Soon after the Kindle craze, some warned of print books’ imminent extinction—but thus far, the codex has shown laudatory tenacity. It seems that, if things continue in their favor, print books are here to stay.
But what of the print magazine? Its content is less permanent, less extensive. Its flimsiness is often coupled with excellence, but who’s to say one must procure excellence in print—especially with so many magazines putting their print features online? Atlantic contributor Peter Osnos noted Tuesday the rather woeful future some envision for print magazines: “…Alas, as everyone with the remotest interest in media developments can attest, the great era of magazines notable for their largesse to staffs, and replete with copious, handsome advertising and strong single-copy newsstand sales, is almost certainly in the past.”
Perhaps magazines can take a cue from print books’ relative success, and mimic their selling points in order to survive this digital trend. For instance: many print-aficionados refer to the experiential appeal of books. The codex is aesthetically pleasing to the reader. Print fans don’t merely read for the words on the page—they savor the very smell, texture, and sight associated with print books.
Similarly, magazines can meet or even exceed the appeal of online experience through the power of visual and sensory mediums. Magazines have great potential for graphic experience: visual images, graphs, and diagrams help the reader connect more deeply with the text. While a magazine doesn’t have the interactive powers of the web at its disposal, there are other ways a magazine captivate its readers.
Books give us some ideas: for instance, the simple power of a good cover can hardly be overstated. It’s the first thing we see—the graphic that entices us to take a closer look. Book covers have become progressively more exciting in the past decade. Their use of typography and image are interesting and unique. Magazines can also use this power to greater effect. Too often, it seems, magazines mimic newspapers in their graphic rigidity. But the magazine has potential to become a more flexible and creative medium.
There are two main sorts of books that people buy: flimsy paperbacks bought in airports on a whim, and beautiful hardbacks bought for “keeps.” As one could imagine, the former usually end up at yard sales or secondhand stores—but the latter often morph into a collection. Similarly, people usually buy two sorts of magazines: the cheap, flimsy versions one reads for temporary diversion, and serious-minded publications (like the Economist and New Yorker) that get saved, collected, and even treasured.
How does a print magazine avoid the trash bins and yard sales of readers? It must not only have good, strong, consistent content—it must also have timeless content, superseding mere paltry observations on the fickle political or cultural atmosphere of the day. Also, magazines that serve as curators—of art, food, or culture, for instance—stand the test of time by serving as a reference book to their readers.
A final note: I’m not sure how long magazines can survive while putting their print content online. It seems that, in order to survive as a print and online entity, they must diversify material enough to entice readers to subscribe. While the ethos of the publication must remain consistent, its print content must offer something more—or at least something different.
It is true that, even with good graphics and content, some magazines may fail. They may not prove as hearty as their book cousins. But one hopes that, with some diligence and ingenuity, they will continue to grace our bookshelves and coffee tables.
Reacting to the Iran hawks’ contention that piling more sanctions on Iran will “help” diplomacy, Colin Kahl poses the following thought experiment:
Suppose the Majles, Iran’s legislature, passed legislation tomorrow, over Rouhani’s objections, declaring that Iran would resume and escalate its nuclear activities in six months’ time if Washington failed to live up to its Geneva commitments and agree to a final deal that fully respects Iran’s nuclear rights. Imagine that the legislation threatened to resume enrichment of nearly bomb-grade 20 percent uranium (halted by Geneva); bring all 16,000 first-generation centrifuges at the Natanz enrichment site online (only 9,000 were operating pre-Geneva) and move to install thousands more; activate the 1,000 next-generation centrifuges currently installed at Natanz (none are operational now) and step up planned assembly of 2,000 new ones; activate all 3,000 centrifuges at the deeply buried Fordow enrichment site (only 1,000 were spinning pre-Geneva), making the facility fully operation for the first time; begin enriching to the even-closer-to-bomb-grade 60 percent level for “civilian naval propulsion”; and significantly accelerate fuel production for the Arak plutonium reactor.
Suppose further that when asked by an Iranian reporter whether this legislation risked undercutting diplomacy, speaker of the Majles Ali Larijani pooh-poohed the notion, assuring the media that this in no way violates the terms agreed to in Geneva. After all, Larjani would say, “Iran is doing nothing now. We are simply creating a sword of Damocles as leverage to ensure the Americans live up to their end of the bargain and accept a final agreement that respects Iran’s red lines.”
How would U.S. lawmakers view such a move? Would they see it as consistent with the letter and spirit of Geneva? Would it enhance American support for diplomacy? Would the threatened Iranian escalation be helpful to Obama as he works to convince skeptics on Capitol Hill of the need to back continued negotiations and support future compromise? Or would it put the administration on the defensive, confirm the worst American suspicions about Iranian intentions, complicate diplomacy and make a confrontation over the nuclear program more likely?
The sight of John Kerry testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee yesterday tried one’s faith in the legislative body. Kerry was professional and effective, but a majority of congressmen were clearly reading from Bibi’s talking points. It’s kind of amusing to see a congressman from Alabama somberly reading long quotations from the Times of Israel. It’s difficult to know in which cases congressmen and women actually hope that legislating new sanctions will destroy the Iran negotiations (I suspect most of them, but I’m not sure) and in which cases they credulously believe that a vote for more sanctions will actually aid the administration in negotiations, or at least be harmless. (As well as appease their AIPAC donors, inevitably a major consideration.)
Reports that A- is the median grade in Harvard College have reopened the debate about grade inflation. Many of the arguments offered in response to the news are familiar. The venerable grade hawk Harvey “C-” Mansfield, who brought the figures to public attention, describes the situation as an “indefensible” relaxation of standards.
More provocative are defenses of grade inflation as the natural result of increased competition for admission to selective colleges and universities. A new breed of grade doves point out that standards have actually been tightened in recent years. But the change has been made to admissions standards rather than expectations for achievement in class.
According to the editorial board of the Harvard Crimson, “high grades could be an indicator of the rising quality of undergraduate work in the last few decades, due in part to the rising quality of the undergraduates themselves and a greater access to the tools and resources of academic work as a result of technological advances, rather than unwarranted grade inflation.” Matt Yglesias, ’03, agrees, arguing that “it is entirely plausible that the median Harvard student today is as smart as an A-minus Harvard student from a generation ago. After all, the C-minus student of a generation ago would have very little chance of being admitted today.”
There’s a certain amount of self-congratulation here. It’s not surprising that Harvard students, previous and current, think they’re smarter than their predecessors—or anyone else. But they also make an important point. The students who earned the proverbial gentleman’s Cs are rarely found at Harvard or its peers. Dimwitted aristocrats are no longer admitted. And even the brighter scions of prominent families can’t take their future success for granted. Even with plenty of money and strong connections, they still need good grades to win places in graduate school, prestigious internships, and so on.
The result is a situation in which the majority of students really are very smart and very ambitious. Coursework is not always their first priority. But they are usually willing to do what’s necessary to meet their professors’ expectations. The decline of core curricula has also made it easier for students to pick courses that play to their strengths while avoiding subjects that are tough for them. It’s less common to find Chemistry students struggling through Shakespeare than it was in the old days.
According to the Harvard College Handbook for Students, an A- reflects ”full mastery of the subject” without “extraordinary distinction”. In several classes I taught as an instructor and teaching fellow at Harvard and Princeton, particularly electives, I found that around half the students produced work on this level. As a result, I gave a lot of A-range grades.
Perhaps my understanding of “mastery” reflects historically lower demands. For example, I don’t expect students writing about Aristotle to understand Greek. Yet it’s not my impression that standards in my own field of political theory have changed a lot in the last fifty years or so. In absence of specific evidence of lowered standards, then, there’s reason to think that grade inflation at first-tier universities has some objective basis.
But that doesn’t mean grade inflation isn’t a problem. It is: just not quite the way some critics think. At least at Harvard and similar institutions, grades are a reasonably accurate reflection of what students know or can do. But they are a poor reflection of how they compare to other students in the same course. In particular, grade inflation makes it difficult to distinguish truly excellent students, who are by definition few, from the potentially much larger number who are merely very good.
Here’s my proposal for resolving that problem. In place of the traditional system, students should receive two grades. One would reflect their mastery of specific content or skills. The other would compare their performance to the rest of the class. Read More…
When word got out Monday night that former Clinton White House chief of staff John Podesta would be rejoining Barack Obama’s administration, Time‘s Michael Crowley remarked:
Podesta’s return just the latest reminder that Obama’s presidency hasn’t exactly been the clean break from Clintonism he was peddling
— Michael Crowley (@CrowleyTIME) December 10, 2013
Obama’s primary vanquishing of Hillary Clinton had not, after all, wholly been due to their contrasting positions on the Iraq war. In a country still under the semi-dynastic succession of the Bushes, the prospect of alternating family control of the presidency struck many as less than a clean break with the past. Moreover, to many young voters, Hillary represented a continuation of a past Democratic politics of compromise, more skilled in the art of triangulating bare electoral victories than effecting transformative change.
Change being everything Barack Obama ran on. Young enough to represent the first political generation spared the baby boomers’ pathologies, Obama sold what, in retrospect, must seem like an impossibly improbable vision to even his most stalwart supporters. Beyond each of the particular grandiose predictions, though, the oceans receding and all that, was a yearning to move past the policies and politics that had yielded a morally tarnished executive office, a wrecked economy, and a wasted war effort; a desire to make a step change in American governance. Many on the right currently harbor similarly ambitious hopes, and see their own rising tide of a new generation in a libertarian upswell.
They, and any other students of American politics who hope to effect change, not just promise it, should take heed of a few key passages of Tevi Troy’s informative National Affairs article, “Measuring the Drapes,” which tells the story of the Romney transition team. As Troy recounts, ”One of the most important pre-election tasks was to identify the people who could staff the highest ranks of a Romney administration, particularly those whose jobs would require Senate confirmation.” After all, the President may occupy the Oval Office, but he has very little operational control of the executive branch. He can order a missile strike or a mayonnaise sandwich on his own accord. Everything else goes down the chain of command. The recent Healthcare.gov rollout problems are a strong reminder of this, as even the President’s top priority, supervised with close attention and constant reminders that it is the sine qua non of his presidency, can go awry without the slightest warning to the President himself.
Troy goes on to detail just how many candidates a transition process has to compile:
For each R2P [Romney Readiness Project] policy group, this meant identifying five candidates who might be able to fill each of the top ten presidentially appointed, Senate-confirmed slots for each cabinet department under its jurisdiction. The math was daunting: Each team leader had to come up with 50 prospects, which meant that each of the three policy groups—domestic, economic, and national security—had to provide approximately 400 names that could potentially take top-level positions at the eight or so agencies under its purview.
Altogether, a list of 1,200 potential top-level Executive Branch officials has to be compiled before the candidate even wins his (or her) election. Where does one find such a slate of candidates, qualified and experienced enough to be considered for appointment? Mostly, from the last president of the same party, and that is the single biggest challenge change candidates will face. American politics may usually be played between the 40-yard lines, as Charles Krauthammer is fond of saying, but half the battle is filling out the roster.
Now why, a reformer may ask, must one pick from a prior president’s staff? Read More…
With the locavore movement rapidly expanding, many urbanites are seeking a farming lifestyle. But as Whitney Light points out in her Monday Narratively feature, these aspiring agrarians may find their new vocation harder than anticipated. She tells the story of married couple Dan and Kate Marsiglio, who left their teaching jobs in 2005 to start an organic farm. The couple has made great improvements over the years—but like many, they’ve found the idyllic pastoral life more evasive than hoped:
In mainstream food magazines and agricultural journals alike, tales of city kids and hedge fund managers trading suits and ties for overalls have many forecasting a future of yeomanry in America. To be sure, new farmers remain hopeful that moment will come. But they’re also the first to report that in beginning farming, the honeymoon period is brief. It is almost a matter of course that regardless of how mentally and physically prepared a new farmer is for long, sweaty days of toil and winters of debt, farming will deliver more stress and heartache than expected.
Eight years after they launched their farm, the Marsiglios now have 30 cows, 25 sheep, 150 chickens, four pigs, a vegetable garden and greenhouse—but they’re still barely breaking even, and all thought of retirement remains in the murky unknown. Meanwhile, the gritty everyday work of farming grows more wearing with every year.
Out of all the young people and urbanites seeking out agricultural lifestyles, many will probably become disillusioned with the trade. The work is long, grueling, and often unprofitable (at least for a time). Those who hope to make a profit must, as a retired farmer tells Light, have “a sound business plan.”
But even more difficult, our age’s individualism greatly decreases a farm’s chance of long-term success. In historical America, the farm was a family-run enterprise. It was more of a generational lifestyle than a “full-time job.” Land was a highly coveted commodity, and a farmer’s children were expected to carry on the work after their father or mother was too tired or old to continue.
But today, children are no longer expected—nor are they usually encouraged—to follow in their parents’ footsteps. Children are not, modernism tells us, to be saddled with the burdens of their forbears. What does this mean for modern farmers? Simply that, unless one of their children takes a liking to the tedium of farm work, today’s agrarians are on their own. They must conjure up a successful, fruitful farm in their few decades of limber life, or else content themselves with a frugal, arduous future.
Of course, some farmers solve this problem by making their farms into large, capitalistic ventures. Wendell Berry wrote of these types in books like Remembering or Jayber Crow: he believed these individuals spoiled the land through their swelling greed, and poisoned small communities with their insatiable thirst for expansion. Small farmers, in his books, needed the next generations to survive: thus the old and wizened farmer Athey Keith in Jayber Crow tries to teach his farming methods to his son-in-law and grandson. While his son-in-law rejects such old-fashioned methods, Athey’s grandson Jimmy respects and loves his grandfather. It is Jimmy who cares for his grandparents when they grow too old and frail to care for themselves. He’s the one who tends their land and animals. Without him, they would not be able to survive.
What of the Marsiglios? They’re making do; they have combined their traditional farming with urbanite-catered events, and are thus diversifying and expanding their business. Perhaps these sort of ventures will help other modern farmers survive: by building up various sorts of modern salesmanship, they can make the old-fashioned art of farming profitable enough to live on. But if plans fail and retirement funds dissipate, there will always have to be a Plan B. Perhaps they will find a Jimmy.
Obama’s talk at the Saban Forum this past Saturday may have been the most impressive moment of his presidency. The topic, of course, was the Iran negotiation, and secondarily the Israeli-Palestinian talks. The Saban Forum is the zenith of the liberal wing of the Israel lobby; billionaire Haim Saban has purchased a large segment of a venerable American think tank to amplify his pro-Israel views, while serving as one of the main funders of the Democratic Party. Many Democrats, most notably the Clintons, take the money and support and bend the way the money intends. Obama is trying to keep the support without bending too much, and to watch him in action engaged in this most difficult of balancing acts is a window into an American politician working at the highest level.
To dispense first with the obvious, the President took questions for about fifty minutes, speaking without notes, before a well informed and highly skeptical audience, on a subject of tremendous gravity. He was nuanced and diplomatic, charming when he needed to be, subtle, precise. He knew just how to gently deflect a question towards grounds which allowed him to make a point he wanted to make. His mastery over the issue and how best to argue it was as complete as I’ve seen in a politician.
I think we all knew Obama was pretty smart, but this is a level of the communication altogether beyond the reach of the average Ivy League graduate or American politician. The fuddlement of the health care rollout and the drumbeat of Republican propaganda, even if one understands the source, has created an undertow of cynicism about Obama’s leadership abilities: that Obama is not that competent a President. There is a temptation to concede that while he is good at making speeches, he can’t administrate, lacks a vision of how to get things done. One need not buy into the ubiquitous Drudge snark that Obama is lost without a teleprompter to feel that his presidency has not been what his supporters (even his conservative ones) had hoped.
But here Obama was, on what I considered the most critical issue of his presidency, hitting it out of the park. Worth noting is the whole passive aggressive interplay between Obama and Haim Saban, the male banter about the wife being the person really in charge, and the pointed questions, from Saban and various Israeli journalists, designed to trip Obama up. He doesn’t make the case that I yearn for an American president to one day make, questioning whether American Mideast policy ought to be tied exclusively to the desires an aggressive and largely despised ethnocracy. But in that sense he is a political realist, a quality highly desirable in a president.
Instead with a politician masterfully exploring the realm of the possible, seeking to “test the possibility we can resolve this issue diplomatically,” connecting his Iran diplomacy to the concerns expressed in Prime Minister Netanhayu’s UN presentation, quietly reminding his hawkish audience (and the AIPAC-influenced Congress) that “if we did not show good faith in trying to resolve this issue diplomatically, the sanctions regime would begin to fray, and above all that “this is hard”—Iran having already mastered the nuclear fuel cycle. He was, by turns, charming, diplomatic, and frank, and it was—perhaps more than anything I’ve seen since the administrations of Reagan and George H.W. Bush, a moment to be proud of one’s president. Hanging in the balance is whether Obama will succeed in tempering the hostility of this audience to Iran diplomacy, which will help stay AIPAC’s efforts to blow it up by legislating new sanctions. At this writing that seems to me a 50/50 proposition. But to have achieved even those odds makes me pleased with my vote last November.
“Apartheid is an affront to human rights and human dignity. Normal and friendly relations cannot exist between the United States and South Africa until it becomes a dead policy. Americans are of one mind and one heart on this issue.”
So said Ronald Reagan in his 1986 message to Congress vetoing the “sweeping and punitive sanctions” Congress was seeking to impose.
Reagan equated the sanctions to “declaring economic warfare on the people of South Africa.”
His Treasury Secretary James Baker said Sunday that Reagan likely regretted this veto. But having worked with the president on his veto message and address on South Africa, I never heard a word of regret.
Nor should there have been any.
For in declaring, “we must stay and build not cut and run” from South Africa, Reagan, whose first duty was the defense of his nation in the Cold War with the Soviet empire, saw not only the moral issue but the strategic imperative.
In 1986, there were 40,000 Cuban troops in Angola, where South Africa was a fighting ally and backer of anti-Communist Jonas Savimbi.
In Zimbabwe, Robert “Comrade Bob” Mugabe, having butchered thousands of Ndebele of rival Joshua Nkomo, was communizing his country. Southwest Africa and Mozambique hung in the balance.
Reagan was determined to block Moscow’s drive to the Cape of Good Hope. And in that struggle State President P. W. Botha was an ally.
Second, as Reagan declared, the sanctions ban on sugar imports would imperil 23,000 black farmers, and cutting off Western purchases of natural resources would imperil the jobs of 500,000 black miners.
“The Prime Minister of Great Britain has denounced punitive sanctions as immoral and utterly repugnant,” said Reagan in July of 1986, “Mrs. Thatcher is right.”
“Are we truly helping the black people of South Africa—the lifelong victims of apartheid,” said Reagan in his veto, “when we throw them out of work and leave them and their families jobless and hungry in those segregated townships? Or are we simply assuming a moral posture at the expense of the people in whose name we presume to act?”
John P. Carlin is on track to become the Justice Department’s top national security lawyer, and assume responsibility for approving the thousands of domestic surveillance requests sent to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court every year. If Attorney General Eric Holder had his way, Carlin never would have been nominated.
As Shane Harris reported at Foreign Policy yesterday, Holder “strenuously” objected to Carlin, who was instead the favored choice of White House officials “Kathryn Ruemmler, the White House counsel, and Lisa Monaco, the president’s homeland security and counterterrorism adviser.” Carlin had been Monaco’s chief of staff when she held the position, Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division, prior to moving to the White House, and he now holds the office in an Acting capacity. Holder reportedly had his own list of candidates, including his own former national security counsel, Amy Jeffress.
Carlin’s anonymous critics quoted in the FP piece level two primary charges against him. First, while he is nominally qualified for the position, “several career prosecutors who know and have worked with Carlin say he does not have a firm enough grasp of national security and surveillance law, which is particularly important when approving applications for surveillance warrants in terrorism and espionage cases.” Second, and seemingly more to the core of the issue, “Former officials said they are concerned that Carlin … doesn’t speak as an independent voice for the department, but rather is aligning his positions first with the White House, and particularly with Monaco, thus undermining Holder’s authority.” Two went so far as to draw “comparisons to John Yoo, the controversial Justice Department attorney in the George W. Bush administration, who was known to have his own relationships with White House officials and was seen as operating outside channels meant to guard against political influence.” John Yoo was most famously the author of the Bush Administration “torture memos”.
At a time when more attention than ever before is being paid to the legal and extra-legal acrobatics the executive branch has performed to expand its surveillance powers, Carlin’s appointment should already be facing special scrutiny from the Senate Judiciary Committee. According to Slate, “The government has an astonishing success rate before the FISA court. Between 2010 and 2012, the court approved all of the 5,180 applications for surveillance and physical searches except for one that the government unilaterally withdrew.” That near-automatic approval makes the independence of the Justice Department all the more important. As one anti-Carlin former official quoted by Harris says, “There should be some walls between the Justice Department and the White House. The White House should not have a direct feed.”
Much of the resistance to Carlin quoted in the Foreign Policy piece appears to be a turf war between Holder and other Obama Administration officials. But the position and its responsibilities are far too important to pass without severe scrutiny in the post-Snowden era.
What if you were to strive after something your entire life, only to meet abuse, mistreatment, and punishment? What if, then, you achieved your great goal in the final chapter of your life–indeed, achieved it on a scale so great, the world swooned at your Cinderella story? Invigorated with fresh victory, perhaps you would leap at every chance to accomplish long-cherished dreams, strive to conquer injustices that had plagued and goaded your history for so long. This is, in many ways, the story of Nelson Mandela.
Unfortunately, as Sondheim taught us, Cinderella stories don’t really end with a simple “happily every after.” Even after experiencing victory for a time, most real-life characters must also stomach the pains of defeat.
One wonders if George Washington felt this way. He wrote his name in the rebels’ declaration, risking life and limb for independence. He dodged bullets in battle, braved winter’s deadness and starvation with weary troops, and bore the pain of multiple defeats. John Richard Green wrote of Washington in his History of the English People,
It was only as the weary fight went on that the colonists learned, little by little, the greatness of their leader—his clear judgment, his calmness in the hour of danger or defeat; the patience with which he waited, the quickness and hardness with which he struck, the lofty and serene sense of duty that never swerved from its task through resentment or jealousy, that never, through war or peace, felt the touch of a meaner ambition; that knew no aim save that of guarding the freedom of his fellow-countrymen; and no personal longing save that of returning to his own fireside when their freedom was secured.
Slowly but finally, victory came. The colonists experienced the sweet taste of victory–but then what? There were still constitutional battles in Congress. Revolt and Jacobin controversy in France spurred similar unrest in the young nation. The War of 1812 loomed on the horizon, and slavery remained a stain on the country’s conscience. The battle was not yet won.
I wouldn’t presume to make an extensive comparison of Mandela and Washington, the two men’s historic and personal contexts differ significantly. But in this sense, that of surrendering the victor’s chair and dealing with a post-Cinderella world, I wonder whether Mandela and Washington could have sympathized with each other.
Rod’s post yesterday on the “Mandela Myth” points out,
…Mandela’s status as a moral icon conceals the terrible realities of post-apartheid South Africa, and how so many of its problems have to do with its culture, and cultural attitudes. The Mandela hagiographies we’re seeing now—did you watch TV news last night?—make it seem that after Mandela left Robben Island prison, South Africa lived happily ever after. This is not true, Ruden says.
Now surely, Mandela was aware of this truth. Even as he took in freedom, political accolades, rugby victory, etc., he knew the battle raged on. His nation still wrestled with historical demons and violence. Though victorious, he and his country had not yet won.
Mandela, like Washington, left his office and (to some extent) the spotlight. These two men, who loved their countries and fought bravely for them, must have felt some weariness in seeing the work left to be done—work that others must accomplish. They were willing to surrender their power, even when political victory and compliments still swirled around them. It is difficult to know when to embrace victory and use it for political advancement—even more difficult to know when one should let it go, when one should humble oneself before the reality of human fallibility and mortality.
Neither Mandela nor Washington acted perfectly. But we can learn from them the politics and prudence required in defeat and victory. In these two men, we see life hopes tied up in a whole nation’s joys and pains. They sacrificed and bled for freedom, sinned and failed but strived for the greater good. They finished their lives without full victory, their work incomplete but left in trust for the coming generations to continue.
As the New York Times reported yesterday,
More than two dozen of the nation’s biggest corporations, including the five major oil companies, are planning their future growth on the expectation that the government will force them to pay a price for carbon pollution as a way to control global warming.
This information comes from a recent report issued by the Carbon Disclosure Project, a nonprofit that specializes in organizing environmental information. The CDP report finds major oil companies, Wells Fargo, Wal-Mart, Walt Disney Company, automotive supplier Delphi, General Electric, energy companies like Duke, and even technology companies such as Google and Microsoft all including a future carbon price in their planning. The internal company projections range across industries, but generally it appears that the oil companies are forecasting the highest carbon prices in their internal planning, with BP pricing $40 per ton of carbon dioxide, Exxon Mobil $60, and Royal Dutch Shell $40.
At least three companies, Disney, Microsoft, and Shell, already implement their own internal carbon taxes. According to the Guardian, these companies have been enforcing the price within their own organizations in order to drive down their carbon footprint and increase efficiency. Shell has the highest price of the three, and so only uses the price for planning purposes; no money actually moves around. Nevertheless, Shell officials told the Guardian that they have declined pursuing carbon-intensive projects that a $40 per ton price makes unattractive. Disney, on the other hand, prices and taxes themselves. The funds raised from the tax deposited in their “climate solutions fund.” Currently, they price approximately $10-20 per ton, and have raised $35 million. Microsoft has the most aggressive goal, of seeking zero net emissions this year, and has the correspondingly lowest price, approximately $6-7 per ton.
While there are a variety of motivations for aggressive carbon pricing, the oil companies, such as Shell, are seeking to be prepared for increasing concern in industrial countries about the effect of carbon emissions on global climate change. As there are a variety of proposals circulating the globe, they are seeking a predictable program that will let them stay in business.
In the September/October issue of The American Conservative, R Street’s Andrew Moylan laid out the conservative case for a carbon tax. He looked at the manner in which conservatives consistently denied any problems in the health care industry, leaving the ball entirely in the Democratic court and allowing Obamacare to be passed in the first place. Moylan then laid out a plan for getting conservatives out ahead of the curve. By making the tax revenue neutral, he proposed being able to pursue other conservative policy goals, such as a more growth-friendly tax code, in exchange for addressing climate change.
Such a strategy learns the best lessons on practicing opposition politics from the Viscount Bolingbroke. By addressing a danger widely acknowledged by those of good faith, but in a manner consistent with their principles, conservatives have the chance to wrong-foot their opponents by pursuing positive policies, rather than political stunts.