Calvin Coolidge once remarked that "The business of government is business." Indeed, for most of the last century, one of the principal businesses of government has been the regulation of business. Once, that meant regulating the way businesses treated their employees, and nothing more. Now, it also means regulating the way businesses treat the world around them. But when is the cost of regulation too high? And what is the best regulatory mechanism -- the federal government, the state and local governments, or the free market? Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore has written that "Rescue of the environment must become the central organizing principle for civilization." And here, as elsewhere, he believes the environment can be best protected by the federal government. Gore has promised to finance clean-up efforts, including a $7.8 billion plan to restore Florida's Everglades, and publicly applauded the Kyoto treaty on global warming. To mitigate the need for future clean-ups, he has pledged strong measures to limit air and water pollution. And to address America's reliance on expensive and environmentally unfriendly oil, he has advocated aggressive investment in public transportation and the development of alternatives to oil-based energy. His opponent, Republican nominee George W. Bush, is a champion of the free market and a strong believer that the public good is not served by overly stringent regulation of business. As governor of Texas, Bush has repeatedly granted waivers to some of the state's worst-polluting industries. And he has made it clear time and again that his first priority is ensuring that Americans get the highest quality goods at the cheapest prices. This stance is evident in his suggestion that clean gas laws were to blame for high summer oil prices and his support for drilling on federal land in Alaska. On conservation, as elsewhere, Bush sees a limited role for the federal government. He has advocated involving states and even private citizens in wilderness conservation efforts, and has promised to turn responsibility for clean-up efforts over to the individual states as well. How much is too much to pay for preserving the environment? Should the federal government decide, or do you prefer to vote with your wallet, as customers in many European countries do when they pay more for green electricity and recycled products? The choice is yours.Comments powered by Disqus
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