Sausage, Anyone?

Jim Manzi braves the tedium of typing in a partial list of exemptions and carve outs inside the cap-and-trade bill working through Congress. It is not a small list. He concludes:

Calling some of these carve-outs “transition” assistance is pretty funny, since they extend out to 2030 for the oil, natural gas, power generating and manufacturing companies (six presidential elections and more than three senate terms from now). Do you think that when 2030 rolls around their reaction is going to be “a deal’s a deal”?

Of course, this is the rent-seeking we have now as the regulatory process is about to be kicked off. For this program to work, it has to remain in force for many decades. If this happens, entire lobbying firms will be built up to seek exemptions, allowances and so on. Many nice homes will be built in McLean with the proceeds, and many members of congress will have re-election campaigns financed by the contributions this bill will generate. It will create another income tax code.

As Jim mentions, some people think he is cynical. I don’t know, maybe he is. But he’s right. Understanding basic public choice dynamics is required for a rudimentary grasp of what politics and government are. A civics or “social studies” course without rent-seeking is the equivalent of an economics course that never touches on the logic of a collective action problem. Both leave you laughably incapable of grokking how and why things work (or don’t) they way the do (or don’t).

This bill is obviously going to be worth much less than nothing, and, to be frank, I think people who can’t understand why are sadly ignorant of how politics works. Global warming is the sort of “crisis” that is useful as a pretext for the enrichment of the connected. And that may be all global warming legislation ever manages to accomplish. Is that cynical?

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