Richard Burton Belzer is an economist and policy analyst who works as an independent consultant focused on “regulation, risk, economics, and information quality,” according to his website. He has aired his longstanding anti-regulatory views and more recent criticisms of ESG everywhere from the pages of The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) to gatherings of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
The WSJ has published a number of Belzer’s letters to the editor claiming that ESG is a socialist plot to take over the U.S. economy. In response to a November 2022 opinion piece written by ESG proponents Al Gore and David Blood, he countered that the environmentally and socially conscious investment practice amounts to “an ideological crusade that succeeds by stealth,” and that the authors’ real goal is “replacing our market economy with a managed one that they and their ideological allies will direct.” In addition, he announced that after 30 years as a client of Vanguard, he was terminating his relationship with the investment management firm due to its commitment to using ESG metrics.
Belzer has worked for the federal government in a variety of capacities, including as staff economist for the Information and Regulatory Affairs arm of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) from 1988–98. Two decades later, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tapped his expertise in uncertainty analysis in appointing him to its Chemical Assessment Advisory Committee.
Belzer has also been involved with a number of free market organizations. He has been a member of the Federalist Society since 2017, and currently serves on its Regulatory Transparency Project Energy & Environment Working Group. He was formerly an associate fellow at the R Street Institute, another right-wing think tank. In 2012, hee wrote a report on the regulation of carcinogens for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a fiercely anti-regulatory think tank. He has signed group letters alongside far-right figures such as ALEC CEO Lisa Nelson and John Eastman, one of the 2020 election subversion co-conspirators recently indicted with Trump in Georgia.
Belzer holds a doctorate in public policy from Harvard, where his dissertation focused on the “economic incentives for hazardous waste management.” He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agricultural economics from the University of California at Davis.
- Led a workshop called “Stopping ESG (aka Conscientious Capitalism)” with Will Hild and Catherine Gunsalus at ALEC’s 50th annual meeting (7/26/23)
- Published a letter to the editor in the WSJ calling on Vanguard to stop “forcing non-ESG customers to participate in the ESG racket” (3/8/23)
- Published a rebuttal in the WSJ claiming that ESG is a “hostile takeover of capitalism” and “an ideological crusade that succeeds by stealth” (11/17/22)