Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Marxism is metaphysics...

...so is environmentalism.

Vaclav Klaus, president of the Czech Republic, recently told the United Nations to forget about mandating global environmental policy. He described this as a question of freedom; freedom from the superstition known as the Precautionary Principle.

In 2007 Klaus delivered a speech at the Cato Institute containing the single most cogent description of modern environmentalism I've ever read.

...The third main threat to individual freedom and liberty I see in environmentalism. To be specific, I do understand the concerns about eventual environmental degradation but I do see a problem in environmentalism as an ideology.

Environmentalism only pretends to deal with environmental protection. Behind their people- and nature-friendly terminology, the adherents to this ideology make ambitious attempts to radically reorganize and change the world, human society, all of us and our behavior, as well as our values.

There is no doubt that it is our duty to protect rationally the nature for the future generations. The followers of the environmentalist ideology, however, keep presenting to us various catastrophic scenarios with the intention to persuade us to implement their ideas about us and about the whole human society. This is not only unfair but extremely dangerous. What is, in my view, even more dangerous, is the quasi-scientific form that their many times refuted forecasts have taken upon themselves.

What belongs to this ideology?

- disbelief in the power of the invisible hands of free market and belief in the omnipotence state dirigism;

- disregard for the role of important and powerful economic mechanisms and institutions – primarily that of property rights and prices – for an effective protection of nature;

- misunderstanding of the meaning of resources, of the difference between the potential natural resource and the real one, that may be used in the economy;

- Malthusian pessimism over the technical progress;

- belief in the dominance of externalities in human activities;

- promotion of the so-called “precautionary principle“, which maximizes the risk aversion without paying attention to the costs;

- underestimation of the long-term income and welfare growth, which results in a fundamental shift of demand towards environmental protection (this is demonstrated by the so-called Environmental Kuznets Curve);

- erroneous discounting of the future, demonstrated so clearly by the highly publicized Stern-Report a few months ago.

All of these views are associated with social sciences, not with natural sciences. This is why environmentalism – unlike scientific ecology – does not belong to the natural sciences but is to be classified as an ideology. This fact is, however, not understood by the common people and by numerous politicians.

The hypothesis of global warming and the role of man in this process is the last and till this day the most powerful embodiment of the environmental ideology. It has brought along many important “advantages” for the environmentalists:

- an empirical analyses of this phenomenon is very complicated due to the complexity of global climate and the mix of various long-, medium-, and short-term trends (and causes);

- their argumentation is not based on simple empirical measurements or laboratory experiments, but on sophisticated model experiments working with a range of ill-founded assumptions that are usually hidden and not sufficiently understood;

- the opponents of this hypothesis have to accept the fact that in this case we are in the world of non-internalized externalities;

- people tend to notice and remember only extraordinary climate phenomena but not normal developments and slow long-term trends and processes.

It is not my intention, here and now, to present arguments for the refutation of this hypothesis. What I find much more important is to protest against the efforts of the environmentalists to manipulate people. Their recommendations would take us back into the era of statism and restricted freedom. It is therefore our task to draw a clear line and differentiate between the ideological environmentalism and the scientific ecology.
(Here's the entire speech.)

It is presently relevant to us because the Lieberman-Warner cap-and-trade climate control bill is coming up for consideration in the Senate of the United States. This bill is precisely the statist claptrap described by Klaus. More charitably, the Wall Street Journal deems it "the most extensive government reorganization of the American economy since the 1930s."

If you doubt that means devastation of the United States' economy, check this chart.

Sad enough that it is driven by corporatist greed from companies like General Electric, for whom carbon cap-and-trade creates a whole new market out of nothing and by investors in the 21st Century version of purchasing indulgences like Al Gore.

Yet worse, it will not accomplish its intent even after a 44% increase in electricity rates.

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