Libertarians, not right-wingers, thank you very much

A senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute responds to accusations of hypocrisy

By Andrew Leonard

Published January 26, 2009 2:45PM (EST)

Last Thursday, I wrote some unkind things about a press release from the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Eli Lehrer, a CEI Senior Fellow, took issue with some of my points:

Thanks for covering our press release. I mean it: I've always thought that any publicity is good publicity. You might, however, have wanted to check on the nature of my work: I don't work on global warming for CEI and, indeed, I have never really worked on environmental issues as such for CEI or anyone else. I also opposed the Bush administration's midnight rule-making long before it left office. Here's a letter (that I drafted) and was signed by the Environmental Defense Fund, the National Wildlife Federation, and Republicans for Environmental Projection, as well as some free-market groups. Here's a story that National Journal did about it. (Reuters and a bunch of others covered it as well.) As you'll see, the letter pre-dates the election. We didn't change course.

To the extent I work on environmental issues at all -- I work on flood issues (but do so mostly from an insurance perspective) -- I think it would be fair to say that a number of environmental groups consider me an ally. I personally support measures that would "strengthen environmental protections" by reducing subsidies for development in flood-prone areas and, in addition, have spoken a good deal about the importance of wetlands preservation. My own work has never involved taking a position on measures that would "reduce greenhouse gas emissions...[or] increase fuel economy or energy efficiency." You'll have to ask my colleagues who work on energy issues for more specifics, but I think you'll find they support measures likely to increase energy efficiency. (e.g. ending ethanol subsidies.) There are plenty of things I support that would place significant restrictions on "profit-seeking corporations in the marketplace" -- many corporations are (a) inclined towards deceptive and fraudulent practices and (b) want government subsidies to do it. I think that both are things that everyone -- including government -- should fight. One last point, I don't really mind being called a "right winger" myself but I think that you'd be hard pressed to call CEI a "right-wing" organization. We're libertarian and I think our work shows it.

Yours truly,

Eli Lehrer

Just for the record, I will note that the opinions expressed in my post reflected the body of work produced by CEI over the years, and not Eli Lehrer's specific domain of expertise.

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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