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Jerry Taylor Takedown: Energy Matters

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- January 21, 2020

“Niskanen’s @willwilkinson on the merits of @SenWarren. Yes people, you read that right. And I’m with him.” (Jerry Taylor, February 5, 2019)

The intellectual transformation of Jerry Taylor from libertarian (and libertarian enforcer) to shifty eclectic statist has been told elsewhere (here and here). Not surprisingly, his intellectual road to serfdom began with small steps and has grown to the point that fewer and fewer libertarians and conservatives trust his intellectual judgement.

Taylor’s statism has now attracted the gentlemanly ire of one of his advisory board members, Tyler Cowen, himself an eclectic but libertarian- leaning (he no longer describes himself as ‘classical liberal‘).

Professor Cowen recently wrote in “The Economic Policy of Elizabeth Warren” at Marginal Revolution (January 19, 2020):

Jerry Taylor has made some positive noises about her on Twitter lately, as had Will Wilkinson in earlier times. I genuinely do not see the appeal here, not even for Democrats. Let’s do a quick survey of some of her core views:

1. She wants to ban fracking through executive order.  This would enrich Russia and Saudi Arabia, harm the American economy ($3.5 trillion stock market gains from fracking), make our energy supply less green, and make our foreign policy more dependent on bad regimes and the Middle East.  It is perhaps the single worst policy idea I have heard this last year, and some of the worst possible politics for beating Trump in states such as Pennsylvania.

I will let the reader go to points #2 through #9 (farm plan, tax plan, health care, tech breakup, etc.) by visiting his post, but note how Professor Cowen puts energy atop his list in terms of bad economics and bad politics.

The war against natural gas, indeed, is just the most egregious aspect of the keep-it-the-ground war against fossil fuels. The radical Left is going after modern living, after all, which means banning natural gas even if its role is to displace coal at home and, via LNG, abroad.

And from the radical Left, they are right. The save-the-planet climate math is dire in their Malthusian models, so the barbarians are at the gate.

Taylor/Niskanen Center

This brings up the question about Jerry Taylor and the purpose of the Niskanen Center. I have traced Taylor’s peculiar journey from libertarian to open-ended statism (again, here and here). Regarding this Center, it has gone from “libertarian leaning” to “quasi-conservative” to just “open society.” William Niskanen, who was opposed to climate activism (see this six-part post), would be appalled.

Here is the Center’s current (it changes a lot) mission statement:

The Niskanen Center works to advance an open society by active engagement in the war of ideas, direct engagement in the policymaking process, and through the courts with amicus briefs and pro bono representation. We develop policy proposals, mobilize other groups to support those proposals, promote those ideas to legislative and executive decision-makers, build short- and longer-term coalitions to facilitate joint action, establish strong working relationships with allied legislative- and executive-branch actors, and marshal the most convincing arguments and information in support of our agenda. 

What is an “open society”? What happened to the term “free and open society,” one that covers an essential and appeals across the political spectrum?

I note that the Center now has nearly 50 employees and is tearing it up as a Left, eclectic think tank. Jerry Taylor, in terms of prestige and otherwise, has certainly succeeded as a political entrepreneur in the war of ideas. And the whole thing began with climate change funding from advocates of a carbon tax….

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