Obama’s radicalism

A permit-auction system is about as radical a global-warming proposal as you could make. And Obama has made it.

It’s hard to deny that Barack Obama, the Presidential campaign, hasn’t been as Barack Obama, the orator.

But I’m surprised that Kevin Drum finds Obama’s domestic policy proposals “fairly cautious and mainstream.” His energy proposal, to take the strongest instance, involves a permit-auction system, which is functionally identical to a carbon tax. That’s more radical than Al Gore is prepared to be, at least out loud. Not only does it raise the price of (fossil-fuel) energy, it does so without providing any giveaways to big corporate donors, by contrast with any “cap-and-trade” system in which the permits are given away instead of being auctioned.

More than that, Obama isn’t making a secret of the fact that he’s proposing higher energy prices as a way of forcing conservation. You could reasonably criticize his plan on political grounds, as too likely to offend the SUV-drivers, but the one thing it isn’t is “cautious.”

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com