Tuesday, April 21, 2009

“Green” Jobs

President Obama has proposed combining stimuli to promote employment with the fight against alleged man-made global warming, which allegedly results mainly from the burning of fossil fuels. Hundreds of thousands if not millions of new “green” jobs will supposedly be created by replacing power from fossil fuels with power from windmills and solar panels. They will be created in the construction of the windmills and in the production and installation of the solar panels, and also in the construction of a new power grid to carry all the electricity that is supposed to result.

A rather serious problem, which seems largely to have been ignored by those urging a race to build windmills and solar panels, is the fact that the wind does not always blow, nor does the sun always shine. And as yet there is no large-scale economical method of storing electricity for later use. This would seem to imply a need to retain the present system of power production alongside the new system that is to be based on wind and sun, or else to grow accustomed to protracted periods without power.

Or is it the case perhaps that this problem is to be taken as an opportunity for even greater gains in employment in connection with wind and solar power? These might be achieved if, in all those times when the wind does not blow or the sun does not shine, human beings were employed in rotating copper-clad generator shafts, in a manner similar to that of rotating a grindstone in a gristmill, only in the presence of surrounding magnets, so that electricity could be produced by the rotation. (I don’t know how much, if any, electricity might actually be produced in this way. But it would keep people employed in the attempt.)

Indeed, advancing the goals of environmentalism is capable of creating a virtually limitless number of jobs. Big-rig trucks and their “polluting” emissions might be done away with by replacing them with human porters who would carry freight on their backs. Ocean-going ships and their emissions might be done away with by replacing their “dirty engines” with the clean labor of banks of oarsmen. (Sails would be a substitute too, but they are no match for oarsmen when it comes to the number of workers needed.) Automobiles and their emissions might be replaced by sedan chairs and teams of litter bearers.

And if all that is not enough, then think of the jobs that might be created in making coal in the ground absolutely safe. At present there are outcries over the release of trace amounts of mercury, arsenic, and other heavy metals from above-ground accumulations of coal sludge. Yet these metals are found in nature-given, below-ground deposits of coal as well, and could not appear in coal sludge if it they had not first been present in below-ground coal. While perhaps a smaller threat to human health so long as they are locked in below-ground coal, they must undoubtedly represent some threat, if only at the level of parts per billion or parts per trillion.

Since one can never be too safe, it follows that if job creation is the goal, an environmentalist case can be made for extracting all known coal deposits and then, instead of using any of that coal for such environmentally “destructive” purposes as producing electricity or heating homes, simply reburying it. But this time in repositories lined so as to prevent any possible leakage of heavy metals into the surrounding environment.

And finally, think of all of the jobs that a program of environmental “stewardship” might make available. Thus each patch of desert, each rock formation, each clump of grass, and each tree stump, might have assigned to it one or more “stewards” whose job would be to watch over it, protect it, and “preserve it for future generations.” To carry out this valuable work, there could be a whole corps of “stewards.” They could be dressed in special uniforms displaying various ranks and medals, all gained in “service to the environment” and the defense of nature and its resources against the humans.

Indeed, once we put our minds to it, nothing is easier than to think of things that would require the performance of virtually unlimited labor in order to accomplish virtually zero result. Such is the nature of all job-creation programs. Such is the nature of environmentalism. Such is thought to be the path to economic recovery by most of today’s intellectual establishment.


Postscript: I want to note that my book Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics provides further, in-depth treatment of the substantive material discussed in this article and of practically all related aspects of economics. Of special note here is the fact that Chapter 3 of the book is a thorough-going critique of environmentalism. The critique is coupled with a positive demonstration of the fact that under capitalism and its economic freedom the supply of economically useable, accessible natural resources is capable of continuing further increase as man expands his knowledge of and physical power over nature. It is also joined by a demonstration that such increase in man’s knowledge and power at the same time serves progressively to improve his environment, understood as his external physical surroundings, deriving its value from its contribution to human life and well-being. In addition, Chapter 13 of Capitalism provides a critique of all variants of the notion that a problem of economic life is the creation of work rather than wealth.

*Copyright © 2009, by George Reisman. George Reisman, Ph.D. is the author of Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics (Ottawa, Illinois: Jameson Books, 1996) and is Pepperdine University Professor Emeritus of Economics. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Goldwater Institute. His web site is www.capitalism.net and his blog is www.georgereisman.com/blog/. A pdf replica of his book can be downloaded to the reader’s hard drive simply by clicking on the book’s title, above, and then saving the file when it appears on the screen. The book provides further, in-depth treatment of the substantive material discussed in this article and of practically all related aspects of economics.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Nature of Environmentalism

In my previous post, “A Word to Environmentalists,” I wrote "the first step you need to take is to stop using the same word `environmentalist’ to describe both them [advocates of mass destruction and death] and you. So long as you do use the same word, people cannot help but think of you all in the same terms.”

In reply, a respected colleague of mine at the Mises Summer University, wrote the following:

I'm not sure I buy that argument. It seems to assume something like the following premise: “If many of the most prominent people who embrace the label `X-ist’ have advocated bad stuff, then one shouldn't call oneself an `X-ist.'” But that premise seems to have some odd con-sequences, as follows:

Many of the most prominent people who embrace the label "atheist” (e.g. Stalin, Pol Pot) have perpetrated great evil, so Ayn Rand shouldn't have called herself an atheist.

Many of the most prominent people who embrace the label “liberal” (e.g. Woodrow Wilson, FDR) have perpetrated great evil, so Ludwig von Mises shouldn't have called himself a liberal.

Many of the most prominent people who embrace the label “capitalist” or '”free-marketer” (e.g. the GOP) have perpetrated great evil, so George Reisman shouldn't call himself a capitalist or a free-marketer.

Many of the most prominent people who embrace the label "egoist” (e.g. Max Stirner, Nikolai Chernyshevsky), while not exactly perpetrators of evil, have at any rate advocated some pretty dubious stuff, so Ayn Rand shouldn't have called herself an egoist.

And so on.

I mean, why let the bad guys set the meanings of all these terms?
I have quoted my colleague not so much in order to answer him in particular, but because his response provides a good starting point for providing a further explanation of the profound and inherent evil of environmentalism and why a reasonable person should no more call himself an environmentalist than he would call himself a Communist or Nazi.

It should be realized first of all that “environmentalism” is in a very different category than the examples of the advocacy of atheism, liberalism, et al. by authors who also propound clearly destructive ideas. This is because atheism, liberalism et al. in themselves do not represent a philosophy or program that is evil on its face or that necessarily implies evil. (In this connection, it should be recalled that Stalin and Pol Pot committed their atrocities not in the name of atheism, but in the name of Communism.) In addition, in all of the examples cited there are also prominent supporters of the doctrines who go out of their way to present theories and programs that demonstrably promote human life and well being. Thus both Ayn Rand and Mises were atheists, liberals, pro-capitalist and pro-free market, and were egoists. Their writings serve as far more than a counterweight to the wrong or dubious ideas of other supporters of these doctrines and, indeed, make a compelling case for why these doctrines themselves in fact serve to promote human life and well being.

However, there are no counterparts to Rand and Mises in the advocacy of environmentalism. (Nor could there be.) No one in environmentalism rises to challenge the evils that its leaders and spokesmen advocate or to show that environmentalism is the opposite of what they claim.

By way of contrast, consider the following case. Imagine that someone known as a prominent supporter of Austrian economics wrote an article or gave a speech in which he advocated the enactment of wage and price controls or the nationalization of industry. I think that everyone affiliated with the Mises Institute, certainly myself included, would be all over this person and make it as clear to the world as possible that his views not only did not represent those of Austrian economics but were in complete and total opposition to everything Austrian economics stands for.

Now imagine that a prominent environmentalist writes an article or gives a speech in which he expresses the wish for a virus to come along and wipe out a billion people. What will be the reaction of the environmental movement? Will that individual be denounced for misrepresenting the movement? Will the rest of the movement’s leaders rush to assure the world that that individual was so far from representing environmentalism that he actually represented the diametric opposite of its principles?

Not at all. There will be no negative reaction of any kind from within the movement, not even a raising of eyebrows. I can say this with the utmost confidence, because such statements have already been made, and made repeatedly. And there has been no outrage, no negative response of any kind from within the environmental movement.

Here’s David M. Graber, in his prominently featured Los Angeles Times book review of Bill McKibben’s The End of Nature: “McKibben is a biocentrist, and so am I. We are not interested in the utility of a particular species or free-flowing river, or ecosystem, to mankind. They have intrinsic value, more value—to me—than another human body, or a billion of them.… It is cosmically unlikely that the developed world will choose to end its orgy of fossil-energy consumption, and the Third World its suicidal consumption of landscape. Until such time as Homo sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along.”

And here’s
Prince Philip of England (who for sixteen years was president of the World Wildlife Fund): “In the event that I am reincarnated, I would like to return as a deadly virus, in order to contribute something to solve overpopulation.” (A lengthy compilation of such statements, and worse, by prominent environmentalists can be found at Frightening Quotes from Environmentalists.)

There is no negative reaction from the environmental movement because what such statements express is nothing other than the actual philosophy of the movement. This is what the movement believes in. It’s what it agrees with. It’s what it desires. Environmentalists are no more prepared to attack the advocacy of mass destruction and death than Austrian economists are prepared to attack the advocacy of laissez-faire capitalism and economic progress. Mass destruction and death is the goal of environmentalists, just as laissez-faire capitalism and economic progress is the goal of Austrian economists.

And this is why I call environmentalism evil. It’s evil to the core. In the environmental movement, contemplating the mass death of people in general is no more shocking than it was in the Communist and Nazi movements to contemplate the mass death of capitalists or Jews in particular. All three are philosophies of death. The only difference is that environmentalism aims at death on a much larger scale.

Despite still being far from possessing full power in any country, the environmentalists are already responsible for approximately
96 million deaths from malaria across the world. These deaths are the result of the environmentalist-led ban on the use of DDT, which could easily have prevented them and, before its ban, was on the verge of wiping out malaria. The environmentalists brought about the ban because they deemed the survival of a species of vultures, to whom DDT was apparently poisonous, more important than the lives of millions of human beings.

The deaths that have already been caused by environmentalism approximate the combined number of deaths caused by the Nazis and Communists.

If and when the environmentalists take full power, and begin imposing and then progressively increasing the severity of such things as carbon taxes and carbon caps, in order to reach their goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 90 percent, the number of deaths that will result will rise into the billions, which is in accord with the movement’s openly professed agenda of large-scale depopulation. (The policy will have little or no effect on global mean temperatures, the reduction of which is the rationalization for its adoption, but it will have a great effect on the size of human population.)

It is not at all accidental that environmentalism is evil and that its leading spokesmen hold or sanction ideas that are indistinguishable from those of sociopaths. Its evil springs from a fundamental philosophical doctrine that lies at the very core and deepest foundations of the movement, a doctrine that directly implies the movement’s destructiveness and hatred of the human race. This is the doctrine of the alleged intrinsic value of nature, i.e., that nature is valuable in and of itself, apart from all connection to human life and well being. This doctrine is accepted by the movement without any internal challenge, and, indeed, is the very basis of environmentalism’s existence.

As I wrote in Capitalism, “The idea of nature’s intrinsic value inexorably implies a desire to destroy man and his works because it implies a perception of man as the systematic destroyer of the good, and thus as the systematic doer of evil. Just as man perceives coyotes, wolves, and rattlesnakes as evil because they regularly destroy the cattle and sheep he values as sources of food and clothing, so on the premise of nature’s intrinsic value, the environmentalists view man as evil, because, in the pursuit of his well-being, man systematically destroys the wildlife, jungles, and rock formations that the environmentalists hold to be intrinsically valuable. Indeed, from the perspective of such alleged intrinsic values of nature, the degree of man’s alleged destructiveness and evil is directly in proportion to his loyalty to his essential nature. Man is the rational being. It is his application of his reason in the form of science, technology, and an industrial civilization that enables him to act on nature on the enormous scale on which he now does. Thus, it is his possession and use of reason—manifested in his technology and industry—for which he is hated.”

Thus these are the reasons that I think it is necessary for people never to describe themselves as environmentalists, that to do is comparable to describing oneself as a Communist or Nazi. Doing so marks one as a hater and enemy of the human race.

Whoever believes that it is possible to be a “free-market environmentalist” is guilty of a contradiction in terms. The free market rests on a foundation of human life and well-being as the standard of value. Environmentalism rests on a foundation of the non-human as the standard of value. The two cannot be reconciled. It’s either-or.

I know that these conclusions are upsetting to many people. It’s got to be upsetting to realize that one is advocating destruction and death. But fortunately, there’s a simple and ultimately happy solution: just stop doing it. Stop being an environmentalist!

Copyright © 2008, by George Reisman. George Reisman, Ph.D. is the author of
Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics (Ottawa, Illinois: Jameson Books, 1996) and is Pepperdine University Professor Emeritus of Economics. His web site is www.capitalism.net.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Word to Environmentalists

The “extremists” among you openly call for the death of 1 to 6.4 billion human beings. The “moderates” among you openly call for the forced reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of 90 percent within a few decades, which would serve to reduce energy use almost to the same extent. Such a severe reduction in energy use follows from the fact that there are no presently existing large-scale viable alternatives to fossil fuels other than atomic power, which is regarded by most members of your movement as a death ray and is opposed more vehemently than fossil fuels. Furthermore, the likelihood of ever finding and developing such alternatives will be greatly reduced by destroying the energy sources we do have and need to increase. So what your movement advocates is mass death or, at the very least, dreadful mass impoverishment whose outcome will be tens or hundreds of millions of unnecessary deaths and a life of misery for those who survive.

If your motivation in calling yourself an environmentalist is merely such things as that you like to see flowers bloom on open meadows, and love trees, whales, and polar bears, and the like, then you owe it to yourself to put as much intellectual and moral distance as possible between you and those who advocate mass impoverishment and mass death.

The first step you need to take is to stop using the same word “environmentalist” to describe both them and you. So long as you do use the same word, people cannot help but think of you all in the same terms.

Don’t think you can solve the problem by calling yourself a “free-market environmentalist.” That’s like calling yourself a “free-market Communist” or a “free-market Nazi.” They’re contradictions in terms.

The free market exists to promote prosperity and human life, and that is what it has accomplished, splendidly, with breathtaking brilliance. In the industrialized world, the average person today enjoys a standard of living superior to that of kings and emperors of the past. The whole world’s population is capable of enjoying the same marvelous results, if it adopts economic freedom. But if you call yourself an “environmentalist,” you mark yourself as sharing the goals of mass destruction and death. A socialist dictatorship is the vehicle for achieving those goals, not a free market.

It is true that many American businessmen, some of them extremely talented and successful, now call themselves “environmentalists” and are stumbling over themselves in a race to prove how “green” they are. In the early 1930s, many talented and successful German businessmen did essentially the same thing when they began to call themselves “Nazis” and raced to prove their devotion to National Socialism. It’s possible for people to be geniuses in one area of their lives and fools, or worse, in other areas. In any event, the outcome for the German businessmen, and for all other talented individuals who joined either the Nazis or the Communists, was that they ended up as accomplices of mass murderers. The same will be true in the United States, if the environmentalists succeed in imposing their agenda.

If you care about your moral character, don’t place an indelible stain on it by supporting a movement that seeks to destroy Industrial Civilization and all the human lives and human well-being that depend on it. Accept moral responsibility for the ideas you propound and stop standing in the service of mass destruction and death.

Do not come back with the argument that if we uphold individual freedom, our great grandchildren will have to live in an uninhabitable planet, one that is either too hot or too cold. Sooner or later Nature itself will make the climate considerably warmer or considerably colder than it is today (most likely colder). The only significant question is what is the best method of coping with such change? Is it the free market or a centrally planned dictatorship that reaches down into every detail of everyone’s personal life and productive activities, that, indeed, wants to control the carbon content practically of every breath that anyone draws?

Even if you are absolutely convinced that human activities are responsible for global warming and, if nothing is done, will ultimately result in an intolerable rise in temperature, there is a very simple test that you need to apply. Pretend, for just a moment, that that same global warming is coming about independently of human activities, that it is strictly the product of natural forces. Then ask yourself, what would be the best fundamental method of coping with it? Maintaining a free market or establishing a centrally planned socialist system?

More fundamentally, what is the appropriate method for Man to use in dealing with Nature in general? Is it the motivated and coordinated human intelligence of all individual market participants that is provided by a free market and its price system? Or is it the unmotivated, discoordinated chaos in which one man, the Supreme Dictator, or a handful of men, the Supreme Dictator and his fellow members of the Central Planning Board, claim a monopoly on human intelligence and on the right to make fundamental decisions?

Suppose even that the warming caused by Nature were such that what was required to deal with it was some sort of space program, perhaps emitting thousands of tiny mirrors that would prevent some sunlight from reaching the earth by reflecting it back into space. Suppose further that as a practical matter, given our present state of social organization, the only realistic means of carrying out such a program was through governmental action—a kind of public works project, as it were. In which circumstances, would such a program be more likely to be feasible: in those of the primitive economies characteristic of third world countries or in those of advanced industrial economies? And would they not be more likely to be feasible in an economy substantially more advanced than our own is at present?

The answer to the question of how best to cope with intolerable global warming caused by Nature is obviously the maintenance of the free market, not its replacement by Socialist central planning. Indeed, the answer is to make the free market freer than it now is—as much freer as is humanly possible. This is because while the primary reason for advocating a free market is the greater prosperity and enjoyment it brings to everyone in the course of his normal, everyday life, a major, secondary reason is to have the greatest possible industrial base available for coping with catastrophic events, whether those events be war, plague, meteors from outer space, intolerable global warming, or a new ice age.

In effect, what the environmentalists would have us do as the means of preparing for coping with a coming global warming is analogous to the imaginary absurdity of the United States in the 1930s having reduced its economy to the level, say, of Poland’s economy. Then, when World War II came, our country would have had to fight the war with horses instead of tanks and planes. In the same way, the environmentalists would have us cope with global warming by waving little fans instead of using air conditioners, refrigerators, and freezers.

Now what, if anything, changes if we assume that global warming is an unintended by-product of the human productive activities that make life possible and enjoyable? How does it possibly follow from this that the only means of stopping this much-less-than-certain outcome is by suffering the absolutely certain impoverishment and death that will come from the destruction of most of our present sources of energy?

Is there absolutely no other way to deal with global warming than the destruction of our economic system? Is that how we would deal with it if global warming were the product of Nature, and not the by-product of our activities? Would the environmentalists then ask us to engage in what in the circumstances would be a merely ritual sacrifice incapable of accomplishing anything beyond itself?

If they would not do that, then they would have to look for other alternatives as the means of coping with global warming. Why aren’t they looking for those other alternatives now? Why on earth should the first and only solution for global warming as a by-product of human activity be the scuttling of our energy base? Do we deserve to be exterminated for our unintended by-products? Must we really choose to live in poverty and misery, surrounded by death, in order to avoid excessive heat? Can absolutely no other way be found? (The likely answer is actually no more complicated than having the greater energy base required to build and power bigger and better air conditioners.)

Do you environmentalists who do not want to think of yourselves as misanthropes, as recycled Communists or Nazis, do you really want to entrust your lives and material well being, and the lives and material well being of everyone who may matter to you, to the power of government officials to tax carbon emissions and to limit the total of such emissions? Are you willing to entrust this power to today’s President (who at least has the good sense not to want it)? Do you want to entrust it to any of the candidates with a realistic chance to succeed him (who do want this power and may even crave it)? Do you want to entrust it to the members of the United States Congress? To the members of the United Nations General Assembly?

Do you want them to decide how much man-made energy is to be available to you in every aspect or your life, by their imposing carbon taxes and carbon caps? These will be taxes and constraints on you that are tantamount to adding extra dead weight to your body and to restricting your power to move your own limbs. And they will go on increasing in severity, to the point that you, or your children or grandchildren, will drop from exhaustion. For the effect of every loss of energy use is a corresponding imposition on the meager power of human muscles and the human frame. And if the impositions cannot be borne, the products that depended on the lost energy use can no longer be produced. If the environmentalist agenda is imposed, the day will come when your descendants, if they have any awareness of it at all, will look back on our time as a mythical Golden Age never to be achieved again.

Is that what you want?

It’s not too late for you to change your mind, abandon any support you may have been giving to environmentalism’s program of impoverishment and death, and come over to the side of the values of human life, wealth, and happiness—the values Mises fought for under the banner of genuine Liberalism.

Copyright © 2008, by George Reisman. George Reisman, Ph.D. is the author of
Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics (Ottawa, Illinois: Jameson Books, 1996) and is Pepperdine University Professor Emeritus of Economics. His web site is www.capitalism.net and his blog is www.georgereisman.com/blog/.

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