Why Conservatives Have Inflation and Climate Change Backwards
Libertarian writer, Timothy Lee, asks why conservatives and libertarians often worry about climbing inflation even though there is no evidence for it. Lee also worried 2 years ago and became aggravated at progressives that mocked inflation criers. Today we still don’t have much inflation, yet too many that share his politics aren’t adapting to reality. He puts forward 2 explanations of why this might be including this:
Another likely factor is that American conservatism is a fundamentally populist movement, and the inflation hawks’ position has a simplicity that makes it intuitively appealing, especially to a movement that tends to see all policy issues in terms of virtue. Rhetoric about “printing money,” “debasing the currency,” and so forth are not only intuitively appealing, they also dovetail nicely with broader conservative themes of thrift and self-control. The arguments of inflation doves are more subtle and lack the same kind intuitive appeal.
His other is that conservative and libertarian thinkers are intellectually stuck in a 1970s mindset when inflation was a problem. Similarly, I’ve always wondered why conservatives and libertarians often resist the fact that the planet is warming and the overwhelming evidence that mankind is contributing to climate change. Many conservatives have strong religious convictions that lead them to believe that God would never allow global warming, but that can’t explain all of the stubbornness.
Lee leaves out one potential answer on inflation. The Right generally looks out for the interests of the rich and even though inflation could alleviate unemployment it would hurt the wealthy. It’s not that hard to believe that many conservatives don’t “believe” in global warming because corporate backers like oil companies don’t want them to “believe” in it. Yet, I still don’t think that explains the whole story. I have no doubt the the Koch brothers, for example, frequently influence politicians and think tanks that take their money, but not every libertarian or conservative is a corporate hack. Progressives shouldn’t act as if that’s the case.
Just as low inflation causes cognitive dissonance for conservatives’ ideological commitment to “virtue” and “thrift,” solving global warming challenges anti-government dogma. Libertarian and conservative ideology demands that government can’t solve problems and market forces can. A huge negative externality such as climate change requires government intervention. As easy as it may be for many right-wing pundits to refuse to be bought, it is much more difficult to accept reality when it means changing one’s mind.
It’s not as if I switched the labels on the graphs at the top of this post; we all can look at the same facts. But it’s easier to deny the world than it is to alter a worldview.