January 4, 2007
By Edwin J. Feulner, Ph.D.
Those of us old enough to remember the 1970s have no desire to
relive those days. After all, it was an era of price controls,
gasoline lines and stagflation. These ills were triggered when our
government attempted to "fix" the economy by subverting the free
market. Instead it simply ended up creating an economic
As John O'Sullivan reminds us in his excellent new book The
President, the Pope and the Prime Minister, the fortunes of the
United States seemed then to be in decline.
President Jimmy Carter "had concluded that the American people
should maturely accept a narrowing of their hopes and horizons,"
O'Sullivan writes. Carter thought "the American way of life,
combining freedom with prosperity, was no longer possible in a
world where shortages of raw materials made controls essential and
rationing perhaps morally obligatory."
That's not how Ronald Reagan saw things. "People who talk about
an age of limits are really talking about their own limitations,
not America's," he chided. And indeed, when Reaganomics replaced
Carter's failed policies, our economy took off, beginning an
economic expansion that continues to this day.
All this matters now, because many want us to repeat some of the
same policy mistakes that made the '70s an economic nightmare.
This time, the impetus is "global warming," but the prescription
is the same: government controls and slower economic growth. "Our
natural role is to be the pace car in the race to stop global
warming," Al Gore explained in a speech this fall. The former vice
president says that to do that, "we should start by immediately
freezing CO2 emissions and then beginning sharp reductions."
Of course, the reason the United States emits so much CO2 is
because we've got the planet's largest economy. So Gore's
prescription boils down to saying we need to show the rest of the
world the way forward by freezing -- and then reversing -- our
That's exactly the wrong approach. If anything, we need to
increase the pace of our growth, and the rest of the world's.
Economic growth, after all, is the surest way to clean up the
Research cited by the World Bank finds that once per capita
income in a country rises to between $5,000 and $8,000, pollution
starts to decline. It seems that once people are earning enough to
support their families, they're eager to improve their environment,
Economic success also generates creativity. Our vibrant economy
keeps developing clever inventions such as the iPod. High-speed
Internet connections allow more people to work from home, thus
taking cars off the road. And as long as we keep growing, the years
ahead will bring ever-cleaner and more efficient energy
Remember that our economy once depended on burning trees for
power. We moved from wood to coal, from coal to oil and natural
gas, and we'll move from those fossil fuels to something else.
As a bonus, the advanced technologies our economy will develop
"could eventually facilitate accelerated progress toward addressing
the long-term challenge of climate change, while also continuing
the energy-related and other services needed to sustain economic
growth," a report by the Bush administration's climate-change
technology program explains.
That's because the new technology will improve our energy
efficiency, reduce emissions of all types of greenhouse gases, and
may eventually allow us to capture CO2 and actually remove it from
the environment. If, that is, we allow the free market and the
creativity it generates to thrive.
If we want to eliminate global warming and improve our
environment, the answer is to grow boldly in the future -- not to
foolishly repeat the mistakes of the past.
is president of The Heritage Foundation (heritage.org), a
Washington-based public policy research institute and co-author of
the new book Getting America Right.
First appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times
Those of us old enough to remember the 1970s have no desire to relive those days. After all, it was an era of price controls, gasoline lines and stagflation. These ills were triggered when our government attempted to "fix" the economy by subverting the free market. Instead it simply ended up creating an economic nightmare.
Edwin J. Feulner, Ph.D.
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