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Morning Must-Read: Ross Douthat Squares the Circle on Climate Change

John Quiggin: Douthat squares the circle on climate change: "Matt Yglesias... 'For smart, up-and-coming conservatives...

...to mention climate change, they would have to... sound like rubes by siding with the conspiracy theorists, or... alienate the rubes by acknowledging the basic facts and the coming up with some other reason to favor inaction? The optimal choice is not to choose.' I made much the same point a year ago in response to Ramesh Ponnuru’s plaintive observation that 'To be a good reformer [in liberal eyes] a conservative has to agree that the vast bulk of conservatives are insane'.... Ross Douthat tries to respond to Yglesias. He ends up both confirming the point regarding climate change and illustrating the true nature of reform conservatism.

Since Douthat can’t refute Yglesias’ point about the craziness of the Republican base, he doesn’t try. Rather, he dismisses the point as 'silly' and moves straight to his own apologia for lining up with the crazies.... Supposedly, a relatively modest slowdown in economic growth means that it is now imperative to do nothing about climate change. The best way to understand Douthat’s piece is by reverse engineering his argument as a constrained minimization problem The objective is to minimize the craziness he needs to embrace, subject to the constraint that he must end up in line with the denialist conspiracy theorists who dominate the base. The best approach is to combine the most inflated estimates of the cost of mitigation, with the rosiest projections of the implications of doing nothing.... The Republican party is a coalition of crazies, racists and plutocrats. But there is a political requirement to talk about policy in a way that is not obviously crazy, racist or pro-rich. The task of conservative intellectuals is to square this circle...