Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

Posts Tagged ‘restrictions’

After Copenhagen: Climate action we can agree on

Posted by sanityinjection on December 17, 2009

In the wake of what is shaping up to be the spectacular failure of the Copenhagen conference on climate change, it may be that this presents an opportunity for a new look at the issue. I refer you to this piece by Bjorn Lomborg in the WSJ arguing that the current strategy being demanded by the global warming hysteria lobby – stringent worldwide emissions restrictions – fails not only because it is not achievable, but because even if it were achievable it would fail to benefit the people of the world’s underdeveloped countries. Because of poverty and disease, many people in these countries will not live long enough to suffer from rampant global warming. Emissions reductions, Lomborg points out, are incredibly costly and yet relatively ineffective in reducing global temperatures. For a fraction of the cost we could be wiping out malaria, for example, and save many more lives.

The irony of the global warming hysteria industry is that they have actually eroded support for moving away from fossil fuels by blotting out everything else and insisting on making global warming the defining issue. In fact, there are plenty of good reasons to support reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and expanding our use of alternative and renewable energy, while conserving energy through hyper-efficient “green” technology. You don’t have to be a faithful worshipper at the Church of ManBearPig, er, I mean man-made global warming, to support these things. Lomborg points out that even a major increase in funding for these initiatives would be vastly cheaper than what is being discussed in Copenhagen:

“Specifically, we should radically increase spending on R&D for green energy—to 0.2% of global GDP, or $100 billion. That’s 50 times more than the world spends now—but still twice as cheap as Kyoto. Not only would this be both affordable and politically achievable, but it would also have a real chance of working.”

Even the Obama Administration is taking a break from cheerleading for Al Gore to propose tax breaks for clean energy technologies - which in addition to helping the environment, also benefits the economy, unlike Copenhagen-style emissions restrictions which hurt the economy. To use a metaphor that carbon-haters can understand – the difference between promoting clean energy and mandating emissions caps is like the difference between walking and driving. Walking may be slower but it’s reliable, healthy and doesn’t cause collateral damage. Driving will get you where you want to go in a hurry, but at what cost?

Posted in Foreign Affairs, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Supreme Court considering major campaign finance overhaul

Posted by sanityinjection on September 8, 2009

Politico reports that the Supreme Court will be hearing arguments this week in a case that could have major ramifications for US campaign finance law. Specifically, the court is considering weakening existing restrictions on political advertising by corporations, unions, and non-profit groups.

Under current law, these groups are allowed to fund advertising on specific issues such as health care reform or climate change, but they are not allowed to fund ads for or against a particular candidate for office. Although many changes have been made to campaign finance law over the years, this particular aspect has been with us for over 100 years, as concerns about the power of corporations to influence the federal government were already being raised in Teddy Roosevelt’s time.

Opponents of campaign finance restrictions have consistently argued that spending money on political advocacy is the equivalent of free speech, and that such restrictions are a violation of the First Amendment. In the past, the Court has been skeptical of this argument, but recently the Court seems to be more open to loosening restrictions.

One point that I have not heard discussed much in relation to this issue is the question of foreign influence. Foreign citizens are prohibited by law from contributing to US political campaigns. But suppose you have a corporation, based in the US, but whose Board of Directors are all citizens of some other country – China, for example. Wouldn’t allowing such a corporation to spend freely on ads backing or opposing candidates essentially allow rich foreigners – or worse, foreign governments – to evade the law and exert unwanted influence on US elections?

I’ve gone back and forth on this issue. As a general rule I support fewer government restrictions on how individuals and groups are allowed to spend their money. But I have seen the potential corrupting influence of special interest groups in action, and I believe there is a compelling public interest  in combating that. On the other hand, I do think that corporations, unions, and other groups have the right to be heard on issues that are important to them – which they can be under current law. I am not convinced that current campaign finance restrictions are serving to muzzle free speech in practice. Witness the controversial op-ed piece by the CEO of Whole Foods opposing the House health care reform bill.

There is also an argument to be made that the Court is engaging in “judicial activism” and going beyond its mandate in expanding this case to rule on the broad scope of campaign finance restrictions. I haven’t reviewed the facts of the case closely enough to say whether I agree with this charge, but I do think those of us who oppose judicial activisim have an obligation not to dismiss it out of hand.

What do you think?

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »


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