Guest Blog: Why Earth Day is Bunk

Ok, the title is my interpretation, but Todd Myers from the Washington Policy Center lays out why it’s hypocrisy at best. There’s also a link at the bottom from Montana’s own Jim DeLong on the EPA’s regulatory overreach and the Supreme Court’s response…Carl

Earth Day Exposes the Ironies of the Left’s Trendy Environmentalism

On April 22, in cities across America, some environmental activists will celebrate Earth Day, claiming only increased government control can protect the environment. Those celebrations will expose a couple ironies.

First, many activists will arrive in a Toyota Prius, which has become the symbol of environmental consciousness. Ironically, however, the Prius is not a triumph of political planning but of the free market. In the 1990s, while California was requiring “zero-emission” vehicles, leaders at Toyota and Honda saw an opportunity to sell cars to people who want to spend less on gasoline, drive a car that emits less carbon dioxide, or both. Thus was born the hybrid vehicle. Even though it did not meet California’s regulation, it sold well, causing Golden State politicians to change the law.

Jumping on the bandwagon, politicians began to give preferences to hybrids. Politicians did not lead, but followed the innovation of the free market. Most Prius drivers, however, don’t know that history, and some will spend Earth Day opposing the free market policies that created the car they are so proud of.

Many activists on the left will also spend Earth Day complaining that people who see the benefits of the free market don’t care about the environment. A look at the national political map, however, tells a different story.

Across the country, the parts of the nation that most consistently support free market candidates are those surrounded by stunning natural beauty. The most vocal environmental activists — who are quick to lecture others about caring for nature — tend to live in cities, where nature has been thoroughly controlled, constrained and paved.

How, we should ask, can environmental activists get away with this? How can they continue to advocate top-down policies that don’t help the environment? How can those who live where nature has been subjugated lecture those who live in it and with it every day?

Environmentalism has become trendy and a way to show you are a good person, rather than actually helping the environment. Environmental activists and politicians choose government-mandated approaches not because they help the environment, but because the policies make them feel good about themselves and make them look good to others.

The strategy is as simple as the fourth-grade playground: Build up your own environmental credentials by tearing others down and calling names.

Rather than pointing out these ironies, however, free market conservatives often fall into the trap of arguing there are no risks to the environment, fitting perfectly into the stereotype imposed on them by the left. Some conservatives fear that by admitting they care about the environment, they must then endorse a range of left-wing policies they oppose.

In fact, a strong concern for the environment is part of believing in personal responsibility and the free market. Conservatives believe people have freedom, but must take responsibility for the impact they cause. If you commit a crime, you don’t get to blame society. A reason conservatives live near nature is that we love to hike, hunt, fish and marvel at the awe-inspiring natural beauty with which our nation is so blessed.

Finally, the free market is the greatest system for allocating scarce resources and doing more with less, both of which are at the heart of a true environmental ethic.

Rather than forcing behavior change, conservatives promote technological solutions that respect the freedom of individuals while reducing environmental impact. Rather than falling for the latest trendy environmental policy, conservatives demand that the government measure success or failure.

Better yet, we promote the creative competition that discovers options that we never imagined. As politicians spend billions on rail and buses that carry few people, the market is creating driverless, fuel-efficient cars that will more efficiently take people exactly where they want to go.

For energy efficiency, clean air, clean water and smart resource use, the free market combines prosperity and innovation to successfully protect natural resources.

April 22 may be a one-day event for some, but for those who embrace the free market and its push to do more with less, every day is Earth Day.

Todd Myers is director of the Washington Policy Center’s Center for the Environment. He is one of the nation’s leading experts on free-market environmental policy. Todd is the author of the landmark 2011 book Eco-Fads: How the Rise of Trendy Environmentalism Is Harming the Environment and is designated a Wall Street Journal Expert panelist for energy and the environment.

Reprinted by Permission.

And for another piece of the ‘environmentalism as religion’ saga, check out James DeLong’s piece describing the U.S. Supreme Court’s overreach on powers of the EPA.

Rob Natelson: Three Cheers for Speaker Blasdell and the State House!!! (to which is appended a heads-up from past experience)

Carl Graham and I were in the legislative galleries in Helena last Friday, when the state stepped back from the brink.

Democrats and some Republicans were pushing for the state to yoke itself to the Obamacare Medicaid expansion, enticed by “free federal money.” So they amended a bill designed to keep the state free from the expansion to one chaining the state to the expansion.

The rules of the state House of Representatives generally provide that when the purpose of a bill is changed, it should go back to committee for review. So in a courageous move guaranteed to irritate the state’s “opinion leaders,” Speaker of the House Mark Blasdel decided to just that.

Advocates of the expansion immediately moved to appeal the Speaker’s ruling. All of us in the House chamber held our breaths to see what the roll call vote would be. At the end, the motion to overrule lost—but by the closest margin possible: 50 for, 50 against. Then the bill was physically transmitted to the committee.

At least one, and possibly two, Democrats claimed to have pushed the wrong button while voting, but some Republicans may have made off-setting errors. Anyway, advocates of the extension pushed for a second vote, while hospital lobbyists—eager to pad their employers’ pockets by throwing more people into government dependency—vigorously worked on lawmakers, trying to flip some to their cause. They actually wound up losing people: The second vote to reverse Speaker Blasdell lost 48-52.

Some in the Montana political establishment can be ruthless in finding ways to overrule the state legislature when it makes a fiscally conservative decision. Montana lawmakers have to be careful they are not overruled this time.

For example, in the 1990s, the state House rejected federal funding for a controversial education program. Instead of respecting the legislative will, the governor and superintendent of public instruction decided to thwart it. They arranged for the money to bypass state government and go directly from the feds to local school bureaucrats.

A little later in the decade, Montana lawmakers rejected CHIP, one of those federal health care programs that are (1) promoted as improving access to care but instead (2) always make care more expensive and less accessible. So the Montana state auditor (insurance commissioner) decided to violate a central canon of our constitutional government: He decided, as an executive branch officer, to invade the sole right of the legislature to appropriate money.

First, he threatened insurance companies with prosecution for allegedly breaking regulations. Next, he dropped the cases when the insurance companies handed over large cash payments. Finally, he used the extorted funds to erect the CHIP program himself.

Voila! more dependency, less affordable care, and a new spending constituency.

Montana lawmakers must ensure they are not overridden this time. But if their decision holds, they will have made an important step toward more fiscal sanity and physical health.

Rob Natelson:The Constitutional Issues In Same-Sex Marriage

I’ve found that most of the discussion about same-sex marriage, even among lawyers, tends to mis-characterize the constitutional issues. This is particularly true of the “equal protection” issues.

Under the Constitution as originally understood, jurisdiction over domestic relations outside federal enclaves and federal territories was reserved to the states.

State laws dealing with domestic relations are, however, subject to the mandates of the Fourteenth Amendment. That provision requires states to honor “due process of law” and to grant all citizens “equal protection of the laws.” (The Supreme Court has added that the Fifth Amendment imposes a similar equal protection standard on the federal government; a more credible reading of the Constitution would derive some federal equal protection obligations from the “proper” component of the Necessary and Proper Clause.)

Modern Supreme Court Due Process cases recognize a constitutional right to make free sexual and co-habitation choices, both heterosexual and homosexual. People also have the right to obtain religious sanction for unions not recognized by state civil marriage laws. But there is no general federal constitutional right to the government benefits bestowed by state civil marriage laws; indeed, the states are not required to adopt civil marriage laws at all. Some commentators argue we would be better off if they didn’t, and formal recognition of marriage were left to the private sector.

It is important to understand what civil marriage laws are. They are enactments authorizing the grant of special state benefits for certain kinds of unions. In other words, they give to people in qualifying relationships what the Framers called “privileges and immunities”—an 18th century legal phrase that refers to benefits bestowed by government on some people to the exclusion of others. American governments traditionally have conceded the “privileges and immunities” of civil marriage only to a social union complying with certain exacting requirements. With some variations, state laws traditionally require that the union be (1) of a man and a woman, (2) who undergo certain procedures in advance, (3) obtain a valid license, (4) have consented, (5) are above a certain age, (6) are not married to any one else, (7) are not too closely related to each other, and (8) meet certain other requirements of ceremony and/or cohabitation. States traditionally have excluded from special benefits all other groupings—including, but not limited to, same-sex marriages, polygamous marriages, polyandric marriages, other plural clusters, designated intra-family unions (e.g., brother/sister and uncle/niece), and unions that are unlicensed or that otherwise fail to meet the states’ rules.

Now we come to the big question: Does a state’s decision to grant benefits to just one sort of union violate the equal protection doctrine? A grant of special privileges to one group while excluding others does violate that doctrine unless the state can point to legitimate public reasons for its decision. How strong the reasons have to be depends on the kind of case. For better or worse, the Supreme Court is very tolerant of government discrimination among economic classes. In social-issue cases, on the other hand, the Court sets more exacting standards.

It is clear that for constitutional purposes civil marriage laws that include one man/one woman unions do meet those exacting standards. This is because of the overwhelming evidence of social benefit deriving from such unions. This evidence arises both from formal empirical studies and from practical experience gathered, quite literally, over millennia.

What about extending the “privileges and immunities” of civil marriage to other groupings? That’s a much tougher case to make because, with the arguable exception of polygamous marriage, the supporting evidence is so much weaker. Particularly in the case of same-sex marriage, the evidence of social benefit is spotty and highly politicized. Under Supreme Court Equal Protection jurisprudence, it is not strong enough to require states to recognize such unions.

Thus, under existing Supreme Court Equal Protection doctrine, the real issue is not whether the evidence is sufficient to compel states to recognize same-sex marriage. The real issue is whether that evidence is sufficient to justify states granting to same-sex couples “privileges and immunities” that most other groupings—such as polygamous and polyandrous unions—do not receive.

My own view, for what it is worth, is that such questions are best left to the individual states to resolve. That doesn’t address the special problems arising under the federal Defense of Marriage Act, but it’s a good general principle.

GF Tribune: Judge Says MPI Lawsuit Against Gallik Can Proceed

HELENA — In an order filed Thursday, Missoula District Judge John Larson said a lawsuit against former Commissioner of Political Practices Dave Gallik can proceed.

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Bozeman Daily Chronicle Op Ed: Improve Medicaid Before Expanding It


Gov. Bullock waited until nearly 60 of the 2013 legislative session’s 90 days had passed before making a Medicaid expansion proposal that essentially said “do what the feds want.” That’s a wasted opportunity. Since Medicaid rules are made in Washington, D.C., we frittered away a chance to negotiate reforms that could better meet the needs of Montana’s most at-risk population while also being fair to taxpayers.

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Rob Natelson: Protect Democracy: End Election Day Registration

Carting uninformed, transient voters to the polls to vote for the political boss-man is a time-dishonored practice of demagogues everywhere. It has no place in Montana.

House Bill 30, currently pending in the Montana legislature, would curb this abuse by ending the practice of voting-day registration. It would require voters to register at least four days before the election instead.

In my view (and this is not necessarily the view of MPI, which does not promote particular legislation), the bill does not go far enough, but it is a good start.

Some historical perspective: America has a long tradition of democratic governance. By the time our American Constitution was adopted, nearly all states had broadened their electorates greatly from colonial days. Property requirements were loosened. Several states allowed women to vote (formally in New Jersey, informally elsewhere). Free African-Americans cast ballots in at least five states.

This was all to the good. But the Founders also understood that democracy is not the same as ochlocracy (mob rule). They understood that, for democratic governance to work, the electorate must (1) be reasonably well informed, and (2) stand to lose personally as well as gain from the choices they make.  One of the Founders’ solutions—an imperfect one, to be sure—was to retain some modest property requirements. Several states also provided exemptions for people meeting other qualifications, such as gainful employment.

Note that the Founders did not consider suffrage a “right” in the sense that, say, freedom of speech or self-defense was a right.They classified it as a “privilege”—that is, a grant from society, although a very, very important one.

One result of the difference was that while any law-abiding citizen could exercise a right, getting a chance to vote was something to be earned.

I wouldn’t want to go back to property requirements for general elections. But it does seem like a pretty minimal “qualification” to ask someone to pay enough attention to be able to register a few weeks before a pending election. In my view, it would be fair to require voters to register for a general election by Labor Day, when the formal general election campaign traditionally begins. However, the Supreme Court has effectively limited the maximim to 30 days. That hardly seems enough time to become educated on local issues. And we certainly don’t need more “low information” voters.

I lived in Missoula for 24 years, a town that hosts many people who are really transients—that is, their true homes are elsewhere. I don’t just mean students, but people who come to Missoula just to hang out for a while. Unfortunately, transients are are encouraged to vote in Missoula. Again and again, I watched as they made decisions for our city that we long-term residents would have to live with, and pay for, decades after the transients were long gone. In 2008, I watched as one of the national campaigns took advantage of Election Day registration to herd into the Missoula County courthouse people so incompetent they couldn’t get it together enough to fill out a simple form without it being stuffed in their hands on Election Day.

This is not good government. And it is heartbreakingly unfair—especially to the retirees and others on fixed incomes who have to pay, year after year, for mistakes made by voters who have long left for greener pastures.

Adopting a 30-day requirement would only begin to solve the problem. But at least it would begin to do so.

Uniting Behind the Freedom Message

Those of us on the right-hand side of the political spectrum seem to be spending a lot of time arguing with ourselves before we negotiate with our adversaries.

Arguing is OK, and even a good thing, if we do it in a way that moves ideas forward and identifies common paths in the right direction. But in an environment where those who disagree with us, including much of the mainstream media, are looking for ways to make us look either incompetent or evil, indecisiveness just serves up on a silver platter the opportunity for them to label us instead of us defining ourselves and our shared beliefs.

This simply can’t go on. It sends a mixed message of a disunited front that undermines any reasonable chance of winning debates or representing our true numbers. It arms and aims the arrows they use against the weak points in our coalitions. And it takes away our ability to define our own messages and let people see that those messages are neither radical nor dangerous. In fact, our beliefs are what has made this country great to this point.

It’s ironic that as advocates of liberty and students of freedom, we’re not much good at dealing with even slightly different opinions and priorities.

And I say “slightly” because we agree on almost all of what we want in terms of overall outcomes:

  • Free people making free decisions in a reasonably regulated free market environment.
  • A limited government that protects rights rather than trying to grant them.
  • A government that protects us from each other, not ourselves, and respects our right to live our lives as we please so long as we harm no one else.
  • A nation of laws, where all are equal under those laws and nobody is above them.

What I see in my travels around the state are primarily differences in tactics and priorities. Not only is our team not advancing the ball, we can’t quit arguing in the huddle long enough to call the plays.

No, scratch that. We’re not even in the huddle. We’re standing at the line of scrimmage screaming at each other and then calling the play just before the clock runs out.

No, scratch that. They’re calling the plays while we’re arguing about whether to defend against the run or the pass. How about we pick up the ball and run with it instead?

I don’t care if you’re on the right or the left, the tactic of insulting people and questioning their commitment or intelligence won’t win any converts among adversaries or undecideds and just unnecessarily causes division on your own side. It’s at best a waste of time, however cathartic, and more likely destructive to your goals.

So Rule Number 1 is to know your audience. If you are trying to influence people or convince them, know who they are. As for me, I’m trying to convince or confirm for people the value of our founding principles of freedom and free enterprise. But I also have to recognize that, unless I’m preaching to the choir, the majority of people out there simply don’t understand the history of the Constitution and aren’t easily persuadable by a parchment document written in ancient times under circumstances that are often difficult to apply to today’s circumstances.

I’ll put my knowledge of the Constitution, its history and meaning, and my respect for it up against just about anyone; but while the Constitution is always my guide in matters of freedom and government, it’s not always my argument. It’s simply not always the argument that will win these people over because they have no common frame of reference. We have to find the messages that relate to people’s knowledge, values and life experiences, and then show how our founding principles apply to and can further those things that are important to them. That’s not deceptive. It doesn’t ignore basic principles. It simply uses language and messages that apply to people’s lives.

The same could be said about any number of issues out there that haven’t reached a mainstream audience or understanding. They can be your guide, but it’s not always effective for them to be your first argument.

The beauty of our founding was that the people who put together the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution harnessed human nature rather than suppressed it. They recognized the constancy of human nature:

  • that there is good and evil,
  • that people will work harder if they’re allowed to keep what their labor provides, benefiting society as a whole,
  • that incentives and disincentives matter in public policy,
  • that equality means that no one is above the law, not that we punish success or subsidize failure,
  • that desire for power among some is one of the few constants in history,
  • and that channeling that desire can actually strengthen our society rather than tearing it apart.

Those should be our guides. Most everything else is tactics and priorities. We need to hammer those out, but we should unify behind consistent messages that bring people together rather than separate them.

Rob Natelson: A Federal Lawsuit Threatens Constitutional Limits on the State Legislature

Most state constitutions limit the financial powers of the state legislature. They have to: In the 19th century several states nearly went bankrupt from bad fiscal practices.

Now a federal lawsuit puts those protections in danger.

The Montana constitution requires the state to run a balanced budget. And it requires that before the state can go into debt, the proposed debt must be approved either by 2/3 of each house of the legislature or by a vote of the people.

In 2011, a group of government employees and apologists sued the State of Colorado in federal court, arguing that the Colorado constitution’s limit on the legislature’s taxing, borrowing, and spending powers violates the U.S. Constitution. The plaintiffs argue that unless a state legislature has absolute power to tax, borrow, and spend as it wishes, that state does not comply with the U.S. Constitution’s requirement that it have a “republican form of government.”

The suit is ridiculous on a number of levels, as my co-author and I show in Independence Institute issue papers here and here. Nevertheless, last year an Obama-appointed federal judge refused to dismiss it, and ruled that it could proceed.

That judgment is now on appeal. On April 19 I’ll be in Helena on behalf of MPI to discuss the suit and how it threatens both the Montana Constitution and the fiscal health of Montana and the livelihood of her citizens. Keep tuned for more details.

Heartland Institute: MT Relooking Hydro as Renewable Power

Montana Sen. Jim Keane (D-Butte) has filed legislation to define hydropower as a renewable power source for meeting Montana’s renewable power mandates. 

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