Shanahan-Heritage-environmentalist%20copy

Shanahan-Heritage-environmentalist%20copy - December21,1991...

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December 21, 1991 The Conservative as Environmentalist by Shanahan, John Heritage Lecture #358 Can a conservative be an environmentalist? My environmentalist ffiends tell me the answer is no‐that the goals of conservatives and en‐ vironmentalists are irreconcilable. That idea is not only wrong, but tragically wrong, because it blinds environmentalists to the fact that conservatives, through their understanding of markets and property rights, actually have proposed better ways to improve the environment without the unnecessary costs that typify proposals from many environmental organizations. Let me begin by making some things clear. I am a conservative! This means, among other things, that I believe in minimal government regulation, minimal governmental intrusion into the lives of citizens, and fiscal restraint in the taxing and spending of the hard‐earned wealth of the people. I also believe that command and control methods of governing in general are economical‐ ly inefficient and anathema to a healthy and free society. I am also an environmentalist, or to use my preferred term, a conservationist. Contrary to the impressions conveyed by some environmentalists, conservatives gain just as much from clean air as anyone else does. We do not have secret meetings at which we breathe exhaust fumes. Nor do we have special skin that magically resists cancer from an excess of sunshine due to depletion of the ozone layer. Nor do we like to build our houses on toxic waste dumps. In other words, we have nothing to gain from environmental degradation, and I am not here to defend it. To the contrary, I believe in the importance of clean air for people‐including myself ‐to breathe, clean rivers for people to use, and freedom from involuntary exposure to cancer‐ causing chemicals. I believe too that our nation should make polluters pay the real costs that their pollution im‐ poses upon society. That would give polluters tangible incentives to conserve non‐renewable resources and to use renewable resources in a wise and responsible manner. Fundamental Objective. I am a conservative environmentalist because, while I believe in the fundamental objectives of a clean and safe environment, I am concerned that some ill‐conceived forms of protection unnecessarily threaten the jobs and health of ordinary Americans without any appreciable benefit to the environment. Thus what differentiates me, as a conservative environmentalist, from some other environmen‐ talists is this: while we environmentalists can broadly agree on environmental objectives, I mean to achieve them with the fewest working men and women getting pink slips and with the least in‐ trusion in to the lives of the Americans. Moreover, as a conservative who understands how markets work, I believe I know market‐based ways to protect the environment more effectively with less economic side effects than leftist environmentalists.
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Conservative Battle.
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