Top Green on Rio: “We Know It’s Rubbish”
Published on: June 19, 2012
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  • WigWag

    “Like all Puritans, like Ben Jonson’s Zeal-of-the-Land Busy and Tribulation Wholesome, the green puritans simplify the world and reduce life’s complexities to a simple morality play.” (Walter Russell Mead)

    Yes, precisely. This is also exactly what Tea Party oriented acolytes of free markets do; they reduce economic complexities to a simple morality play. They’re Puritans at heart and like the environmentalists that Professor Mead lambasts, they’re blasphemers. After all, they have turned the free market into a deity and their religion is devoted to identifying the numerous ways that they can worship it. They believe that the wealthy deserve their wealth and that the poor don’t; they believe that virtue is rewarded with economic success and economic failure is the natural consequence of vice. I wonder if Professor Mead believes this; his posts suggest that he might.

    But whether he believes it or not, Professor Mead is guilty of doing the same thing himself; he turns economics into a morality play, at least in his analysis of the financial travails of Europe. A close (or even not so close) reading of his posts on the subject makes his position clear; the problems in Europe stem not from the hardworking and enterprising Germans but from the lazy, backward and fun loving Greeks, Spaniards, Italians and even French.

    Via Meadia’s recent post entitled “Euro Bailout Fund Running Out Of Money” and the comments that follow say it all.

    In 2010, Paul Krugman made the same argument about economic fundamentalists that Professor Mead makes here about environmental fundamentalists. To see for yourself, go here,

    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/09/28/economics-is-not-a-morality-play/

  • Jeff Medcalf

    The term “moonbat” was a takeoff on Monbiot. And this is a very well written exposition of why.

  • Alex Marshall

    I would go a bit further than George Monbiot seems to have done. The human race has not and will not take the steps needed to curb our wrecking of this planet. We will at some time become extinct as a species, and after that the planet will start to recover.

  • JimK

    I thought that perhaps after seeing the light with respect to Climategate, George might start to see the false premises in most everything on the left. Alas, it was not to be, still mired in cant.

  • Randy

    Question for Dr. M: which global gabfest sets the gold standard for utter uselessness?

    a) G-8 summit
    b) G-20 summit
    c) Rio+20, +21, +22, etc.
    d) United Nations Climate Change Conference
    e) Other?

    Enquiring minds want to know!

  • WW, We reduce things to “Morality Plays” because they work. They work, contrary to rationalist’s dreams of all of becoming Spock/Vulcans, because we are moral beings living in a moral universe.

    As partisans of our beliefs, we are prone to taking these things too far, as greens, tea partiers, occupists, etc. amply demonstrate.

    I suggest you read “The Righteous Mind,” by Haidt. (I’m half way through). It is enlightening.

    The accurate and honest moral argument is usually the more persuasive one to the majority of earth’s people.

  • Snorri Godhi

    There is a black irony in the fact that Monbiot is blaming the Americans. Michael Mann, Al Gore … I could go on if I could be bothered to look up wikipedia: these are the people who made Monbiot worry about AGW. Americans who turned Monbiot anti-American.
    (I might have commented earlier on this blog that I blame all European anti-Americanism on American ideologues.)

    But don’t be too hard on Monbiot: he has taken enough flak “from the left” for his advocacy of nuclear power, and other heresies.

    Alex Marshall: strange that you should take that position. I used to think similarly when I was a teenager.

  • Jack Burden

    Paul Krugman would seem to fall into the third moonbat categorization, with one solution for all economic problems. Long after his advice is followed, with lousy results, his refrain is “more, more, more”, and man do his arms flap harder by the day. The Taxed Enough Already Party ethos is about recognition of the unsustainability of current fiscal policy. As hard as the left may fantasize otherwise, it is about simple mathematics, not morality.

  • IcePilot

    The tree-huggers will be wearing black and mourning the Snail Darter even as the larger portion of humanity gets off this planet and reaches for the stars.

  • Snorri Godhi

    WRT the three choices in the last three paragraphs, I submit that there is at least a 4th choice: to take heed of Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer; that is, think seriously about the boundary between what you can change and what you can’t.
    In spite of Niebuhr being a man of faith, I believe this 4th choice to be clearly different from the 1st.

    Examples:
    You can’t change the policies of the country you live in; but you can change the country you live in.
    You can’t keep Greece in the eurozone; but you can transfer your money into a German, or preferably Swiss, bank account.
    You can’t change world levels of CO2 emissions; but if you expect that this is going to seriously damage your environment, then you can take precautions to save your life and the lives of people close to you.

  • BillH

    #3 Alex – …and the bulk of the hand wringers and wailers are the non-reproducing classes, who don’t have a dog in the fight, while we reproducers (six myself), whose descendants will have to confront human extinction, give it a big ho hum.

  • Richard Treitel

    We might get somewhere if rank-and-file environmentalists were more willing to follow leaders who look at the problems through a lens of science and engineering rather than one of religion and morality. You can gather a great many recruits to your cause by proclaiming, “Repent ye, repent ye, the end is nigh!” but nearly none by inquiring, “What technologies will we need to get the CO2 level back to 350 at a price we can afford?”

    I don’t blame Monbiot for asking for repentance: there will always be people like him. I blame those who made him famous by offering their repentance.

    Oh, and I blame those who forget the very effective solutions to environmental problems that have emerged from more sober thinking, like ozone loss. We haven’t given up our refrigerators and air conditioners to preserve the ozone layer … and yes, I have met someone who demanded that I do roughly that. Actually she was slightly worse: she was OK with me keeping my A/C as long as I never ran it. This would have meant that the seals which kept Freon out of the atmosphere would have dried out and degraded faster than if I had ran it.

  • Kris

    “The fool, unstrung by the horrors he sees in the future, rails, screams, flaps his arms and dashes distractedly hither and yon, makes lots of noise but gets nothing done. Unfortunately, it sometimes seems as if far too many greens are tempted by this third alternative.”

    But surely if I but make sufficient noise, you sheeple will finally understand!

  • Alex

    #10 Richard:

    You are so right, but it will never happen. Environmentalists use the environment for there own leftest causes. If they really wanted to solve the supposed global warming crisis (big Hooey), they would embrace nuclear power, not pine for the 15th century.

    Alex M.Sc., P.Geol

  • Corlyss

    “The fool, unstrung by the horrors he sees in the future, rails, screams, flaps his arms and dashes distractedly hither and yon, makes lots of noise but gets nothing done.”

    One of the finest depictions of just about EVERY NGO I’ve ever heard of, esp greens and human rights NGOs.

  • Randy

    Greenpeace says they’re moving to a “war footing”. Really.

    http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2012/06/19-7

    They did not say whether they would change their name to Greenwar.

  • Stephen

    Well said, WRM. Well said.

  • I think there is a common human tendency to psychologically defend oneself against death by projecting the problem onto the entire world. So the religious believe they are living in the end times and the secular that our species is headed for self inflicted extinction. One ends in Hellfire the other in steaming green muck – both seem to involve heat. Perhaps there is a connection?

  • Foobarista

    What inspires mass movements in democracies is ultimately more freedom, or it’s flipside, less coercion. The various civil rights movements were obviously about freedom and its denial by existing laws and structures.

    Environmentalism, in its promotion of “better living through bureaucracy”, is the opposite of freedom and fails to inspire anyone other than the sorts of “church ladies without God” like Monbiot.

  • Robert

    For the benefit of those just joining…

    I suggest that whenever you run an essay on this topic that you include somewhere within it a link to your article, “Doing what comes naturally,” on Malthusian dilemmas and the human response to them.

    I have found that piece to be a refreshingly intelligent take on the entire issue. Moreover, it rings true because it captures what people actually do in situations such as this.

    So for the benefit of those just joining, here’s the link: http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/2010/04/07/doing-what-comes-naturally/

  • Environmental alarmists are on the run. Here is Lubos Motl’s latest post on the subject:

    http://tinyurl.com/7z7dupa

  • Adam

    “The energy intensity of the global economy is in steady decline. The cutting edge of economic production continues to move from energy and raw material intensive industries to the much more sustainable service sector. Birth rates around the world continue to fall, substantially weakening the Malthusian case for impending planetary disaster. As societies grow rich they continue to grow green, and from the United States and western Europe to East Asia there are more and more people who care about keeping the earth green and the air clean.”

    Fact based, and succinct. Yet another reason why this is the best blog around…

  • RPD

    “Monbiot, deeply committed not only to Malthusian death scenarios for the planet, but overwhelmingly convinced that only a total, top down, universal re-engineering of every economic and social relationship on earth can save us from onrushing doom”

    I rather suspect that most people (or at least me) would rather deal with the “Malthusian death scenarios” than live in bureaucratic dictatorship that Monbiot envisions.
    Besides which, the scenarios are just not playing out. The environment is in better shape by almost every measure than it was 40, or even 20 years ago.

  • I submit that there is at least one further choice – the pub.

  • Sam L.

    As has been said before, if the proponents of AGW truly believed what they were saying, they would exemplify it by doing what they say the rest of us hoi polloi great unwashed should do. Instead, they have big houses, numerous houses and cars, and right near the ocean that’s gonna rise and flood those houses.

  • Herb

    So many people on the left remind me of Shakespeare’s Jaques in As You Like It.

    Amiens
    Under the greenwood tree
    Who loves to lie with me,
    And turn his merry note
    Unto the sweet bird’s throat,
    Come hither, come hither, come hither:
    Here shall he see No enemy
    But winter and rough weather.

    Jaq. More, more, I prithee, more.
    Ami. It will make you melancholy, Monsieur Jaques.
    Jaq. I thank it. More! I prithee, more. I can suck melancholy out of a song as a weasel sucks eggs. More! I prithee, more.
    Ami. My voice is ragged; I know I cannot please you.
    Jaq. I do not desire you to please me; I do desire you to sing. Come, more

  • Randy

    Dr. M,

    The moonbat, er, Monbiot has another jeremiad posted.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jun/25/rio-governments-will-not-save-planet

  • huxley

    WRM: You’ve been on quite a roll of late. Well said!

  • ChrisGreen

    Wig Wag:
    I’m glad there is a contrary opinion on this site. I agree that there is a certain class of fiscal conservative that thinks a free market is a panacea. More realistic fiscal conservatives understand that perfect information isn’t always available, therefore, the free market decisions are not always rational and a certain amount of regulation is a good thing. What P. Mead, however, argued in his series of posts ‘Beyond the Blue’ was that new technology must be used and implemented at every level of government (and society) in order to keep the same level of government services even while allowing people to invest a majority of money as they see fit. This is not a dogmatically religious viewpoint. It is a point of view that embraces the creative destruction (in other words, CHANGE) in both the market place and the government.
    The same applies to the environmental movement. Clinging to the same top-down centralized multi-government solutions simply isn’t working. Environmentalists need to look at solutions that generally make them uncomfortable (though not always for rational reasons). I could mention a few, but that is an entirely different debate.

  • Actually, economics IS a morality play. Which is why socialism and socialist-Lite types like Krugman and Keyes have failed, will fail, and shall always fail. There’s no morality in their ratio-centric analyses–only the mere pretension of so due to their alleged compassion, and of course the notion–long refuted–that government edicts and grand scheme industrial policies make the best nannies of people’s resources rather than the people actively at work themselves and making trillions of decisions daily in permutations that government cannot even duplicate armed with the best intentions.

    Bereft of morals themselves, the Statists accuse free market success noteworthies as being on par with religious extremists, when the rapturously delicious and dreadful irony here is that no force on earth has historically been more mulish religious in its fervor, stubborn to new ideas, and immune to change than do socialists and their Greener brethren in the hallowed halls of global “planning” boards now beginning to infect the Beltway and more than a few European chancelleries. Well, the grim results of this paying of penance in the promotion of world poverty on the one hand and sumptuous benefits for the public sector on the other hand, is all too gruesomely obvious a sin to turn aside.

    Interestingly, there’s very little input from Mr. WW and Krugman and the Krugmanesque and/or Green types on the mental input, the striving, and the sheer agony it takes to come up with innovative ideas, fight entrenched, bivouacked idiots in bureaucracy and similar dime store Mussolinis and their ten thousand paper cut annoyances and roadblocks to success, all earning higher pay and better benefits than the average businessman.

    But the rube businesspeople who make things tick don’t deserve the wealth when at long last the reach the summit of Mount Improbable, buck the odds, the trends, the naysayers, and the Negativistas glaring at them along the way. Nor, in all probability, will 90% of them get the sumptuous benefits packages and tasty until-the-grave pension plans of the jobsworthians who work in—and make constant sales pitches for—the regressive, primitive leviathan called Big Government.

    Nay, money should flow, sayeth Krugman, to those who merely exist. Period. No other context given. None assumed needed. Nanny says to the kids “Because I damn well said so—THAT’s why!” Thus the Obamanesque Pharaohs speaketh.

    So it is written , so it shall be.

    Wealth, as being the product of mind, or created, ya say? Why, you rube.

    It’s a zero sum game—a static resource like a giant tree from Gaia, a chunk of coal, or barrel of oil, or mud puddle. That’s all.

    “Resources”, you see, just need to be “shifted around” or “spread around” (to borrow from America’s man-child in office who has less business acumen than the local Girl Scouts chapter)

    And getting it moved from point A to point B? No sweat—it’s more along the lines of shifting things around than mental and work issues to these Stalin-Lite types–and always has been. It’s muscular labor at most that gets the deed done, all should be equal, and all mental products are welcome to go straight to hell so long as some dude down the street needs “healthcare” due to his spending a few cool thousand on some nice rims on the car.

    Noting that free men who use their minds free from coercion get exited sometimes, or perhaps that the fight against Tyranny and Stalin-Lite notions now emanating from the Greens requires being ever vigilant and so the Tea Party types are forever blogging and writing and responding, this fervor is taken to be something akin to a religious movement. Hell, maybe it should be. The world has seen worse: Government “planning”, price controls, Stimulus downloads 1, 2 and 2.1, Too Big to Fail automakers (I.E., retirement homes with massive pension and benefit outlays that have a car-making division on the side) whose union membership and clout and pull make their telephone line past the White House switchboard thicker than yours…..Obamacare, socialized med packs, being sent to Siberia for not seeing the shining path of elite decision making. All make good examples.

  • “Keyes have failed” Excuse moi—KEYNES, that is….

  • doc feelgood

    I note the rancid Obama bashing and its more than exaggerated anthem so dear to some conservatives. Pretty silly.

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