a regional planning commission (soviet socialism). Critics of the People's Republic of Portland rightly call this disaster "strip mall socialism."

Not my cup of tea.

20 posted on 07/18/2004 1:43:43 PM PDT by sergeantdave (Gen. Custer wore an Arrowsmith shirt to his last property owner convention.)
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