Talk about conflicted: What is a free-market disciple to think about the prospect of wind farms?
That's the discussion I had with Craig Ladwig, editor of Indiana Policy Review, and a decided fence-sitter when it comes to wind farms.
For those unfamiliar with IPR, they're a conservative bunch, but with a decidedly libertarian bent. They don't much care for economic development incentives, like tax abatements, but they don't like the state income tax, either.
Ladwig references Enlightenment-era thinkers like Locke frequently. The idea that property rights are the basis of English Common Law, and therefore of Western capitalism as we practice it in the United States, is a common thread.
The IPR crew — Ladwig and his cohorts Eric Shansberg, Cecil Bohanon and Andrea Neal — elevate property rights to somewhat of a sacred status, and view any attempt by government to lay hands on said property with deep suspicion.
“I think we worry more about the process — is (a wind farm) paying for itself or not?” Ladwig said recently. “We've been subsidizing wind farms for a long time now, and they don't seem to be paying off in the way they've promised.”
There is the concern that government subsidy is never as nimble as free-market forces, that any economic incentive for building wind farms lies in the extra money kicked in by taxpayers.
If we're going to incentivize something, Ladwig asks, shouldn't we be looking at solar energy?
“I understand we're making some real progress on solar cells, to the point where we're able to build houses that are energy self-sufficient. Why don't we shift over to that?” he said.
“The problem with wind is with the product. I don't take any stock in whether they kill eagles or are an eyesore, they just don't have a good product.”
Scott Smith, business editor, Kokomo Tribune