The Attorney General of the State of New York has begun action against the ExxonMobil Corporation to, in the words of The New York Times, “determine whether the company lied to the public about the risks of climate change or to investors about how such risks might hurt the oil business.”
To the people excited about this prospect, this investigation is the opening salvo in a crusade intended to mirror the destruction of the tobacco industry.
There is a lot wrong with this idea, starting with the fact that no one really knows what the risks of climate change are, making it difficult to ascertain whether anyone lied about it. I do hope that we are not watching the first in a series of police state actions premised on the idea that people can be punished today on the basis of computer models concerning what might happen in the future. That we are also watching the growing politicization of the government’s police powers is annoying as well, but that part is almost old news in the age of Obama. That the political left now brazenly uses the taxing authorities and law enforcement to enforce its ideology has become just another everyday reason to hold the lot of them in contempt.
But never mind that. The real danger in this action by the New York AG is that it represents a growing kind of Executive Branch Taxation, a method by which non-appropriated funds are collected by unelected bureaucracies via executive-branch rulemaking and the courts. In the long run this could free future Obamas from any restraints at all. Once the Executive Branch figures out how to extort money from the private sector without bothering with niceties like revenue bills or legislative appropriations, the road to dictatorship will have shortened by many miles.