In a boilerplate ‘winger column on cap-and-trade, the Wall Street Journal‘s Kimberly Strassel says that Obama’s carbon policy, despite all the rhetoric about reducing emissions and preventing climate change, is secretly just an effort to REDISTRIBUTE WEALTH [bwa ha ha, etc.].

In a similarly boilerplate ‘winger column on climate change, Dan Gainor (The Boone Pickens Fellow at the Business & Media Institute — wonder what T. Boone thinks about this) says that no matter what environmentalists say about “science” and “public health” and so forth, their secret agenda is to CONTROL PEOPLE [evil laugh].

These are very, very common conservative charges against environmentalists. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find ‘wingers saying anything else on the subject. So it’s worth addressing briefly.

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Now, as Jason Grument said in response to Strassel’s column at the Eco:nomics conference, any government policy redistributes resources: cancer research, invading Iraq, loosening regulations on banks, food stamps, carbon policy, anything. That is the nature of government. The relevant question is whether it’s a wise or just redistribution of resources.

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But it’s important to go beyond that. Lurking behind these attacks is a bedrock conservative faith: that absent government intervention, the market allocates resources with perfect efficiency and those within it are free. Anything government does effectively disturbs a state of grace. Conservatives wouldn’t put it so bluntly, but it’s the only thing that makes sense of their rhetoric.

So it’s worth occasionally reiterating: right now, with respect to climate, we are allocating resources inefficiently and imposing enormous costs and constraints on future generations. We are making them less free — controlling them, you might say. Environmentalists do not want to control people for the sake of controlling them. They want people to bear the costs and burdens of their own behavior instead of sloughing them off to their kids and grandkids.

Conservatives think running up this enormous ecological and economic debt is “freedom.” They think its proper distribution of resources. That’s twisted and irresponsible.

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