In the Dec. 14 column “Agree to Disagree: It’s time for a fresh start for the papermaking industry,” Phil Harriman and Ethan Strimling turn their attention to the decline of Maine’s paper industry.

Mr. Harriman, the conservative, predictably blames Maine’s “ferocious” anti-business regulatory regime and “bloated union contracts” for the demise.

Mr. Strimling, the liberal, writes that those environmental laws and regulations were necessary to reverse the pollution of our air and water that went unchecked for decades.

I would offer that the decline of Maine’s paper economy has very little to do with either Maine’s politics or its environmental laws.

Beginning in the 1980s, Wall Street decided that the paper industry was no longer an attractive investment, such that from that time forward, paper companies across the country had to basically go to the bank and borrow the money if they wanted to invest in new equipment.

This was a much more expensive route than selling stock (which, for example, the computer technology industry was doing at will).

Paper industry investment nosedived and mills like those in Bucksport, Millinocket and East Millinocket (not to mention most of the other paper mills in Maine and around the country) began the slow downward spiral to non-competitive obsolescence.

Then, starting in 2007, with the recession and the movement toward a “paperless society,” per capita paper consumption in the U.S. declined by 25 percent (from around 700 pounds per year to 525 pounds). Suddenly, all of those borderline antiquated mills were no longer necessary and were shut down.

My point is that way too much of what passes for informed political commentary in our country is, instead, an effort to make the external facts of every situation conform to our political beliefs.