Is Ron Paul Anti-Science?Submitted by traigo12 on Thu, 12/01/2011 - 20:02
I’ve recently been doing my all to win my friends and family over to the Ron Paul camp, and one question I wasn’t prepared to answer for a friend of mine is what Dr. Paul believes about global climate change. I knew his energy platform favored increased domestic oil drilling and other free market solutions to our energy needs, but I was honestly quite astonished when I searched online and found videos of Ron Paul calling climate change a hoax. It’s one thing to say that the actions being proposed by the EPA or Nancy Pelosi or others to address global warming are excessive or plain wrong (e.g. there are a lot of good reasons cap-and-trade probably won’t work) but to deny the existence of one of the most well-researched and universally agreed upon scientific conclusions there is (I know, I know they’re still working on the details but almost no credible scientist doubts the general phenomenon) makes Paul look like just another out-of-touch, anti-science conservative.
I was similarly disturbed to hear he doesn’t believe in the theory of evolution – a “theory” nearly as well supported as gravity (we can watch it take place in a lab in fact - http://news.msu.edu/story/6993). Again, its one thing to have doubt about the ultimate conclusions of evolution (e.g. that the formation of life on Earth is just a meaningless coincidence with no divine aspect to it) and another to doubt the theory as a whole. Don’t get me wrong – there aren’t deal breakers for me and I still definitely support Ron Paul, but I find these rather backwards views troubling. Do I have inaccurate or incomplete info here? Can someone guide me to something better? I searched online for “Ron Paul global warming,” but when I opened the global warming issues page on his site (http://www.ronpaul.com/on-the-issues/global-warming/) all I could get was a blank page.
I also have concerns about his environmental platform. It’s an issue he kind of sidesteps by saying “let the free market deal with it,” but I doubt the efficacy of this approach. Fundamental economics tells us it’s always in the best interests of a private company to externalize its costs as much as possible, i.e. a company that can push the costs of pollution, for example, onto society as a whole can then lower prices and be more competitive. A company that makes the same product, but pays to sort its garbage, filter its smokestacks, process its liquid waste into a benign form, etc… will have to add those costs to its product, become uncompetitive vis a vis the polluting company, and go out of business. It seems the only solution is a requirement for all companies to manage their pollution the same way so no one gets put at a competitive disadvantage for doing the right thing, and it’s hard to see how such agreements will be reached without government intervention. I’m not a big fan of the EPA either, and feel like many government environmental programs are very counterproductive, but I also have no faith in an unregulated market to do as well or better.
All through its history industrial progress has been followed by rampant pollution and environmental destruction; I don’t really see any precedent or theoretical basis for the idea that an unregulated market will be a clean one. On his site Dr. Paul’s solution is that corporate pollution can be dealt with by lawsuits in private court. However, this means that environmental destruction can only be dealt with after the damage has already been done. It also relies on the ability of private citizens to be the legal defenses and hotshot lawyers of billion-dollar companies (unlikely), and leave pollution of the commons (the ocean, the atmosphere) completely ignored. Furthermore, many court settlements in recent times have handed down punishments that were a small fraction of the profits made through the act of pollution – no deterrent at all, but rather an encouragement to continue such behavior.
I hope this can start a useful discussion and if someone can show me that I’ve been misled, so much the better, but please don’t waste everyone’s time with childish ad hominem attacks. Thank you.