Re: [asa] Why the opposition to global warming

From: David Opderbeck <>
Date: Mon Feb 05 2007 - 14:57:41 EST

*I was a YAF belonging - National Review subscribing - Goldwater applauding
-conservative candidate door knocking - card carrying conservative. So I
know a bit about it from the inside.*

Really! I knew there was a spark of something in there somewhere...
Remember, even Darth Vader eventually came back from the Dark Side :-)

*& one of the tragic mistakes the conservative movement made was failure to
give appropriate support to the civil rights movement.*

This is a fair point, but I think the comparison to economic conservative
responses to global warming has to be more nuanced. As you say, not all
serious Goldwater conservatives were racist ... but many were, and many
racists appropriated conservative political ideas. It is extremely
difficult to separate the serious liberty / economic arguments made against
some early civil rights activism from racist motives. Even today, it's
difficult to discuss whether some of the civil rights era jurisprudence
remains viable -- say, in the context of race-based higher education
admissions policies.

It's also important, I think, to recall that the civil rights movement was
based heavily on a Christian notion of natural law (and natural theology!),
as articulated in MLK's Letter from a Birmingham Jail. My views on
government regulation tend towards a Coasian, Chicago-school approach, which
is most associated with economic conservatives. My views on government
generally, however, draw on broader principles of natural law similar to
those held by MLK. I think the Coasian / economic approach to regulatory
theory has to be contextualized in a wider natural law framework. In this
respect, I depart from hard-core libertarian and Chicago-school folks.

With racism, there's a clear natural law basis for government intervention,
and the type of regulation required also is often equally clear. If
African-Americans are excluded from public services such as buses and
schools because of race, clearly government must adopt rules to change that

With a broad environmental problem like climate change, it seems to me the
natural law basis for government intervention is less clear, at least as to
the scope and nature of intervention required. Because the activities that
cause CO2 emissions form the backbone of the global economy, including in
poor developing countries, any regulation has to be balanced against
the possible near-term destruction of peoples' livelihoods. This simply is
not true of most regulation designed to combat racism. In fact, economic
theory would predict that the overall economy benefits when everyone,
regardless of race, has the opportunity to develop skills and contribute to

At the end of the day, then, I think the comparison between the civil rights
movement and global warming is superficial at best.

On 2/4/07, George Murphy <> wrote:
> Since conservatism has been mentioned here, let me take this opportunity
(since I don't especially want to watch Prince's Super Bowl halftime show)
to suggest a parallel with a serious mistake the conservative movement made
40 to 50 years ago. I preface it by saying that while I don't claim to be
the final authority on conservatism or to have been especially high up in
the movement, during that period (& later) I was a YAF belonging - National
Review subscribing - Goldwater applauding -conservative candidate door
knocking - card carrying conservative. So I know a bit about it from the
> & one of the tragic mistakes the conservative movement made was failure to
give appropriate support to the civil rights movement. This was not because
all conservatives - & especially the serious political & intellectual
leaders of the movement - were racists or unaware of some of the racial
injustice in the country. But there were lots of apparently good reasons
for shying away from the efforts of MLK & other black leaders. Sure, it was
wrong for hotel & restaurant ownners &c to refuse to serve blacks - but a
person does have a right to do what he wants with his private property. (No
one said his/her back then.) Sure it's wrong to refuse to sel a house to a
black person but "a man's home is his castle." There seemed to be sound
conservative arguments against the federal government interfering with a
state's criteria for voting & the Supreme Court's decisions on school
> & there were dubious things about the civil rights movement. Some of its
leaders had socialist ideas & liberal theology. Communists were in favor of
it, & communism was the most serious threat the country faced at the time.
> So conservatives could oppose civil rights legislation & make marriages of
convenience with people who in fact were racists & intent on maintaining the
status quo in the south (though the ones respectable conservatives
cooperated with generally had the good sense not to wear their klan outfits
in public). I don't think we were stupid or intentionally dishonest but we
were naive about some things, like imagining that gradual & individual
approaches to some of the problems would overcome entrenched & determined
resistance. We were wrong.
> Politically, conservatives traded black support for southern white support
(broadly speaking). Perhaps that was a short term pragmatic gain. Morally,
to put it as generously as possible, we were short sighted. (I'm talking
about reasonably intelligent & principled conservatives. The movement also
served - & serves - as a cover for racists & various types of nuts whom I
have no wish to defend.) In terms of actual results, conservative
opposition didn't stop legals remedies for racial injustices, but the
failure of conservatives to contribute positively to many of them meant that
some unfortunate social features resulted.
> Conservatives like to recall Santayana's statement, "Those who cannot
remember the past are doomed to repeat it." Those who have ears to hear,
let them hear.
> Shalom
> George

David W. Opderbeck
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Received on Mon Feb 5 14:58:49 2007

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