The New Socialism
Leftist journalist Alexander Cockburn has gone from attacking Gorbachev (for selling out Brezhnev) to defending Mother Earth. His new book, The Fate of the Forests, is both statist and pantheist.
Cockburn, a man who supposedly cares about peasants and workers, instead decries their cutting down the Brazilian rainforests to farm and ranch. People are supposed to live in indentured mildewtude so no tree is touched.
But Cockburn is part of a trend. All over Europe and the U.S., Marxists are joining the environmental movement. And no wonder: environmentalism is also a coercive utopianism — one as impossible to achieve as socialism, and just as destructive in the attempt.
A century ago, socialism had won. Marx might be dead, and Lenin still a frustrated scribbler, but their doctrine was victorious, for it controlled something more important than governments: it held the moral high ground.
Socialism was, they said, the brotherhood of man in economic form. Thus was the way smoothed to the gulag.
Today we face an ideology every bit as pitiless and messianic as Marxism. And like socialism a hundred years ago, it holds the moral high ground. Not as the brotherhood of man, since we live in post-Christian times, but as the brotherhood of bugs. Like socialism, environmentalism combines an atheistic religion with virulent statism. But it ups the ante. Marxism at least professed a concern with human beings; environmentalism harks back to a godless, manless, and mindless Garden of Eden.
If these people were merely wacky cultists, who bought acres of wilderness and lived on it as primitives, we would not be threatened. But they seek to use the state, and even a world state, to achieve their vision.
And like Marx and Lenin, they are heirs to Jean Jacques Rousseau. His paeans to statism, egalitarianism, and totalitarian democracy have shaped the Left for 200 years, and as a nature worshipper and exalter of the primitive, he was also the father of environmentalism.
During the Reign of Terror, Rousseauians constituted what Isabel Paterson called “humanitarians with the guillotine.” We face something worse: plantitarians with the pistol.
The Old Religion
Feminist-theologian Merlin Stone, author of When God Was a Woman, exults: “The Goddess is back!” The “voice of Gaia is heard once again” through a revived “faith in Nature.”
Gaia was an earth goddess worshipped by the ancient Greeks, and James Lovelock, a British scientist, revived the name in the mid-1970s for “the earth as a living organism,” an almost conscious self-regulating “biosphere.”
There is no Bible or “set theology” for Gaia worship, says the Rev. Stone, now making a national tour of Unitarian churches. You can “know Her simply by taking a walk in the woods or wandering on the beach.” All of Nature forms her scriptures.
“Industrial civilization is acne on the face of Gaia,” says Stone, and it’s time to get out the Stridex.
Ancient pagans saw gods in the wilderness, animals, and the state. Modern environmentalism shares that belief, and adds — courtesy of a New Age-Hindu-California influence — a hatred of man and the Western religious tradition that places him at the center of creation.
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Environmentalism also has roots in deism — the practical atheism of the Enlightenment — which denied the Incarnation and made obeisance to nature.
Early environmentalist John Burroughs wrote: we use the word “Nature very much as our fathers used the word God.” It is in Nature’s lap that “the universe is held and nourished.”
The natural order is superior to mankind, wrote ecologist John Muir more than a century ago, because Nature is “unfallen and undepraved” and man always and everywhere “a blighting touch.” Therefore, said the human-hating Muir, alligators and other predators should be “blessed now and then with a mouthful of terror-stricken man by way of a dainty.”
Christianity, adds ecologist Lynn White, Jr., “bears an immense burden of guilt” for violating nature. It brought evil into the world by giving birth to capitalism and the Industrial Revolution.
Since we must think of nature as God, says William McKibben, author of the best selling End of Nature, every “man-made phenomenon” is evil. We must keep the earth as “Nature intended.” To punish man’s desecration, ecologist Edward Abbey urged anti-human terrorism in his influential novel, The Monkey-Wrench Gang. And the fastest-growing group in the Gaia liberation movement, EarthFirst!, uses a monkey wrench for its symbol.
Founded by David Foreman, former head lobbyist for the Wilderness Society, EarthFirst! engages in “ecodefense” and “ecotage,” from spiking trees (which maims loggers) to vandalizing road-building machinery to wrecking rural airstrips. One of its goals is cutting the world’s population by 90%, and it has even hailed AIDS as a help.
Foreman is in prison awaiting trial for trying to blow up the pylons that carry high-power wires (using, I’m sure, environmentally safe explosives), but his example is powerful, even among the alleged non-radicals. One of the mainstream environmentalists, David Brower — former head of the Sierra Club and founder of Friends of the Earth — urged that land developers be shot with tranquilizer guns. He agrees with McKibben: human suffering is much less important than the “suffering of the planet.”
We must be “humbler” towards nature and use technology like “bicycle-powered pumps,” says McKibben — who lives on an expensive Adirondack farm. But he wants the rest of us “crammed into a few huge cities like so many ants” because it’s best for the planet. We shouldn’t even have children, for “independent, eternal, ever-sweet Nature” must be disturbed as little as possible.
McKibben does admit to one sin: he owns a 1981 Honda. But a man who lives a properly ascetic life is “Ponderosa Pine.”
A life-long leftist, Pine — whose real name is Keith Lampe — was an apparatchik of the black-power Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (which didn’t have many students or much non-violence) and a founder of the Yippie Party. He rioted at the 1968 Democratic Convention and has been arrested nine times for civil disobedience.
Converted by Allan Ginsberg to environmentalism, Pine split with his wife and twin sons. She had complained about his “Tibetan vocal energy science” — a continuous, hour-long, top-of-the-lungs shout each morning as an act of “communion with Mother Earth.”
With his civil disobedience campaign against logging, and environmental news service, newspaper columns, and newsletter (he refers to paper, in other contexts, as “dead tree flesh”), Pine has been extremely influential, though there is some dissent about his demand that we go barefoot to be in “more intimate touch with the earth.” David Brower goes further, denouncing the Pinian nom de terre; did he, Brower asks angrily, have “permission from the Ponderosa Pines to use their name”?
But even Brower agrees with the knotty Pine’s crusade to collectivize the U.S., return us to a primitive standard of living, and use the Department of Defense to do it. “I want to change the military’s whole focus to environmentalism,” says Pine.
In the meantime, however, it is possible to do something good for the earth as your last act. A recent issue of EarthFirst! Journal, notes Washington Times columnist John Elvin, had some advice for the lifelorn. “Are you terminally ill with a wasting disease?” asks the journal. “Don’t go out with a whimper; go out with a bang! Undertake an eco-kamikaze mission.”
“The possibilities for terminally ill warriors are limitless. Dams from the Columbia and the Colorado to the Connecticut are crying to be blown to smithereens, as are industrial polluters, the headquarters of oil-spilling corporations, fur warehouses, paper mills ….
“To those feeling suicidal, this may be the answer to your dreams…. Don’t jump off a bridge, blow up a bridge. Who says you can’t take it with you?”
Nature Without Illusions
Ron James, an English Green leader, says the proper level of economic development is that “between the fall of Rome and the rise of Charlemagne.”
“The only way to live in harmony with Nature is by living at a subsistence level,” as the animals do.
The normal attitude for most of human history was expressed by the Pilgrims, who feared a “hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wild beasts and wild men.” Only a free society, which has tamed nature over many generations, enables us to have a different view.
“To us who live beneath a temperate sky and in the age of Henry Ford,” wrote Aldous Huxley, “the worship of Nature comes almost naturally.” But “an enemy with whom one is still at war, an unconquered, unconquerable, ceaselessly active enemy” — “one respects him, perhaps; one has a salutary fear of him; and one goes on fighting.”
Added Albert J. Nock, “I can see nature only as an enemy: a highly respected enemy, but an enemy.”
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Few of us could survive in the wilderness of, say, Yellowstone Park for any length of time (even though the environmentalists let it burn down because fire is natural). Nature is not friendly to man; it must be tempered.
Because they know that the vast majority of Americans would reject their real agenda, the environmentalists use lies, exaggerations, and pseudo-science to create public hysteria.
EXXON: The environmental movement is cheering the criminal indictment of the Exxon Corporation for the Alaska oil spill, with the possibility of more than $700 million in fines. The one shortcoming, say the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council, is that Exxon executives won’t be sent to prison.
Exxon cannot be allowed to get away with an “environmental crime” which despoiled the “pristine wilderness of Alaska,” says Attorney General Richard Thornburgh. But the legal doctrine underlying this indictment is inconsistent with a free society, notes Murray N. Rothbard.
Under feudalism, the master was held responsible for all acts of his servants, intended or not. During the Renaissance with growing capitalism and freedom, the doctrine changed so there was no “vicarious liability.” Employers were correctly seen as legally responsible only for those actions they directed their employees to take, not when their employees disobeyed them. But today, we are back in feudal times, plus deeper-pocket jurisprudence, as employers are held responsible for all acts of their employees, even when the employees break company rules and disobey specific orders — by getting drunk on duty, for example. From all the hysteria, and the criminal indictment, one might think Exxon had deliberately spilled the oil, rather than being the victim of an accident that has already cost its stockholders $2 billion. Who is supposedly the casualty in the Justice Department’s “criminal” act? Oiled sand?
In fact, Exxon is the biggest victim. Through employee negligence, the company has lost $5 million worth of oil, a supertanker, and compensation to fishermen, or the cost of the clean up. The total bill could be $3 billion.
Yet every night on television, we were treated to maudlin coverage of oily water and blackened seagulls, and denunciations of Exxon and oil production in “environmentally sensitive” Alaska. Though why it is more sensitive than, say, New Jersey, we are never told. In fact, environmentalists love Alaska because there are so few people there. It represents their ideal.
Despite all the hysteria, oil is — if I may use the environmentalists’ own lingo — natural, organic, and biodegradable. As in previous oil spills, it all went away, and the birds, plants, and fish replenished themselves.
The Exxon oil spill was hardly the “equivalent of Hiroshima,” as one crazed Alaska judge said. And who knows? Oil might be good for some wildlife. This year, the salmon catch is almost 50% bigger than any time in history.
WETLANDS: One of the great engineering achievements of the ancient world was draining the Pontine Marshes, which enabled the city of Rome to expand. But no such project could be undertaken today; that vast swamp would be protected as wetlands.
When John Pozsgai — an emigrant from communist Hungary — tried to improve some property he found this out. After buying a former junkyard and clearing away the thousands of tires that littered it, Pozsgai put clean topsoil on his lot in Morrisville, PA. For this, the 57-year-old mechanic was sentenced to three years in prison and $200,000 in fines, because his property was classified as wetlands by the federal government.
After ordering a bureaucrat to “get the Hell off my property,” Pozsgai was arrested, handcuffed, and jailed on $10,000 bail. Quickly tried and convicted, Pozsgai’s brutal sentence will — said the prosecutor — “send a message to the private landowners, corporations, and developers of this country about President Bush’s wetlands policy.”
John Pozsgai has a different view: “I thought this was a free country,” he told The Washington Post.
RUBBISH: In Palo Alto, California, citizens are ordered to separate their trash into seven neatly packaged piles: newspapers, tin cans (flattened with labels removed), aluminum cans (flattened), glass bottles (with labels removed), plastic soda pop bottles, lawn sweepings, and regular rubbish. And to pay high taxes to have it all taken away.
In Mountain Park, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta, the government has just ordered the same recycling program, increased taxes 53% to pay for it, and enacted fines of up to $1,000, and jail terms of up to six months, for scofftrashes.
Because of my aversion to government orders, my distrust of government justifications, and my dislike of ecomania, I have always mixed all my trash together. If recycling made sense — economically and not as a sacrament of Gaia worship — we would be paid to do it.
For the same reason, I love to use plastic fast-food containers and non-returnable bottles. The whole recycling commotion, like the broader environmental movement, has always impressed me as malarkey. But I was glad to get some scientific support for my position.
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Professor William L. Rathje, an urban archaeologist at the University of Arizona and head of its Garbage Project, has been studying rubbish for almost 20 years, and what he’s discovered contradicts almost everything we’re told.
When seen in perspective, our garbage problems are no worse than they have always been. The only difference is that today we have safe methods to deal with them, if the environmentalists will let us.
The environmentalists warn of a country covered by garbage because the average American generates 8 lbs. a day. In fact, we create less than 3 lbs. each, which is a good deal less than people in Mexico City today or American 100 years ago. Gone, for example, are the 1,200 lbs. of coal ash each American home used to generate, and our modern packaged foods mean less rubbish, not more.
But most landfills will be full in ten years or less, we’re told, and that’s true. But most landfills are designed to last ten years. The problem is not that they are filling up, but that we’re not allowed to create new ones, thanks to the environmental movement. Texas, for example, handed out 250 landfill permits a year in the mid-1970s, but fewer than 50 in 1988.
The environmentalists claim that disposable diapers and fast-food containers are the worst problems. To me, this has always revealed the anti-family and pro-elite biases common to all left-wing movements. But the left, as usual, has the facts wrong as well.
In two years of digging in seven landfills all across America, in which they sorted and weighed every item in 16,000 lbs. of garbage, Rathje discovered that fast-food containers take up less than 1/10th of one percent of the space; less than 1 % was disposable diapers. All plastics totalled less than 5%. The real culprit is paper — especially telephone books and newspapers. And there is little biodegradation. He found 1952 newspapers still fresh and readable.
Rather than biodegrade, most garbage mummifies. And this may be a blessing. If newspapers, for example, degraded rapidly, tons of ink would leach into the groundwater. And we should be glad that plastic doesn’t biodegrade. Being inert, it doesn’t introduce toxic chemicals into the environment.
We’re told we have a moral obligation to recycle, and most of us say we do so, but empirical studies show it isn’t so. In surveys, 78% of the respondents say they separate their garbage, but only 26% said they thought their neighbors separate theirs. To test that, for seven years the Garbage Project examined 9,000 loads of refuse in Tucson, Arizona, from a variety of neighborhoods. The results: most people do what they say their neighbors do — they don’t separate. No matter how high or low the income, or how liberal the neighborhood, or how much the respondents said they cared about the environment, only 26% actually separated their trash. The only reliable predictor of when people separate and when they don’t is exactly the one an economist would predict: the price paid for the trash. When the prices of old newspaper rose, people carefully separated their newspapers. When the price of newspapers fell, people threw them out with the other garbage.
We’re all told to save our newspapers for recycling, and the idea seems to make sense. Old newspapers can be made into boxes, wallboard, and insulation, but the market is flooded with newsprint thanks to government programs. In New Jersey, for example, the price of used newspapers has plummeted from $40 a ton to minus $25 a ton. Trash entrepreneurs used to buy old newspaper. Now you have to pay someone to take it away.
If it is economically efficient to recycle — and we can’t know that so long as government is involved — trash will have a market price. It is only through a free price system, as Ludwig von Mises demonstrated 70 years ago, that we can know the value of goods and services.
The cave men had garbage problems, and so will our progeny, probably for as long as human civilization exists. But government is no answer. A socialized garbage system works no better than the Bulgarian economy. Only the free market will solve the garbage problem, and that means abolishing not only socialism, but the somewhat more efficient municipal fascist systems where one politically favored contractor gets the job.
The answer is to privatize and deregulate everything, from trash pickup to landfills. That way, everyone pays an appropriate part of the costs. Some types of trash would be taken away for a fee, others would be picked up free, and still others might command a price. Recycling would be based on economic calculation, not bureaucratic fiat.
The choice is always the same: put consumers in charge through private property and a free price system, or create a fiasco through government. Under the right kind of system, even I might start separating my trash.
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MCDONALDS: I’ve always admired McDonald’s. It put restaurant dining within the reach of the average American, and made cross-country travel less of a culinary roulette. But these days, the gold on those arches is looking a little bit green.
For 15 years, McDonald’s put its hamburgers in styrofoam boxes, and no wonder. The containers kept the food hot, clean, and dry, and the foam even absorbed grease.
Styrofoam was a wonderful invention, as anyone who’s ever held a paper cup of hot coffee can testify. Light, strong, cheap, and insulating, styrofoam was a consumer godsend. So naturally, the environmentalists — whose declared enemy is the consumer society — despised it.
The Environmental Defense Fund persuaded McDonald’s to ban styrofoam as “bad for the environment.” By this, they do not mean the customers’ environment, since paper leaves a hamburger cold and soggy much more quickly than styrofoam.
The environmentalists say that styrofoam doesn’t biodegrade. But so what? Rocks don’t biodegrade either. Why should we mind styrofoam buried under our feet as versus rocks? Because styrofoam is manmade, and therefore evil, whereas rocks are natural, and therefore good.
Non-ecological factors may be at work, however. Edward H. Rensi, president of McDonald’s U.S.A., said the company can “switch to paper and save money.” And if the customers don’t like it? What are you, a spotted owl murderer?
But McDonald’s may not be getting off so easily. The Audubon Society criticizes the deal, saying that “a lot more paper means a lot more pollution.”
I guess the environmentalists won’t be satisfied until McDonald’s slaps the burger directly onto our outstretched hand. If it is a burger. An agreement with the animal rights movement may be next. Anyone for a McTofu?
Portland, Oregon — in a move that other cities are studying — has hired ex-New York bureaucrat Lee Barrett as a “styrofoam cop.” Since January 1990, no restaurant or other retail food seller in Portland has been able to use products made of the wonderful insulating foam. It is Barrett’s job to swoop down on businesses to make sure they are not styro-criminals. If they are, he can levy $250 fines for the dread offense — with $500 for hardened offenders.
ALAR: Just before the publication of a National Research Council study extolling fresh fruits and vegetables (why do government scientists get paid to repeat what our mothers told us?), and pooh-poohing the trivial pesticide residues on them, the environmentalists arranged an ambush.
A PR man for the Natural Resources Defense Council was featured on 60 Minutes, points out syndicated columnist Warren Brookes, and Ed Bradley denounced Alar as the “most potent carcinogen in our food supply.” This was disinformation.
Alar — used safely since 1963 — helps ripen apples, keeps them crisper, and retards spoilage. Using an EPA-mandated dosage 22,000 times the maximum intake of even an apple-crazy human, one rat out of the thousands tested developed a tumor. This was the extent of the “scientific proof” used not only to harm the manufacturer, Uniroyal, which had to pull Alar off the market, but the entire U.S. apple industry.
A saner voice — Dr. Sanford Miller, dean of the medical school at the University of Texas at San Antonio — noted that “the risk of pesticide residues to consumers is effectively zero.” But apple sales dropped, and apple growers lost more than $250 million, with many driven into bankruptcy.
Says Dr. Miller: 99.9% of the pesticide carcinogens now eaten by humans are natural. And as man-made pesticides and fungicides are banned, we are endangered. “Fungi produce the most potent carcinogens in nature.”
RATS: The attack on Alar was based on rodent testing. And many other helpful products have been forced off the market, and companies and consumers harmed, through such panics. And now it turns out, as many of us have long thought, that such tests are defective.
Two recent articles in the journal Science — by Bruce Ames of the University of California, Berkeley, and Samuel Cohen of the University of Nebraska Medical College — have shown that it is the massive dose itself, no matter what the substance, that causes tumors.
The hyper dosages, explain these scientists, kill cells in the test animals, which their bodies then replace. The more this takes place over the animal’s lifetime, the greater the chance of a cell mutation leading to cancer.
As with Alar, take thousands of rats and fill them full of a chemical for their whole lives, and it can be no surprise when one develops a tumor. This shows us that no one should try to live on Alar, but it tells us nothing about an infinitesimal residue, so small as to be barely measurable, of this helpful chemical.
GREENHOUSE: On the first Earth Day in 1970, environmentalists warned that we faced a new ice age unless the government took immediate and massive action. Today, using much of the same data, they claim we are endangered by global warming. These are the same climatologists who can’t tell us whether it will rain next Friday, but who are certain that the earth’s temperature will be x degrees Celsius higher in 2,011 than today. Increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will melt the polar icecaps and coastal areas will flood, we’re told. As temperatures increase, Dallas will become a desert and Baked Alaska more than a dessert.
The proposed solution to this “Greenhouse Effect” is, surprise!, more government spending and control, and lower human standards of living. President Bush’s new budget has $375 million for greenhouse research.
Yet the “net rise in world surface temperature during the last century is about one degree Fahrenheit,” nearly all of it before 1940, notes syndicated columnist Alton Chase. “And the northern oceans have actually been getting cooler. The much-vaunted ‘global warming’ figures are concocted by averaging equatorial warming with north temperate cooling.”
A National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration study of ground temperature in the U.S. from 1889 to 1989 found no warming. And a recently concluded 10-year satellite weather study by two NASA scientists at the Huntsville Space Center and the University of Alabama also found zero warming.
There is no evidence of global warming, but even if it were to take place, many scientists say the effect would be good: it would lengthen growing seasons, make the earth more liveable, and forestall any future ice age.
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CLEAN AIR ACT: Bush’s Clean Air Act, signed into law in October 1990, gives the EPA dictatorial power over every American business whose products might be harmful if burned. Since almost everything is toxic if burned, this is the establishment of Green central planning.
The bill also subsidizes ethanol, methanol, and compressed natural gas, and orders manufacturers to produce expensive cars that run on them.
Ethanol, a corn-based fuel beloved of Sen. Bob Dole (R-IRS) and his ethanol-producing mentor, Dwayne Andreas of Archer-Daniels-Midland, gives off other forms of pollution, and is much more expensive than gasoline. (Note: this provision, by artificially increasing this demand for corn, will also raise food prices by about $10 billion.)
Methanol is a highly corrosive fuel that destroys the normal automotive engine, requiring super-expensive alternatives. It costs more than gasoline, is only half as efficient, and is so toxic as to make gasoline seem almost benign in comparison.
Compressed natural gas requires massive steel tanks. A container holding the energy equivalent of a normal gasoline tank is much bigger and weighs 30 times as much, lowering mileage and wiping out most trunk space. And even a minimal number of refueling stations will cost $15 billion.
The Clean Air Act also has higher CAFE standards (fleet-wide economy regulations) that will have the effect of mandating lighter and therefore more dangerous automobiles.
The bill also places new and heavy regulations on hundreds of thousands of small businesses, in the OSHA tradition. OSHA is the quintessential Establishment regulatory agency, since the Exxons of the world can easily handle its depredations, while small businesses cannot. It has been a tremendous relative benefit to big business, and a barrier to entrepreneurs and small firms.
The new Clean Air Act replicates this, in spades. Any business using one of 200 common chemicals will have to undergo a lengthy and expensive licensing process. This includes your corner dry cleaner and print shop. And if the owner violates any regulations, knowingly or unknowingly, he will be subjected to heavy civil and even criminal penalties.
If a business gets new equipment, it will need a new permit — another bar to innovation for small companies. And if a factory changes its production method, it too will need a new permit. Again, this is no problem for Dow Chemical, only for Dow’s would-be competitors.
As bad as all these provisions are, the most serious and expensive aspects of the Clean Air Act involve “acid rain” and the ozone layer.
ACID RAIN: Environmentalists are adept at PR, and the very name acid rain conjures up images of drops eating through your umbrella and dissolving your hair. In fact, it means only that litmus paper turns a different color.
The environmentalists tell us that America’s streams, rivers, and lakes are becoming dangerously acidic, and that the villain is coal burning by utility companies. However, the government’s own ten-year, $600 million National Acidic Precipitation Assessment Project — which the EPA has censored — found that acid rain is a non-problem.
Virtually all of the few acidic lakes have been that way since before the Industrial Revolution, thanks to water running through topsoil heavy with decaying vegetation. This is also why the naturalist Alexander von Humboldt found the giant Rio Negro river system in South America acidic and fishless two hundred years ago.
Ironically, the fish in some Adirondack lakes — where there has been the most publicity — are affected by reforestation. Cutting down trees in the early part of the century led to less acidic soil, and a more neutral pH in the water, and artificially stocked fish thrived. Replanting over the last few decades has meant more acid.
OZONE: The other major focus of the Clean Air Act is the alleged deterioration of the ozone layer. We’re told that we need a robust layer of ozone to prevent too much ultra-violet B radiation. But this is another non- problem. Since 1974, when we began measuring the UVB radiation level, it has declined 10%. Less is getting through, despite alleged anti-ozone chemicals.
Ozone is created by the action of sunshine on oxygen, so it should be no surprise that over the South Pole in the winter, when there is little sunshine, the ozone layer might thin, or even develop a temporary hole. This has happened, it is the only place it has happened, and it was first recorded in the middle 1950s, long before the alleged chemical villains were in significant use.
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Ozone is harmed, we’re told, by chlorofluorocarbons, the wonder chemicals used in air conditioners, refrigerators, and spray cans, and which are essential to the computer industry as well. Stable and non-toxic, CFCs cannot catch fire, and they are tremendously energy efficient. Yet the Clean Air Act will heavily tax, and eventually ban, all CFCs and related chemicals.
The planned substitutes are not only poisonous and energy inefficient, they can catch fire and even explode. The exploding refrigerator: it seems a perfect symbol of what the Clean Air Act, and the entire environmental movement, will inflict on us for the sake of the mythical Mother Nature.
But ozone is good, we’re told, only in the upper atmosphere. To cut down on its incidence at street level in Los Angeles, the entire country will be fastened with additional anti-automotive and anti-industrial controls, with more bad economic effects.
A GREEN GNP?: The environmentalists feel they have a PR problem. Since their explicit agenda is to make us consume less, that is, to be poorer, they worry that this may not be popular. So they have a solution: the Green GNP.
GNP — gross national product — is already a deficient statistic. For example, as government spending grows, so does the GNP, even though government growth subtracts from real wealth. Nevertheless, as the statistical avatar of American business activity, the GNP has tremendous political significance.
To hide the fact that their legislation and regulation makes us poorer, the environmentalists want “environmental quality” incorporated into GNP. The Environmental Protection Agency and similar bureaucracies in Western Europe are funding research to make this possible.
The federal government already owns more than 40% of the United States. Say, under environmentalist pressure, another billion acres is taken out of production to save an endangered weed. Green accounting will claim that our environmental quality has been improved by x billion dollars, and add this to the GNP. Already, the GNP figures disguise how poor we’re getting along, thanks to government intervention in the economy. A Green GNP will take us even further from reality.
SPOTTED OWLS: When I visited a logging area in far northern California, I found no environmentalists. As the Sierra Club’s own studies demonstrate, environmentalists are upper-class types who live in places like Manhattan and Malibu, not in the woods. Those who do have no illusions about the Earth Goddess Gaia.
Loggers know that mankind’s very existence depends on bending nature to our will, and that if we ever stop doing so, the jungle will reclaim our cities.
The livelihood of 30,000 working families in the Northwest will be destroyed by Bush administration—approved anti-logging regulations on millions of acres, so 1,500 spotted owls can continue to live in the style to which they have become accustomed. If you think that wiping out 20 human families per owl seems excessive, it just shows how unenlightened you are.
(Note: if the spotted owl really is “endangered,” and environmentalists want to save it, they should buy some land and set up an owl sanctuary. But using their own money somehow never occurs to them.)
The environmentalists privately admit, however, that the owl is not their major concern. It is outlawing all “old-growth” logging, a controversy which cuts to the heart of the environmentalist movement (unfortunately not with an ax).
Old-growth trees are precious because they were not planted by man, the Great Satan of the enviro-druidic religion. Pollution questions, although they make use of them, are irrelevant to these people. Old trees produce much less oxygen than new trees, so according to the “rain-forest criterion,” we should harvest all old trees and plant new ones. I don’t notice any environmentalists recommending that, however. In fact, California had a Forests Forever ballot initiative defeated in November 1990, to ban all old-growth logging. These are the same people, remember, who wanted to let Yellowstone’s trees burn down because the fire was started by natural lightning.
To drive through far northern California is to be reminded of the aptness of Ronald Reagan’s “if you’ve seen one tree, you’ve seen them all” remark. The monotony is broken only by the occasional town, an oasis of civilization in a green desert. Yet the environmentalists would turn these into ghost cities. As one affluent environmentalist told me, “those people have no business living there.” Now if I can only find an Audubon Society meeting so I can wear my new logger t-shirt: “I Love Spotted Owls. Fried.”
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OIL: With the U.S. government prepared to go to war over oil, one would think that the environmental stranglehold on domestic energy production might be questioned. In fact, it has been made tighter, with millions more acres, off-shore and within the U.S., forever barred — or so the environmentalists hope — from energy production for humans.
The Arctic National Wildlife Reserve is full of oil, perhaps eight to nine billion barrels worth — even more than Prudoe Bay, points out columnist Stan Evans. So full of oil is this government wildlife reserve that oil seeps out of the ground and into the water, for some reason causing no media hysteria at the “desecration” involved. Yet this mammoth resource has been locked up by the feds through environmentalist pressure.
Production off the California, North and South Carolina, and Florida coasts is also banned, although there is probably 30 billion barrels there.
Through a coalition of rich people in places like Santa Barbara who don’t want their free views disturbed by a distant drilling platform, and environmentalists who feel drilling contaminates Mother Earth, and might injure a seagull, the American people have been made poorer.
All federal lands should be privatized, but so long as they are government owned, they should at least be opened to productive human use, including oil production, coal and other forms of mining, and tree harvesting.
SMOKING: In 1604, James I of England ordered his subjects to stop using tobacco, “the horrible Stydgian smoke of the pit that is bottomless.” Other anti-smoking politicians have tried whippings in Russia, nose-slittings in India, and beheadings in Turkey. One anti-smoking sultan roamed the streets of Istanbul in disguise and beheaded any tobacco seller he found. Even our present-day fanatics wouldn’t go that far. I don’t think.
Massachusetts outlawed the sale of tobacco in the 1630s, and in the 1640s, Connecticut banned public smoking and ordered private smokers to get a license.
These measures failed, just as Turkish capital punishment had. It was more than 150 years, points out our Gordon Dillow, before the anti-smoking movement revived.
All during the 19th century, what were called anti-smoking “agitations” increased. Eugenicist Orson Fowler even condemned it as an aphrodisiac, and warned that those who “would be pure in your love-instinct” should “cast this sensualizing fire from you.”
In 1984, The New York Times said that “the decadence of Spain began when the Spaniards adopted cigarettes.” With Americans using them, “the ruin of the Republic is close at hand.”
Tobacco was accused of causing color blindness, weak eyesight, baldness, stunted growth, insanity, sterility, drunkenness, impotence, sexual promiscuity, mustaches on women, and constipation.
In 1893, New York Schools Commissioner Charles Hubbell said that “many and many a bright lad has had his will power weakened, his moral principle sapped, his nervous system wrecked, and his whole life spoiled before he is seventeen years old by the detestable cigarette. The ‘cigarette fiend’ in time becomes a liar and a thief. He will commit petty thefts to get money to feed his insatiable appetite for nicotine. He lies to his parents, his teachers, and his best friends. He neglects his studies and, narcotized by nicotine, sits at his desk half stupefied, his desire for work, his ambition, dulled if not dead.”
By 1909, with the help of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, the National Anti-Cigarette League succeeded in outlawing smoking in North Dakota, Iowa, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Arkansas, Illinois, Kansas, Washington, South Dakota, and Minnesota. New York City outlawed smoking by women, and 29-year-old Katie Mulcahey was jailed for lighting up in front of a policeman and telling him: “No man shall dictate to me.”
When drinking was outlawed, evangelist Billy Sunday said: “Prohibition is won; now for tobacco.” The Presbyterian, Northern Baptist, and Methodist churches called for tobacco prohibition, but amidst growing public dismay about the effects of alcohol prohibition, they failed to win many more converts.
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A popular song seemed to sum it all up:
Tobacco is a dirty weed. I like it. It satisfies no normal need. I like it. It makes you thin, it makes you lean, It takes the hair right off your bean. It’s the worst darn stuff I’ve ever seen. I like it.
Gradually the states repealed their anti-tobacco laws. Kansas’s was the last to go in 1927.
But tobacco prohibition fever is upon us once again. California always seems to lead the way in these matters, and today, not only do they have hectoring state anti-drinking signs in their restaurants, they are subjected to an expensive and intrusive state advertising campaign against smoking.
The anti-smoketeers were bolstered in the last decade by the Ruritanian admiral with the 1,000-mile stare, Dr. C. Everett Kopp. As Surgeon General, he preached about the dangers of “second-hand” smoke. But where was the evidence?
An American Cancer Society study of 180,000 American women has not detected any increased risk to non-smoking wives of heavy smokers. And a Yale Medical School study showed that tobacco smoke in the air very slightly improved the breathing ability of asthmatics!
But none of this matters. Our health Nazis are obsessed by the idea that someone, somewhere, might be enjoying a smoke or a drink. Therefore their $28.6 million government ad campaign.
I find the notion of state behavioral advertising chilling. (Although I wouldn’t mind trying anti-bribe ads in the legislature.)
No one was supposed to be persuaded by the slogans that used to festoon Moscow: “Glory to the Communist Party,” “Toil for the Motherland,” etc. They were there to demoralize the opposition. So it is in California.
With newspaper, TV, and radio ads, the state department of health services says it will “change the image” of smoking from “sexy, glamorous, youthful” to “dumb, dirty, dangerous.” While I don’t know anyone who thinks smoking is the former, the latter sounds like a great description of the California government.
The tobacco industry works through persuasion. The State of California (not to speak of the U.S. government) gets its money, and its way, at the point of a gun. Give me Virginia Slims over the tax man any day.
SIEG HEALTH: We’ve always known the Nazis were economic left-wingers (Nazi standing for National Socialist German Workers Party), but now — thanks to Robert N. Proctor’s Racial Hygiene: Medicine Under the Nazis (Harvard University Press, 1988) — we know they were health nuts, exercise freaks, ecologists, organic food zealots, animal righters, and alcohol and tobacco haters.
Like today’s environmentalists, who place every bug and weed above humans, the Nazis were ardent conservationists. They passed a host of laws to protect “nature and nature’s animals,” especially “endangered” plants and animals.
The Nazis outlawed medical research on animals, with Hermann Goering threatening anyone who broke the law with being “deported to a concentration camp.” He jailed a fisherman for six months because he cut off a bait frog’s head while it was still alive, and the German humor magazine Simplissimus ran a cartoon with a platoon of frogs giving Goering the Nazi salute.
As believers in “organic medicine,” the Nazis urged the German people to eat raw fruits and vegetables, since the preservation, sterilization, and pasteurization of food meant “alienation from nature.”
They even hated Wonder Bread. “In 1935, Reich’s Health Fuehrer Gerhard Wager launched an attack on the recent shift from natural whole-grain bread to highly refined white bread,” says Proctor. Denouncing white bread as a “chemical product,” Wagner linked the “bread question” to a “broader need to return to a diet of less meat and fats, more fruits and vegetables, and more whole-grain bread.”
In 1935, Wagner formed the Reich Whole-Grain Bread Committee to pressure bakers not to produce white bread, and Goebbels produced a propaganda poster tying Aryanism to whole-grain bread. In 1935, only 1% of German bakeries were health-food stores. By 1943, 23 % were.
The Nazis were also anti-pesticide, with Hitler’s personal physician, Theodore Morell, declaring the DDT especially was “both useless and dangerous.” He prevented its distribution.
The Nazis funded massive research into the environmental dangers of background radiation, lead, asbestos, and mercury. They campaigned against artificial colorings and preservatives, and demanded more use of organic “pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, fertilizers, and foods.” Government medical journals blamed cancer on red meat and chemical preservatives.
Drinking was actively discouraged, and there were stiff penalties for anyone caught driving drunk, with the police — for the first time — empowered to give mandatory blood alcohol tests.
Hitler, a vegetarian and health-food enthusiast, was also a teetotaler. Himmler shared Hitler’s hatred for alcohol, and had his S.S. promote the production of fruit juices and mineral water as substitutes.
Hitler especially hated smoking, however, and he would allow no one to smoke in his presence. When the state of Saxony established the Institute for the Struggle Against Tobacco at the University of Jena in 1942, he donated 100,000 RM of his own money to it. He also banned smoking on city trains and buses.
The Nazis believed in natural childbirth, mid-wifery, and breastfeeding, and women who breastfed their children instead of using “artificial formula” received a subsidy from the state. By the middle 1930s, the Nazis had outlawed physician-assisted births in favor of midwives.
The Nazis also promoted herbal medicine, and the S.S. farms at Dachau were billed as the “largest research institute for natural herbs and medicines in Europe.”
No wonder our eco-leftists have that glint in their eye. From now on, I’m going to check if they are wearing armbands.
Animal Lovers and People Haters
One of the fastest growing and most radical parts of the environmental movement is the animal rightists. They too worship nature, but make a cult out of animals whom they equate with human beings, and in fact place above us.
BABY SEALS: About ten years ago, we were subjected to a barrage of photos and news stories about big-eyed seal pups hunted for their fur. Greenpeace stirred a worldwide propaganda campaign, and the European Community and others banned the import of the pelts.
This not only wiped out the livelihood of the natives who hunted the seals, but it harmed the fishing industry. With no hunting to keep the seal population under control, the animals are devouring increasingly scarce fish and damaging nets.
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Some bureaucrats are proposing a government seal hunt (no private hunters, of course), but the environmentalists have prevented it. Meanwhile, stocks of cod and other fish continue to drop. Do the environmentalists care? We “shouldn’t eat anything with a face,” one told me.
FLIPPED OUT: One environmentalists’ Victim of the Month was the dolphin. Some of the animals were caught inadvertently by tuna fishermen, but Flipper reruns on TV must have convinced millions of Americans that dolphins are intelligent, so the environmentalists were able to persuade them to spear the tuna industry.
Santa Barbara, California, has now declared a Dolphin Awareness Day; school children all across America engaged in letter-writing campaigns (those who still could, despite the government schools); and San Francisco kids were denounced if they brought tuna sandwiches to school.
The Audubon Society, the Humane Society, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Greenpeace, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), and a host of similar organizations wanted an end, in effect, to the organized American tuna industry, and they may get it.
The Marine Mammal Protection Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Reagan in 1981, imposed convoluted regulations on the industry in the name of saving dolphins. But that’s not good enough, says Congresswoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA): dolphins “have creative centers larger than humans.” Or at least larger than members of Congress. So new federal restrictions are needed.
Even before the politicians could act, however, Greenpeace and other environmental groups pressured the four major tuna companies to stop using fish caught by nets because an occasional dolphin might be caught. The livelihood of American tuna fishermen, with the life savings of whole families invested in expensive boats and equipment, was, of course, irrelevant. The companies will now only buy tuna from the western Pacific, where there are no dolphins, and no American fishermen.
The environmentalists admit, be it noted, that they also cherish the life of the tuna, and want it also protected from fishermen, but they will have to wait. Charlie hasn’t had his own TV show yet.
EXTINCTION: From the snail darter to the furbish lousewort, every existing animal and plant species must be kept in existence by the government — claim the environmentalists — even if human rights are violated. But why?
Most of the species that have existed since the “creation," from trilobites to dinosaurs, are now extinct through normal processes. Why not allow this to continue?
If, for scientific or entertainment purposes, some people want to preserve this species or that on their own land and at their own expense, great. Zoos and universities do this already. But the rest of us should not be taxed and regulated, and have our property rights wiped out, to save every weed and bug. The only environmental impact that counts is that on humans.
FUR: In Aspen, Colorado, voters defeated a proposed ban on fur sales, but in most places it is the furaphobes who make themselves felt, especially since they are willing to use almost any tactic.
They spray-paint women in fur coats, slash coats with razors and burn down fur stores. Last year, they put incendiary bombs in the fur-selling areas of department stores all over the San Francisco Bay area. Police suspect the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), which has been charged with using identical devices elsewhere. But such is the environmentalist influence in the media that there was little publicity.
ALF, which the California attorney general calls a terrorist organization, says it seeks “to inflict economic damage on animal torturers,” from fur sellers to medical researchers.
MEDICAL RESEARCH: A physician researching Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, Dr. John Orem, “conducted ground breaking — and painless — research on cats,” notes Katie McCabe in The Washingtonian, “until his lab was trashed by the Animal Liberation Front.” Children may die as a result, but ALF says: so what? Anything is justified to stop the use of animals.
Congress listens respectfully to animal-rights lobbyists, and has passed legislation making medical research more expensive. One amendment from then-Sen. John Melcher (D-MT) requires researchers to protect the “psychological well-being” of monkeys (whom Congressmen must feel close to) at an estimated cost of $1 billion.
This plays, however, directly into the hands of people-killers. Who knows how many cures will go undiscovered because of these restrictions? Thousands of babies have been saved because we know about the Rh factor, which was discovered through the use of rhesus monkeys. But animal rights advocates say it is better that babies die than that monkeys be used to save them.
Even Rep. Bob Dornan (R-CA) has pushed animal-rights legislation that would add billions to medical research costs. Not that he goes all the way with these people. Although named “Legislator of the Year” by the radical PETA, Dornan still “wears leather shoes.” Until PETA outlaws them, that is, for the animal rightists see cow leather as no different than human skin.
Fred Barnes reports in The New Republic — itself pro-animal rights — that the Bush administration has buckled under animal rights pressure (Barbara is rumored to be a supporter) and “strongly opposed” legislation empowering the FBI to investigate terrorist attacks on medical research facilities.
In a cover story on the subject, New Republic senior editor Robert Wright says he was converted by the “stubborn logic” of the animal-rights movement, although he — like Dornan — doesn’t go all the way. He still believes in “the use of primates in AIDS research.”
ANTS AND SWANS: The animal rights lobby wants them to outlaw any use of animals in medical research, food, or clothing. There is “no rational basis for saying that a human being has special rights,” says Ingrid Newkirk, director of PETA. “The smallest form of life, even an ant or a clam, is equal to a human being.”
The “murder of animals,” says Alex Pacheco, chairman of PETA, is equivalent to the “murder of men.” Eating oysters on the halfshell makes you Charles Manson.
Recently there was an uproar in southern Connecticut. The state’s wildlife division had proposed, in the face of an out-of-control swan population, to “shake eggs.” The swans — large, heavy, aggressive birds with no natural predators in the area — were attacking children. The swans couldn’t, of course, be hunted, so rangers were deputized to rattle fertilized eggs to prevent hatching.
Thousands of residents protested this violation of the swans’ rights, many proponents of human abortion among them. If children were injured by the swans, so be it. (Note: This is in the Green tradition. Rousseau abandoned his five children as “an inconvenience” and animal-rights activists are typically pro-abortion.)
Let’s get serious, says a PETA spokeswoman: “Six million Jews died in concentration camps, but six billion broiler chickens will die this year in slaughter houses.”
The Politics of Environmentalism
From FDR to the present, the Democrats have been bad on environmentalism. It played an important part in the New Deal and the Great Society (Lyndon Johnson called himself “the Conservation President”), and any day I expect to see the Democrats designate trees as what Joe Sobran calls an Officially Accredited Minority, with a certain number of seats (plastic, of course) in their national convention.
But environmentalism got its political start under the original liberal Republican: Teddy Roosevelt. As no one who knows Washington will be surprised to learn, there were special interests at work.
When the federal government established the national parks system, and locked up millions of acres, it made other land — held especially by the timber and railroad interests associated with J.P. Morgan, Roosevelt’s mentor — much more valuable. Some of these interests were the funders of the original conservation lobbying organization.
Richard Nixon continued this tradition when he established — by executive order — the Environmental Protection Agency. Not surprisingly, the EPA’s budget has been dominated by sewage-treatment and other construction contracts for well-connected big businessmen. But small and medium businesses, and the American consumer, have suffered from its endless regulations.
And now the EPA is to be elevated by President Bush — the “Environment President” — into a cabinet department. President Bush has also proposed a New Deal—style $2 billion program to plant a billion saplings, none of them members of Congress.
Are we short of trees? No, but the president is “genuinely fond of trees,” says a White House aide. And although no one thinks it will “cure the Greenhouse effect,” it’s “symbolic of his commitment to the environment.” America foresters, farmers, landowners, and homeowners don’t know the proper number of trees, but Washington, D.C., does.
World Government and the Environment
Some problems, like alleged global warming, are so enormous, say the environmentalists, that only world government can solve them. And the one-world-types who infest the national Democrats and the resurgent Rockefeller wing of the Republican Party are glad to comply.
Right now, the State Department and the EPA are negotiating a plan, based on the new Clean Air Act, to issue pollution permits worldwide. Third World countries would get “excess” permits, which they could then sell to Western companies, bringing about another transfer of wealth from the West to the Third World, which will undoubtedly be used to pay back the big bank loans of Third World governments.
Establishmentarian Elliot L. Richardson, writing in The New York Times, says that “nothing will be done” environmentally “without an institutional mechanism to develop, institute, and enforce regulations across national boundaries.”
To build “a global Environmental Protection Agency,” perhaps run like “the United Nations General Assembly,” that could levy taxes and impose controls to make sure there is “equitable burden sharing,” the U.S. government must lead the way in the “interest of the entire world community.”
Ever since Woodrow Wilson, liberals have been infected with the idea of world government. With the melding of the European Community and the coming establishment of its tax authority and central bank, the Trilateralist ideal has come closer.
Patriotic Americans must reject this globaloney, and not only on grounds of national sovereignty. We know how difficult it is to deal with city hall, let alone the state or federal government. A world bureaucracy would be a taxing, meddling nightmare. Well-connected international lawyers like Elliot Richardson would do well, but the average American would get it in the neck.
The Economics of Environmentalism
Once we reject utopianism, and realize that — for example — eight million people can’t live in Los Angeles and have air like rural Colorado’s — we can set about solving real environmental problems through the only possible mechanism: private property and the price system.
When the price system functions freely, it brings supply and demand into rough equality, ensuring that resources are put to their most-valued uses. To the extent that government meddles with prices, it ensures waste, hampers entrepreneurship, and makes people poorer.
If coffee — for whatever reason — becomes scarcer, its price goes up, which tells consumers to drink less. If more coffee comes on the market, its price goes down, telling consumers they can drink more. Prices thus constitute a system of resource conservation.
But environmentalists pretend — like Soviet central planners — to know economic values without prices. They claim we are “running out” of everything, and thus we need government controls on consumption. But if we really were running out of, say, oil, its price would skyrocket, telling consumers to use less and entrepreneurs to seek substitutes. And when the oil supply was threatened by the Iraqi War, that’s exactly what happened.
Neither do the voluntary eco-restrictions work as intended. The environmentalists are forever telling us to be poorer and use less water, less gasoline, less toilet paper, etc. But if they reduce their consumption, it lowers the price for the rest of us, and we can use more. (P.S.: Don’t pass this on to the environmentalists; it’s the one favor they do the rest of us.)
When anything is commonly owned — like air and water — we see all the bad effects of socialism. People abuse the resource because they do not have to bear the price.
To solve this problem, anyone who is personally harmed, or his business damaged, by air pollution ought to be able to sue to stop it, and receive damages. But the federal government intervened in this common-law process in the 19th century to favor special interests, making it impossible, to take a real example, for a farmer to sue a railroad whose spark emissions burned down his orchard.
The federal government also nationalized the coasts and waterways specifically to smooth the way for industrial special interests.
If, as is the case with many waterways in England and other countries, people had property rights in the streams and rivers running through their land, they could prevent pollution just as they prevent trash-dumping in their front yard. And if fishermen and homeowners held property rights in the coasts and adjacent waters, they could prevent pollution and properly allocate fishing rights.
The recent hysteria over African elephant tusks was another problem of property rights. If people were allowed to raise elephants and sell their tusks — as even the Zimbabwean government pointed out — there would be no more and no fewer elephant tusks than there should be. The same principle applies to all other resources. If left in common ownership, there will be misuse. If put in private hands, we will have the right amount: supply will meet demand.
An example of market conservation was the Cayman Turtle Farm in the British West Indies. The green sea turtle was considered endangered, thanks to over-harvesting due to common ownership. The Farm was able to hatch eggs and bring the hatchlings to maturity at a far higher rate than in nature. Its stock grew to 80,000 green turtles.
But the environmentalists hated the Cayman Turtle Farm, since in their view it is morally wrong to profit from wildlife. The Farm was driven out of business and the green turtle is again on the endangered species list.
Greens — like all liberals — justify government intervention because of what economists call “public goods” and “externalities.”
A “public good” is supposed to be something we all want, but can’t get, unless government provides it. Environmentalists claim everyone wants national parks, but the market won’t provide them, so the government must. But how can we know, independent of the market, that everyone does want these expensive parks? Or how many parks of what sort?
We could take a survey, but that doesn’t tell us the intensity of economic demand. More important, it is not enough to know that people want, for example, diamonds. That means something economically only ff they are willing to give up other things to obtain them.
Amazingly, liberal economists have never developed a way to identify these so-called public goods, so-objective scientists that they are-they use intuition. Paul Samuelson’s favorite example was the lighthouse, until Ronald Coase demonstrated that private entrepreneurs had provided lighthouses for centuries.
If we realize that only the market can give us economic information, the alleged problem of public goods disappears. Absent government prohibitions and subsidies, or competition from “free” parks, the market will ensure that we have exactly the number and type of parks that the American people want, and are willing to pay for. Moreover, if we sell all the national parks, we can pay off the federal debt.
An “externality” is a side-effect. Your neighbors’ attractive new landscaping is a positive externality; their barking dog is a negative one. One is a blessing, the other an irritant, but you voluntarily purchase neither.
Environmentalists say, for example, that trash is a negative externality of consumerism. So they advocate more regulation and bureaucracy to solve it. Yet the free market solves this much more justly and efficiently through property rights. Privatize everything and the externalities are “internalized,” that is, those who ought to bear the costs do. But to environmentalists, human prosperity is itself a negative externality.
How To Think About Environmentalism
Chicken or chicory, elephant or endive, the natural order is valuable only in so far as it serves human needs and purposes. Our very existence is based on our dominion over nature; it was created for that end, and it is to that end that it must be used — through a private-property, free-market order.
The environmental movement is openly anti-human and virulently statist. Is it any coincidence that the Nazis exalted animals, nature, and vegetarianism above humans, civilization, and civilized eating, or that our environmentalists have an air of green goose step about them?
The environmentalists must be opposed — if they will excuse the expression — root and branch. But it will not be easy.
On a recent Saturday morning, I sat down with my nine-year-old daughter to watch a cartoon. The villain, Mr. DeForest, wanted to cut down trees on his property and build a lakeside hotel. He and his employees were thuggish and greedy, whereas the characters who deprived this man of his property rights, and prevented the establishment of a business that would have improved the life of every human in the area, were heroes. The schools and media spread similar propaganda. There is even a “Pledge of Allegiance to The Earth.”
Earth Day 1990 was celebrated on April 22nd, which by no coincidence was Lenin’s birthday. Rather than joining the earth-worshippers with their missals of 50 Simple Things You Can Do To Save the Earth and The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory, I took a different tack.
I spritzed some hairspray at the sky (not having enough hair to justify pointing it at me), used up a whole roll of paper towels, turned the refrigerator thermostat down, mixed newspapers with my garbage, filled up my car at an Exxon station, turned on all the lights, and took my daughter to McDonald’s for cheeseburgers, since they still had those nice, clean styrofoam containers. Unfortunately, it wasn’t cold enough to wear my fur hat.