Archive for the ‘Marlo Lewis’ Category

Rent-seekers at the Core: Rob Bradley is anxious to defend his role at Enron, but is uninterested in balance, open debate or correcting his own misstatements about EXXON's support for carbon taxes

May 10th, 2009 No comments

Apparently Rob Bradley`s self-proclaimed “free-market” energy blog, “MasterResource”, has experienced a recent increased flow of traffic, so Rob is busy patting himself on the back and spinning his blog to his new readers.

But what`s the reason for the increased traffic?  Is MasterResource finding more success at putting out a message of “free-market” energy and “principled entrepreneurship“?*

* This is a purportedly trademarked(!) phrase that encapsulates Bradley`s laudable professed beliefs that (i) “businesses, big or small, should not seek special favors from government but create private wealth via the economic means rather than the political means” and that (ii) “government activism, not consumer choice in a free society, is the major threat to energy sustainability”.

Far from it – in the face of the growing stream of unbalanced (pro-fossil fuels and “clean” coal), partisan, thinly argued, and some surprisingly not pro-free-market posts from MasterResource and its related sites, the Institute for Energy Research (of which Bradley is founder and CEO) and IER`s “independent grassroots affiliate”, the newly re-founded energy front group American Energy Alliance (which calls IER its “partner”), these groups and blogs have basically simply been earning negative attention from those they see as their opposition in a classic rent-seekers` battle over using government (via public opinion tools) to achieve economic and other ends.  IER has been busy pushing for greater energy production on “public” lands, while AEA, with the help of Burston-Marsteller, has created affliliates in every state, and is running a large “integrated education and advocacy campaign” against the Waxman-Markey cap and trade bill (which AEA prefers to misleadingly call simply an “energy tax bill”).

As I noted in another post and in comments regarding a puzzled reaction by Bob Murphy (who has found himself the target of attacks as a result of speaking on behalf of IER against Obama`s green jobs program), this is too bad, not only because one of the first casualties in a war of words is truth and reason.  MasterResource and the folks Bradley runs with at IER and AEA are assembling their own “Baptists and Bootleggers” coalition, where market principles are given lip service (along with patriotism, energy independence and the like), but the funders appear to all have rather more common-place and less lofty motives.  The descent into partisan bickering (while Bradley tries to maintain a lofty tone, it`s easily seen elsewhere by those who pick up posts from his blog, IER and AEA) is too bad, but the natural consequence when one acts as a spokesman for particular classes of rent-seekers.

That this state of affairs – professing the high ground while fronting for rent-seekers (or “political capitalists”, to use a term that Bradley prefers) – is what Rob Bradley actually desires, seems to be attested to:

– (1) by the alacrity by which Bradley has rushed to defend himself and IER against criticisms that were generated in response to commentary from Master Resource and IER, while deliberately obfuscating and refusing to correct the record about ExxonMobil`s fairly dramatic change in position – from opposition to government action on climate financial support to cutting off funding for IER and to actively supporting carbon taxes (Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson: “It is rare that a business lends its support to new taxes. But in this case, given the risk-management challenges we face and the alternatives under consideration, it is my judgment that a carbon tax is the best course of public policy action. And it is a judgment I hope others in the business community and beyond will come to share.”); and

– (2) of course, by the fact that, despite Bradley`s professed call to “Let the analysis and debate continue–and assume the best of intentions and civil discourse from all of us at MasterResource,” he banned me from the site, without explanation, and without the knowledge or consent of his “volunteer” co-bloggers in mid-conversations (Tom Tanton carried the conversation to my blog, while Chip Knappenberger responded by email, and I just discovered that Marlo Lewis, weeks after I was banned, posted a rejoinder).

Sure, Rob, let the “high-level” discourse continue, with nary an acknowledgement of the legitimacy of others`s preferences, of the role of government in frustrating such preferences so far, and of the firms and investors that continue to benefit from government interventions at the expense of consumers and the public weal. 

Heaven forbid anyone call for greater competition in power markets, for finding ways to rein in the mismanagement of the federal lands that your friends are itching to drill/mine, or for a frank acknowledgment that the world faces a number of “environmental” problems as a result of a lack of clear or enforceable private or communal property rights in important shared resources.

It`s the Austrian/libertarian/Objectivist way, after all.

Do actions speak louder than words?