In a speech before the American Newspaper Publishers Association, President John F. Kennedy quoted the wisdom that “an error doesn’t become a mistake until you refuse to correct it.” Based on that standard, my party, the Republican Party, has some wonderful, course-correcting opportunities ahead.
In the future, we can decide to deliberate rather than emote on international lawsuit bills that erode sovereign immunity. We can return to constitutional order by considering judges nominated for the Supreme Court. We can repudiate “birther” claims and ridiculous assertions that climate change is a Chinese hoax. We can denounce any candidate — even our own — who demeans women, disparages the disabled, belittles our armed forces, extols the strength of dictators, threatens our allies, feeds our fears and offers no solutions. We can remember that Reagan’s shining city on the hill had doors and recall that he was into tearing down walls rather than building them up. We can grapple honestly with racial bias and pray to overcome it. We can commend the freedom to love in a pluralistic society and the wisdom of commitments. We can keep faith free and publicly expressible without making the mistake of coupling faith with power — a mistake that corrupts the church even more than it corrupts the state.
We can lead this great nation if we have a great vision. We can show that free enterprise has better, more efficient, more wealth-producing answers than the centrally planned, bureaucratic welfare state. We can deliver government at the speed of an app and use those efficiencies to help balance the budget. We can identify with those whose jobs are being automated away and get busy with retraining and relocation. We can anticipate autonomous vehicles, the decline of car ownership and the expansion of the sharing economy. We can reduce the regulatory burden and the drag of litigation. We can offer technically inclined students well functioning training programs with actual jobs attached rather than the debts of under-performing college programs. We can commit to finding ways to maximize income and purchasing power in developed economies even while globalization spreads sustenance to the developing world. We can turn away from disposable families, from destroying the unborn and from the further despoliation of Eden’s diminished dreams.
It’s quite a to-do list — a list that goes beyond the insults and middle-of-the-night tweet storms of our political moment.
At republicEn.org we’ve got a part of the list in our hands. We’re recruiting a nationwide community of free enterprise believers ready to lead on climate. We’re confident that we can spark an energy revolution that rivals the tech revolution and that improves on the industrial revolution. We believe that there’s a small government, non-regulatory answer to climate change in simply attaching all costs to all fuels and eliminating all subsidies for all fuels. We’d “price” the hidden health and climate costs into the burning of fossil fuels by collecting a carbon tax at the mine and pipeline and then rebate the entirety of that tax back to taxpayers by cutting taxes elsewhere or by mailing dividend checks. We’d impose the same tax on imports coming through our ports, a bold move that China would challenge — and lose — in the World Trade Organization. Thereafter our trading partners would impose the same tax on carbon dioxide in their own countries so as avoid paying the tax on entry into America. Without the need for a complicated international agreement, energy would then be sold at its truer, more accountable cost. Billions of people around the globe would see and feel the price signal, and we’d birth consumer-driven demand for energy innovation. We’d head off the worst effects of climate change, and distributed energy systems would light up the world with more energy, more mobility and more freedom.
At republicEn.org we know that a small government, free enterprise solution to climate change is consistent with what we deeply believe as conservatives. If it works for progressives too, well, all the better. After all, the idea is to serve our fellow countrymen, not to slay them. For us, it’s not about planting a red flag in the swamps of dysfunction and recrimination; it’s about planting the red, white and blue flag on the sunlight heights of the future.
Bob Inglis, a Republican, represented Greenville-Spartanburg in the U.S. Congress from 1993-1999 and 2005-2011. From Travelers Rest he now directs republicEn.org, a group committed to free enterprise action on climate change.