Environmentalism Makes the Middle East Matter

The impending war in Syria seems like a good time to revisit environmentalism. Although Obama may be foolish enough to believe America has an obligation to invade Syria in the absence of any threat to American interests, the continuing high cost of fuel always gives at least superficial rationale to intervening anywhere in the Middle East. Environmentalism has minimized or stopped new drilling anywhere outside of the Middle East, so it’s time to ask questions about why most of us keep buying into this ideology.

There are two types of people who consider themselves environmentalists.

First, there’s the majority who are concerned about the plight of human life on earth if, say, global warming actually came to pass. And then there’s the minority, who really don’t care about the fate of humanity on earth, but are instead concerned with accelerating its destruction. They don’t care, for example, if agreements essentially outlawing the production of oil by 2050 destroy the benefits to human life of civilization as we know it. They don’t care if the restrictions on further drilling for oil cause oil prices to accelerate and eventually create severe instability on the entire planet. ‘Tough,’ they imply, or, in a few cases have expressed outright.

Unfortunately, the anti-human minority is having much of its legwork done by misguided members of the pro-human, pro-life-on-earth majority.

Only when the gap between these two mindsets is explicitly and widely exposed will we reach the point where the environmentalist movement, as we know it, will become irrelevant. The majority will finally know to look to science and business, rather than ideology and political pressure groups, to help human beings evolve new forms of energy and keep the earth a safe and magnificent place to live.

Are you frustrated and disheartened by the intellectual and emotional hold that environmentalist arguments seem to have on your friends—people who no doubt share your values about wanting a happy and healthy life for themselves? People who, like you, wish that gas prices weren’t so high and wish that ‘something could be done’ about it? Invite them to think. Encourage them to challenge the idea that government can solve the problem. Say, for example: ‘It sounds like you’re looking to the federal government to find a new source of energy for us. But think about it. When has the federal government ever made a dramatic new discovery such as that? The horse and buggy was replaced by the automobile because of a combination of scientific technology and business innovation. Government didn’t invent these things. Government didn’t discover electricity, either. It’s true that once something is discovered, government often gets involved in distributing or managing it. But can you think of one advancement that ever came about because of government?’

This isn’t a hostile diatribe against government. Government is, indeed, crucial. If government didn’t exist to protect intellectual and physical property rights, there would be no safe or rational context in which science and business could operate. There would be a state of anarchy, making human civilization impossible.

At the same time, government is the guardian—not the innovator. Government does not invent things. Government does not think outside of the box. It’s not in its nature to do so. Government, even at its rational best, is an instrument of conservatism. You want that when it comes to upholding contracts, fighting off criminals and foreign invaders. But do you want this mindset in charge of innovation?

The Soviet empire (1917-1991) tried, over the twentieth century, to use government to compete with and accomplish what the American private sector had done in the century prior. Soviet Communism had almost a century to prove itself. Yet the clunky reins of government—despite a rather impressive show of force causing it to be a superpower for awhile—could not even manage to steal and maintain what American innovators developed, much less invent new things. This is the biggest reason Communism collapsed, and why socialism in any form fails to produce, every single time it’s tried.

The error of Communism was assuming that the force of government could invent and accomplish rather than merely protect and defend. See how well it worked?

And yet, this is precisely the same error that most Americans make today. They look at health care. They see innovation. Yet they also see inefficiency and expense. They conclude that we suffer from too little government. In the process, they ignore the fact that all the innovation, competence and compassion that does exist in the medical field could never have been created by legislation, and can certainly not be maintained by it.

Do most Americans love Obamacare? Of course not. They’ll love it even less once health care becomes even a bigger mess than it previously was. But sadly, people will erroneously conclude from this that while Barack Obama may have been an idiot, the solution still lies in the right mix or combination of government intervention, regulations and subsidies. Enter Hillary Clinton, and then the next idiot after that. Americans are like Charlie Brown with Lucy and the football. (Hillary Clinton will make a perfect Lucy, by the way.)

Instead of even considering the possibility that too much legislation has created the inflation and inefficiency we do see, it’s simply taken for granted that more legislation is needed to make things reasonable again.

When discussing politics with people, I advise against falling into the trap of conceding the premise that government can solve these problems. The debate cannot be about whether John McCain, Hillary Clinton, Chris Christie or Barack Obama or any other career politician can best ‘solve the health care mess.’ If it is, Barack Obama will win, because, given the premise that government is the solution, he who proposes the most government intervention will win. The same applies to rising gas prices or the energy problem more generally.

Barack Obama favors something closer to outright nationalization of our energy industry. Me-too Republicans like John McCain call for something less than that, and then perversely (almost comically, except it’s not funny) call it a ‘free market’ solution.

Rational arguments cannot win on the terms of irrational, mistaken premises. As Ayn Rand use to write, ‘check your premises’—and challenge those with whom you engage in discussion to do the same. It won’t win over the closed-minded, but those honestly looking for solutions need assistance recognizing just how brainwashed they are.

Right now all eyes are on Syria, a convenient distraction from the damage the Obama Administration has done to health care, and may yet do in the area of energy. Even when Obama mercifully goes away, we’ll have his successors to contend with. Until or unless people reject the erroneous thinking that brings such pseudo-intellectual flakes to undeserved positions of power, we’re not going to get out of this mess.


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