Monday, March 01, 2010

Why is a "global warming" a partisan issue?

Q: Why is "global warming" a conservative vs. liberal issue?

A: Much of modern "liberalism/progressivism/leftism" is driven by a utopian belief that, with the right set of laws or regulatory framework, the perfectability of the human condition is achievable. Barack Obama, in his Nobel acceptance speech, actually admitted that "we do not have to think that human nature is perfect for us to still believe that the human condition can be perfected." Conservatives tend to look on that kind of utopianism as not only wrong but dangerous.

"Liberals'/progressives'" dreams of utopia require a strong central planning government, with the ability to carry out its plans, and themselves in charge of making those plans. Freedom is messy and difficult, and people don't behave the right way to lead to a perfect human society. Well, what could be better than an environmental catastrophe that results from people cutting down trees or burning oil (to live independently outside of a controlled community) or gas (to move from place to place with government transportation or permission)? If society can be coerced or convinced into giving the power to regulate carbon dioxide emissions to some centralized planning bureaucracy, there is literally no aspect of human behavior that cannot be regulated and controlled. (The same is true, of course, of giving that bureaucracy authority over medical decisions.)

So there is a tremendous amount of "watermelon environmentalism" - green on the outside, red (Marxist) on the inside. As I wrote three years ago
When leftists who have been telling me my entire life that Americans need to stop burning fossil fuels because America is using an "unfair" amount of the world's resources, or because exhaust fumes cause birth defects or sterility, or because it causes acid rain, or it's going to cause global cooling, decide that we need to stop burning fossil fuels because it's causing global warming, it's not easy to fight the suspicion that what they are really concerned with isn't global warming - it's Americans burning fossil fuels.
Obviously, not all liberals are jack-booted tyrants at heart, and the vast majority of the people who are advocating cap-and-trade and other freedom-destroying measures don't actually have the destruction of human freedom as their goal. The great majority are well-meaning, concerned citizens. But human beings are human beings, and Lord Acton's dictum still holds. You cannot centralize the kind of power that cap-and-trade requires (or government health-care requires) without also introducing staggering levels of corruption.

Conservatives do not believe in the perfectability of the human condition. And they don't believe that the kind of radical changes and centralized power required are good for society. Many are also skeptical of the urgency, because they recognize that the climate has changed constantly over the history of the planet. There is a school of thought that none of the regulatory schemes proposed could actually stop any climate change, anyway, and that the way to deal with the consequences will be to ... deal with the consequences. A wealthier society will be better able to do so than a poorer one. A society that imposes central controls and cap-and-trade will be a poorer one.

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