Doug Kysar on Moral Clarity and Environmental Regulation

November 26, 2010

ACSblog recently spoke with Yale Law Professor Douglas Kysar, author of the new book Regulating from Nowhere: Environmental Law and the Search for Objectivity, following a panel discussion about the theoretical approaches to U.S. environmental regulation discussed in the book.

Kysar explains what initially spurred him to write the book: an encounter with economist Tom Schelling, who has since won a Nobel Prize.

Schelling, whom Kysar describes as "one of the most brilliant, and brilliantly humane economic thinkers that we've had over the last 100 years," said during a conference on economic approaches to environmental regulation  that climate change is essentially an unsolvable problem.

"What I wanted to do in writing the book was to figure out why why did he think this was a hopeless endeavor, " Kysar says. "... It turns out that a lot of the reason why is because of the very theoretical frameworks we're using to identify what the problem is, and that there are alternative frameworks available in which hope can flourish, or at least flourish a bit more than in the economic approach."

The book, he explains, lays out the limitations of cost-benefit analysis, and fleshes out some of the dominant alternative approaches to regulating the environment. He adds:

Above all, what it's seeking to do is provide moral clarity in intellectual argumentation. I often feel as if intellectual argument has become technical or specialized to a level where even its own purveyors forget the moral bases of the tools that they're using. And the book is trying to bring those tools up, surface them for their own engagement.

Watch the video below.

Watch the full panel discussion here.