An Explanation and Apology

I have been writing essays at this blog for more than seven years, and until recently, through 100 essays, I tried very hard to keep politics at bay, and to view each and every issue I discussed from a politically neutral, yet analytical economic perspective.

But in October, 2016, as the U.S. presidential election approached, I found it difficult – for the first time – to remain neutral, and in a blog essay, “This is Not a Time for Political Neutrality,” I carefully explained why I feared what the consequences would be for the United States and the world if Donald Trump were elected president.  I followed that up with a post-election essay in November, “What Does the Trump Victory Mean for Climate Change Policy?”  (I am not providing hyperlinks to those essays at my blog’s website for reasons that will be clear as you read on.)

For anyone who harbored hopes that Mr. Trump would change as an individual after his inauguration and/or that a Trump administration would not be as problematic (in so many dimensions) as many of us feared, the first two weeks have shown that the concerns were fully justified.

So, I have been eager to post a new essay, because the early days of the new administration have been very disturbing, along at least three dimensions:

First, the introduction and the announcement of plans to introduce public policies that are not simply conservative (which would be acceptable, given that the Republican candidate did win the election – no matter how problematic the methods of the campaign may have been).  Rather, these policies come from the extreme “Alt-Right,” including its base of xenophobia, veiled racism, and unapologetic sexism.  One, but only one set of these misguided policies has been in the area of my interest and expertise – environmental and natural resource policy, including climate change policy.  The combined intentions of the Administration and the Congress to turn back so many environmental and natural resource policies, ranging from climate change to water pollution, deserve a full assessment (at my blog and elsewhere).

Second, there is the glaring presence in the most important office in the land of an individual who – given that the nature of that office – should be serving as a positive and inspiring role model for others, including our young people, but instead repeatedly displays the basest of human traits.

Third, and of greatest concern to me, this President and his Administration – with the tacit support (for the time being) of majorities in both houses of Congress – increasingly represent the greatest threat to American democracy I have witnessed in the past half-century.  Gratuitous and unapologetic lies and distortions, total disregard – indeed, expressed contempt – for the separation of powers that is so key to the endurance of the U.S. constitution, demonization of the essential role played by the news media, and much more – all of this combines to represent a threat to the republic unlike anything we have experienced in our lifetimes.

For all of these reasons, I have been eager to write yet another essay – focused on my area of expertise and experience – but shortly after posting my essays on Mr. Trump, my blog website was attacked and digitally contaminated with “malware,” as some of you know.  I believe this is nothing more than a coincidence of timing, but it is a challenge nonetheless.

I’m pleased to say that emails directly from me and emails from my blog will present no problems whatsoever, but links to my blog website can produce automated warnings of the presence of malware.  Our information technology people have been working very hard to clean the website thoroughly; and we are cautiously optimistic that this has now been accomplished.  However, until Google, Firefox, and any other services have removed all warnings, I will cease from sending messages that would direct readers to the website.

So, I apologize for the recent hiatus in communications from “An Economic View of the Environment.”  I would not want you to think that the reason for my silence is satisfaction with recent developments in environmental policy (and the larger body politic).  Far from it!  I hope to be back with essays – blog posts – in the very near future.

Share

Author: Robert Stavins

Robert N. Stavins is the Albert Pratt Professor of Business and Government, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Director of the Harvard Environmental Economics Program, Director of Graduate Studies for the Doctoral Program in Public Policy and the Doctoral Program in Political Economy and Government, Co-Chair of the Harvard Business School-Kennedy School Joint Degree Programs, and Director of the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements.