About a week ago, I was asked by my school’s newspaper for my thoughts in regards to environmental policy and President Trump’s recent executive orders regarding the Obama-era Clean Power Plan. I, of course, enjoy doing my part to advocate on behalf of the liberty movement, and so I agreed to answer their questions. Below are their questions along with my provided answers (omitting personal information, of course):

Please define your identity on the political spectrum.

Call me a libertarian conservative in the vein of Barry Goldwater.

Should climate change be taken seriously? 

It is reasonable for people to be concerned about the environment. In my opinion, however, environmentalism has become nothing more than a calling card for centralizing further power in the hands of the Federal Government, which is a tragic mistake. The proper way to care for the environment is through private, voluntary action.

Conservatives have called President Obama’s Clean Power Plan job killing while liberals have called it environmentally necessary.  Which should be our priority?

As a nation, we should embrace free market capitalism. Market economies as a whole throughout the decades have actually benefited the environment, contrary to what politicians would lead you to believe. Through the profit mechanism, a market economy provides strong incentives to competitive firms and individuals to conserve and protect natural resources through private ownership. As an example, consider how an individual treats a house he owns as private property versus how an individual treats a rented house. There is no difference between this analogy and the concept of privately owned natural resources. A strong legal system with well-defined property rights will force firms and individuals to pay steep costs for excessive pollution. The worst problems of pollution often come from the absence of poorly defined legal private property rights.

Competitive firms in the marketplace are always seeking to maximize their economic profits, and a surefire way to maximize profits is to minimize the costs of producing a good or service. Firms will attempt to minimize their use of natural resources in the production process in order to cut costs and maximize economic profit, all of which serve to promote a healthier environment as a byproduct of economic activity. An excellent example of the “invisible hand” in action would be Coca-Cola reducing the amount of aluminum used in producing cans in order to minimize production costs while maintaining quality product. Coca-Cola did not undertake this action in the name of altruism – it did so amidst its shameless pursuit of profit. Other examples I would cite would be the tendency for firms and individuals in recent times to switch from using coal to natural gas and other sources of energy, all of which create less pollution in the production process. Firms are voluntarily choosing these energy sources out of their desire to see economic profits increase as opposed to good will or altruism.

Will an increase in coal mining jobs and decrease in environmental regulation yield a positive or negative outcome?

While I view President Trump’s actions in a positive light, they will not be sufficient to revive the coal industry. There are cheaper and more efficient options for energy available – namely, shale and natural gas sources, both of which create less pollution while generating more employment and lower costs. Of course, this means that the coal industry will necessarily shrink. This is nothing more than the “creative destruction” of the marketplace in practice; in order for new efficient and productive industries to grow, old industries must necessarily shrink. This should not deter the Trump administration from taking further action against the EPA; it is long due its complete abolition.

The Trump administration is considering withdrawing from the Paris agreements entirely.  Would you support this withdrawal?  Why or why not?

The Paris agreements are a misguided attempt at coordinating international cooperation. While other pledging countries – India, Pakistan, and China, specifically – have made some sort of statement about “slowing down” or reducing emissions, there is virtually no guarantee that they will actually follow through on their pledge. It is merely a mug’s game. On an aside, as far as international institutions are concerned, the Trump administration should go farther and push to cut American funding to the United Nations.

There is a much better way to garner international cooperation and foster peaceful relations – complete free trade. The United States should lower all remaining tariffs and other barriers to trade and allow individuals to buy goods and services freely from foreign countries. Complete free trade will foster economic harmony through mutually beneficial exchange that will serve to enrich the populations of each respective country involved. And, of course, if we as a nation are concerned with the well-being of our environment, we should be in favor of free trade. Allow China and other foreign countries to import steel and other metals into our country and effectively subsidize our country with cleaner air.

President Trump stated in regard to the Clean Power Plan rollback, “Together we are going to start a new energy revolution.”  What does he mean by this?   What are your thoughts on this quote?

I am not entirely certain, though it is likely that President Trump anticipates reviving the coal industry by rolling back the Clean Power Plan. While I must reiterate my disdain for the EPA, I must also reiterate my lack of confidence that the coal industry will be revived for the same reasons I explained previously.

Though the executive order has been signed, it will be the job of Scott Pruitt, EPA head, to decide what changes the EPA will make to the Clean Power Plan.  Though President Trump has made clear that rules instated by the plan may now go ignored by states, some are calling this action unconstitutional under current laws.  What are your thoughts on this?

Concern over an all-powerful executive branch is justified, in my point of view. However, I find it rather curious that some are concerned over the constitutionality of the Trump administration’s executive actions. On one hand, we desire for the Presidents that we support to have as much power centralized into the executive as possible. On the other hand, we become concerned with an all-powerful executive branch when a President we don’t support takes office. If you do not want politicians whom you deem untrustworthy to control a vast amount of legal power upon taking office, you should be against the centralization of extra-constitutional power into the Federal Government as a whole.

My terrific lady-friend, who is also a staunch advocate of individual freedom and the free market, was also interviewed by our school’s newspaper over the Syrian missile strikes – read it here.