My House, Your House

One of the few great truths about politics is this. If you think you know something, there's a pretty good chance the opposite is true. This goes not only for government programs, where money is usually allocated in ways that create perverse incentives. But it also goes for politicians, whose reputations are often the result of a few good (or bad) media reports.

Today we had the perfect example. The conventional wisdom is that Democrats are better stewards for the environment. Witness Al Gore. He virtually "owns" the global warming issue. Yet in his personal life, he is doing very little to control his own consumption of energy. Yes, he has a lot of excuses, but at the end of the day Gore seems to think that limits on personal consumption is something that he can leave to others.

In a similar manner, conventional wisdom holds that Republicans are shills for the energy companies and couldn't give a damn about the environment. But two top Republicans have made some very impressive efforts to conduct their personal lives in environmentally friendly ways. President Bush has built a whole host of energy saving features into the house on his ranch in Texas. And former Tennessee Senator Bill Frist's house compares quite favorably to Al Gore's.

Much of the back and forth between left and the right on this issue is just about scoring silly political points. And it feeds quite nicely into the Republican refrain (made popular in the book, Do As I Say, Not As I Do) that Democrat leaders are elitist hypocrites who advocate a host of policies that they themselves ignore (my favorite, Noam Chomsky has earned most of his money from Defense Department consulting and has used tax shelters to fund his Cape Cod summer house... delicious!).

If, however, the debate leads people to appreciate the progress that the Bush Administration has made on the environment (much greater than that of his predecessors), it might just bring some focus on what ACTUALLY WORKS. Rather than a lot of government intervention in the economy, maybe people will begin to appreciate that it is the market itself that will help us clean up the air, water and land, as it has done so successfully in this country over the last century.

And if you want to see real environmental filth, just head over to Russia, where centralized government and socialism ruled for eighty years.