Climate Change: Baptists & Bootleggers


A powerful coalition of environmentalists and crony capitalists have engaged the American people in a confidence game called Climate Change. The coalition is an example of what economist Bruce Yandle termed “Bootleggers and Baptists”- disparate interests who network and unite to get the government to impose a regulatory regime which benefits both.

The Baptists are the true believers, fighting for truth, environmental justice and the planet. The Bootleggers are the business, academic and related special interests seeking profits,, grants and advantages over competitors.

The first card played in the climate policy con game is apocalypse/guilt. It confidently  declares that  Global Cooling Global Warming Climate Change Climate Disruption   is a ‘Holocaust’ for the planet and life on it and that humans are the major cause.

The apocalypse/guilt card has seized the policy agenda in the past: Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth and Bill McKibben’s The End of Nature all posit imminent disaster that humans are responsible for.

The apocalypse/guilt card has energized and motivated a growing and occasionally raucous coalition of progressives, environmentalists and opponents of capitalism to advocate for curbs on “carbon pollution”, fossil fuel divestment, conversion to “sustainable” non- fossil fuel energy, and preventing Canadian development of their oil tar sands. Call it the “Climate Change Command, Control and Confidence Coalition,” or C6. Most of the members of C6 probably don’t realize it’s a confidence game.

Here’s why it’s a con game: No global warming will be averted. The proposed cuts in carbon emissions pollution will have no detectable effect on the supposedly apocalyptic problem which got us to this policy point. The EPA estimates a net benefit based on optimistic health and decreased mortality assumptions and job growth in alternative energy sectors. But no global warming will be averted, and C6 advocates are always careful not to answer the basic question: How much global warming climate change will be averted?

The policy misdirection here is disingenuous; an “intentional misrepresentation of past or present facts in order to gain a person’s trust”.  If ‘climate change’ is not an apocalyptic problem there was a misrepresentation from the start. If climate change is an apocalyptic problem, then the policy won’t have any effect on climate change but will benefit the Baptists and the Bootleggers and “transfer money or property to the individual making the misrepresentation.” And if this is just a first step at much greater regulation, C6 is truly engaged in a very long con game.

There is ample additional supporting evidence to the con game hypothesis:

The policies that C6 is backing will raise energy prices and reduce economic freedom and growth in America. They will definitely not “save the planet” although they will make the Baptists feel virtuous and the Bootleggers prosperous.

An alternative climate change policy would be to invest in climate engineering research rather than regulatory schemes favored by Baptists and Bootleggers. Maine has most of the needed assets in place: The Engineering and Climate Change programs at Orono have shown they can foster innovation and draw grant dollars. The climate change confidence game will have to be exposed for what it is before better alternatives are considered.

About Jonathan Reisman

Jon Reisman is an associate professor of economics and public policy at the University of Maine at Machias. His views are his own.

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