Andrew Grossman on GOP Conservation Craziness


Andrew Grossman on GOP Conservation Craziness


"Jobs, shareholder value, GDP — all served." So said Teddy Roosevelt IV about environmental regulation, speaking at the GOP Convention yesterday evening. But what about that threatened specie, the American tax-payer? And is the thin-lipped Mr. Roosevelt, a Wall Street blueblood, even being honest with the party or himself?


In an era when Democrats and Republicans are coming under increasing scrutiny for being increasing similar, factions within the two parties have worked to make their environmental platforms nearly identical.  


"We recognize that we also have an ethical obligation toward one of God's most magnificent gifts, this planet, our home." Sure, the words came out of Roosevelt's mouth, but they might as well have been spoken by Vice President Al Gore, reknowned nutty environmentalist.


The problem is one of public perception; government intervention just appears the most straightforward, expediant way to accomplish difficult goals, such as "saving" the environment. Advocates of market approaches have a tougher job convincing the public — the market is a chaotic, unruly thing, and it's outcomes are neither predictable nor entirely risk-free. At the same time, however, market mechanisms are the most effective and efficient way of meeting many complex goals, from distribution of goods to even saving the environment. To explain why this is so requires some heavy economics — this is when many Americans tune out: "Can't we just let the EPA take care of it?"


But the great complexity of the environment can only be met by a similarly nuanced approach. Although often complicated, government programs are rarely considered "nuanced," except perhaps in their distribution of pork to various legislative sponsors’ locales. Not only can creative market solutions avoid this egregious misappropriation of public funds, they can be adapted as necessary to fit specific goals and products, avoiding the blanket presciptions that serve us so poorly.


Our nation's wildlife refuge system was founded by the first President Roosevelt, at the behest of Ray Kroegel, who asked the President to protect three acres of pelican breeding ground behind his home. Roosevelt decided that no one could stop him, so he did, setting a dangerous precedent of special-interest land acquistions. The government now owns upwards of 40 percent of American land. Is that what President Roosevelt intended?


No matter, Teddy Roosevelt IV intends to bolster his forebear's unfortunate legacy, advocating a massive land acquisitions bill, the Conservation and Reinvestment Act (CARA), that would fund a large-scale expansion of the government's holdings. This is poor policy both for those concerned about the environment and for land-owners. Two of its Republican sponsors, Rep. Don Young and Sen. Frank Murkowski, hail from Alaska, the state that will the most handsomely rewarded with federal funding. CARA is pork on an unprecedented scale and is actually bad for the environment, given the government's poor record of land management.


According to Roosevelt, the GOP is "the party that conserves," which in recent years has become true. The Republicans have conserved land from recreation, species from repopulation (under the fatally flawed Endangered Species Act), and  much private property from any use whatsoever, under a spreading land-siezure regime that's passed congressional muster.


Roosevelt IV contends that "we overlook the real movers in protecting America's environment: the American people." Maybe that's because the two parties are so willing to storm in and "protect America's environment" for them, no matter how ineffectively and inefficiently. It's just the politically expediant thing to do, and this convention has really been all about politcal expediancy.


There was hope that this year the Republican Party would take the difficult but far more rewarding market-based stance on environmental issues. As Roosevelt's speech demonstrates, this has not happened; instead, the GOP's position has converged with that of their rivals. The real losers, though, are the American people, whose interests will continue to be overlooked in the pursuit of President Roosevelt's well-meaning but horrendously flawed legacy.


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