Originally posted on Friday, December 11, 2009 at Mises.org
It might take a while to sink in, but the global-warming cause is on the skids. Two issues are taking the whole project down: it is getting cooler not warmer (and hence the change of the rhetoric to a vague concern over “climate change”); the email scandal of a few weeks back proved that this really is an opinion cartel with preset views not driven by science.
Oh sure, people are saying that climategate is not really very serious and is only being exploited by Fox News and the like. And it’s true that not all measures of global temperature show cooling and that the science can be complex.
On that basis, the New York Times urges us to ignore the outpouring:
It is also important not to let one set of purloined e-mail messages undermine the science and the clear case for action, in Washington and in Copenhagen.
Yes, a clear case. Come on. The whole political agenda of these people is now being seriously questioned. It is no longer a slam-dunk case that we are going to have world central planning in order to control the climate and protect the holy earth from the effects of industrialization. Oh, and tax us good and hard in the process.
But you know what is most tragic to me about this? This whole hysteria led to a fantastic diversion of energy on the left side of the political spectrum. Instead of working against war and the police state, issues on which the Left tends to be pretty good, instincts were diverted to the preposterous cause of creating a statist system for global thermometer management.
The effort to whip everyone up into a frenzy over this began more than ten years ago. Every lefty fundraising letter harped on the issue, and demanded people commit their lives to it, explaining that if mother earth dies then all is lost. It is a more important issue than all the rest, the litmus test to determine whether you are a friend or an enemy.
This made it very difficult for libertarians to cooperate with the Left over the last years. Sure, there are some libertarian ideas for dealing with pollution, but none as compelling as central planning, and there was never any way that we would go along with that idea. The costs associated with dismantling industrial civilization outweigh even the worst-case global-warming scenario.
And methodologically, the whole thing was always nuts. If we can’t determine cause and effect now with certainty, how in the heck will we be able to determine it after the world state controls our carbon emissions and impoverishes us in the process? No one will ever be in a position to say whether the policy worked or failed. That is not a good basis for enacting legislation.
Meanwhile, the Left threw everything it had into this hysteria. Protests, letters, billions in spending, frenzy, moral passion, mania, witch hunts â€“ you name it. You would swear that climate change was the issue of the millennium for these people.
Meanwhile, the police state has made unbelievable advances in the last ten years. We all live today in fear of the state’s “security” apparatus. Airports have become living chapters in a dystopian novel. The local police treat us like potential terrorists. Crossing the US border is becoming reminiscent of East Germany. You can’t go anywhere without your papers.
And where has the Left been while the whole world was being Nazified? Worrying about my barbecue grill out back.
Then there is the war issue. The scary George Bush started war after war and kept them going to bolster his own power and prestige, creating as many enemies as possible through provocations and making up enemies if he had to. He funded a bubble that wrecked the economy and destroyed country after country in the name of justice and peace.
And what followed Bush? A president who repudiated this ghastly legacy? No, Obama is a supporter of the same wars and continues them â€” even ramps them up. Does the Left consider him a bad guy? Not really. With a handful of exceptions, his critics on the Left are friendly critics. They are glad to put up with this because he is willing to do their bidding on the climate-change front.
You think Democrat politicians don’t exploit this? They surely do. In this sense, the climate issue is much like the pro-life cause on the Right. If a politician pushes the correct buttons, it doesn’t matter what else they say or do. They are no longer looked at with a critical eye.
The American Left has long forgotten its roots. As Arthur Ekirch has explained, the Left sold its soul to the state with the New Deal. Whereas it once opposed regimentation and industrial management of society, it turned around to support exactly that. War was the next issue to go. The New Left in the 1960s held out the hope of capturing some of that early love of liberty on the Left, even the anarchist impulse, but the New Left didn’t last long. It was eventually swallowed up by machine politics.
The Left today that supports world government to stop climate change bears little resemblance to the Left of 100 years ago, which favored civil liberties and social liberality and was willing to do anything to end war. Now it has diverted its energies to a preposterously unworkable scheme based on pseudoscience. This is a terrible tragedy.
The Left still has much to contribute to American public life. It can oppose the police state and the militarization of society. It can favor human liberty in most every area of life, even if it hasn’t made its peace with the free market. Most of all, it can oppose American imperialism. But before it recaptures the spirit of its youth, it has to get rid of the preposterous idea that it should support the total state to manage what every generation has always known is unmanageable.