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Ranking the presidents on the environment

Dan Farber, professor of law | February 8, 2012

Keith Poole has spent years devising measures of political ideology.  The late Phil Frickey and I used his scholarship in our work on public choice theory.  He has now produced similar information about Presidents, incorporated in the following chart:

chartIt would be useful to have a similar measure for environmental policy. The early part of the graph would look much different.  Until Reagan, the differences between Democrats and Republicans on environmental story were fairly modest.  On the Republican side, the rankings between Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II seem about right, although the gap between Bush I and the other two on this issue is probably larger than the chart indicates.

What about the Democratic side?    The chart ranks Carter as the most liberal of the post-1970 Democrats, followed by Clinton, and then Obama.  It’s hard to know how to rank these three in terms of environmental issues.  The environment was not a core issue for any of them, including Obama. My own impression is that Obama has implemented more significant new regulations than the other two, but this was at least partly because of an eight-year backlog of legally mandated rules during the Bush Administration.  That includes the climate change regulations mandated by the Supreme Court.

In terms of the environment, then, I’d cluster the three post-1975 Democrats together, put Bush II and Reagan well on the other side, and put Bush I in the middle.  But that’s just an impression, not the kind of careful measurement used by Poole and his fellow researchers.

Cross-posted from the environmental law and policy blog Legal Planet.

Comments to “Ranking the presidents on the environment

  1. Ranking the presidents on the environment is an interesting consideration, especially considering what we know today.

    First, my perspective goes back to the facts that I was born during FDR’s first administration, and served in the USAF during both of Ike’s administrations.

    I have learned that the paramount fact of American Democracy today is that there have been absolutely no great presidents since FDR (democrat) and Ike (republican).

    Both parties have failed ever since Ike to both live up to the expectations of our Founding Fathers, and to meet challenges of change in America and the world.

    So, relative to the subject of environment that you bring up, I have one question:

    Why hasn’t Berkeley Professor and Former Director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab Chu done anything since he became Secretary of Energy in 2009 to protect future generations from totally unacceptable consequences of climate changes we are experiencing today?

    Prof. Chu should have provided America with the best political and intellectual opportunities to make the right things happen.

  2. Mr. St. John, then you would agree that the need to provide water for agriculture is more important than saving the delta smelt? It’s your people, on your ideological side, your friends, the people you support are the ones who are causing a water shortage. Also, isn’t it interesting that the US has a far more cleaner environment than China? My high school Social Sciences teacher was very liberal at one time. He also coached the soccer team and went on a tour of Europe. When he got back he told me that he had a much more profound respect for this country and the free market system, especially after seeing conditions in communist countries. He also remarked the air and water was much cleaner in the USA. The idea of these studies is to villanize conservatives and make them sound environmentally unfriendly. My very first course in politcal science at UC Berkelely taught me the importance of understanding the need for empirically based research and examining the biases and motivations of those conducting studies. They always have an ax to grind and they want to use that ax to chop off the heads of Republicans and conservatives. That’s why I keep telling you it;s your side, your ideology that is dooming mankind. Liberalism, welfare statism is causing water shortages, lack of employment opportunities, an erosion of the value of the dollar, a decrease in the standard of living, a rise in the price of gasoline and an overall lowering of the quality of life and economic opportunities for Americans. Are you not aware that for the last 6 years the Democrats have largely been in control of the government? You and Reich continue to take potshots at the Republicans and what we do control – the Congress and little else. You guys have the news media, the academia and popular culture. Every time someone like Paul Ryan comes along and introduces a plan to save future generations from the incredibly reckless spending and actions of liberal welfare statists the propaganda and disinformation mill comes out in full battle armor against him. All of your statements supporting humanity, etc are really great except for one thing. The policies, ideas, ideologies that you favor are doing nothing but running us down. Empirically speaking it was freedom, lack of centralized control, support for the free market system and Judaeo-Christian cultural influences that made this country great. Those same principles can be used to get us out of the mess we are in but Liberals don’t in the final analysis want to actually improve things, they are much more interested in social engineering. A guy like Warren Buffet games the system (this is not an invention of Fox news by the way but fairly common knowledge among those who understand how his company works, how he compensates himself and how high tax rates make Berkshire Hathaway more profitable). You can’t blame that on Fox News. And by the way, that’s the standard liberal talking point that has no bearing in reality. My point is that you never have facts, history, empirically based studies or any kind of understanding of how the economy and yet you think we are doomed if Republicans regain control. Every time you and Reich complain about all the problems that are going on right now it just makes me laugh because look who controls the White House and Senate. And you think it will get better if the Democrats take back the House? The disparity between the rich and the poor? The high unemployment rate? Water shortages? It would be exactly like pouring gasoline on the fire that is causing the house to burn down.

    • Most unfortunately TPR, it looks like your side will keep getting your way because the paramount fact is that neither democratic politicians nor university academicians are implementing solutions to prevent global warming disaster.

      Tragically for our newest and all future generations on our planet, neither democratic politicians nor academicians are implementing solutions to prevent global warming disaster.

      History has proven over and over we never learn, and today we are no more evolved to guarantee survival than we were when we climbed down from and walked away from the trees.

      The only remaining possibilities for survival are:

      the newest communications technologies for social networking shall enable the youngest generations (who are most threatened by climate changes that are already occurring) to join together to implement solutions in time to save their planet from the failures of all previous generations, and

      male politicians have finally attacked women’s rights to the point where all American women shall unite and toss all the white guys who want to control their rights out of Washington during the 2012 election.

  3. Nixon for me is the one who contributed best to the environment. If only Gore would of been president, there would of been quite some changes to environmental laws I reckon.

  4. It’s really up to the people to demand that our politicians make the right things happen.

    Considering the out of control nature of tipping point threats today, education is more important than it has ever been.

    It’s time for university professors around the world to take the lead to inform and motivate people to demand action.

    California’s most urgent problem is making certain we have enough quality water to support our health and agriculture needs into the long term future, so that’s the best starting point.

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