Matt Yglesias on the recent handful of defections from the Chamber of Commerce over the issue of carbon emissions:
But I do think it’s worth taking this further. The fundamental problem the Chamber of Commerce is going to have on this is that they’re really really wrong. Not like how they’re morally wrong about, say, labor rights or workplace safety rules. They’re analytically mistaken about the interests of the United States business community. If we take action to avert ecological catastrophe, economic growth will still happen. Capitalism will march on. Big companies will be big, and people will earn lots of money managing them. Yes, the present-day owners of coal companies or manufacturers specifically wedded to unusually energy-intensive processes will be in trouble. But “business” in a broad and general sense will keep on keeping on. People will still want gadgets and furniture, will shop at stores, will buy and sell, and generally keep being customers for business.
This is completely true, of course. On the other hand, it’s not of much political import. Apple and Nike didn’t quit the Chamber because they care about the environment or what the planet will look like 80 years from now, they quit because they market themselves to younger consumers who are often interested in the environment.
In the end, even though the long-term effects of global warming are likely to harm many American companies, big energy companies care more about killing cap-and-trade than the other companies do about fighting global warming. And, as a result, the Chamber will most likely continue to oppose any and all attempts to restrict carbon emissions.
There’s a similar dynamic with health care. There are plenty of companies that would benefit greatly from health care reform, but they don’t want it as much as health care companies, in many cases, want to kill it.
While, in theory, a group like the Chamber represents a broad consensus of business interests, in practice, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. It isn’t just that business interests control our government, it’s that they often do so in a way that doesn’t even benefit business interests as a whole.