Let’s face it the current conservative coalition between libertarians and social conservatives never made any sense. One wants the government out of our lives, the other wants the government to enforce morality. The two are diametrically opposed on far to many issues.
Simply put, [newly re-elected BC Premier Gordon] Campbell has reinvented the conservative coalition. The old coalition, between economic liberals (in the free-market sense) and social conservatives, was always an uneasy one: their interests and values were too often at odds. But a coalition of free marketers and environmentalists is a more natural fit—if only conservatives would realize it.
A whole generation of environmentalists have grown up who “get” the market: who understand its uses as an instrument for promoting social goals through individual choices. That, after all, is what the market does every day. Conventionally, this is understood in terms of efficiency: price signals lead each of us to economize in his use of scarce resources in such a way as to maximize the output of society. But it’s just as applicable to environmental concerns like global warming. Indeed, the two problems—economic and ecologic—are essentially the same. It’s all about minimizing waste.
A carbon tax simply expands the range of information those price signals convey, incorporating into prices costs that had previously been sloughed off on the rest of society. There’s no contradiction with “free-market ideology” in such a policy. It’s the fulfillment of it. Indeed, having established the market’s bona fides when it comes to the environment, Campbell may get a better hearing for market solutions to other problems.
Campbell may well have pointed the way forward for conservative politics. He has broadened his base, not by going back on his conservative principles, but by deepening his commitment to them.
As someone who is convinced that most (if not all) environmental issues have at their root economic externalities, and who desperately wants both sides of the political spectrum to tackle them this is instantly appealing to me, even if many (though not all) of my political leanings are left of centre.