Most people don’t realize this yet, but if a Democrat gets the keys to the White House next year it’s game over for the US economy.
This isn’t just for the obvious reason that liberals like Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton don’t understand free markets or small government.
It’s because the left has got its hands on the magic formula that enables it to do at both federal and local level all the things that lefties love to do – the meddling, the nannying, the taxing, the regulating, the confiscating, the cronyism – virtually unopposed by the people who should be opposing them.
The formula is: “We’re saving the planet.”
And who wants to be seen not saving the planet?
No one and that’s why the issue has become such a massive problem for conservatives across the world.
It explains, for example, the suicidal desire a few years back by the notionally conservative UK prime minister David Cameron to lead “the greenest government ever.”
This has caused untold damage to the British landscape (all those bat-chomping, bird-slicing eco-crucifixes, like the ones that rake in £1000 a day for Cameron’s father-in-law, Sir Reginald Sheffield Bt), to the British economy (which now has the most expensive electricity in Europe and is legally committed to spending £18 billion a year on pointless ‘decarbonisation’) and to the political debate. When a senior Conservative minister says – as Climate Change and Energy Secretary Andrea Leadsom did in parliament recently – that Britain is committed to producing “100 percent” of its energy from renewables, then you know that the ravens have left the Tower and the lunatics taken over the asylum.
America has a similar problem. It’s not so bad, as yet, as in Europe. But it’s definitely getting there – and for the same reason. Most Republican politicians are uncomfortable talking about climate change because they know it makes them look bad, and because they’re wary of being branded – the left’s usual tactic – “anti-science”.
And perhaps, also, because they don’t want to offend any of those donors who (as so many rich people do) have caught the green stupidity bug and want to alleviate their consciences by – you got it – “saving the planet”. (‘“I told him, ‘For me to have any interest in Ted, I need him to accept that the earth has warmed, and that we can solve the problem and create plenty of jobs,’ ” Mr. Sabin recalled.)
Both the two Republican frontrunners, admittedly, are fully out global warming sceptics. Ted Cruz hosted his Data or Dogma hearing at the Senate last year and Donald Trump enjoys few things better than trolling greenies with tweets like:
The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 6 November 2012
But the right is missing a trick. Across the world conservatives are losing the war on climate change and will continue to lose unless they ever learn this most basic of tactical rules: never fight your battle on terrain of the enemy’s choosing.
Scientifically, politically, emotionally the climate change debate has been framed by the left in such a way that it can never really lose.
The left is cunning. Like the Taliban – “you have the watches, we have the time” – it plays a very long game. The tactics it has been using in the environmental wars date at least back to Saul Alinsky and probably as far back as the Cultural Marxists of the 1930s Frankfurt School.
What’s certain is for several decades now – and most especially since the Fall of the Berlin Wall supposedly won the capitalist argument – the left has been using environmentalism as a cloak to disguise its usual controlling, misanthropic, puritanical, big government agenda with a kindly aura of bunny-hugging caringness.
My book Watermelons: How The Environmentalists Are Killing The Planet, Destroying The Economy And Stealing Your Children’s Future describes the historical background to this. That’s “Watermelons” as in “green on the outside, red on the inside.”
But what it doesn’t do is provide a solution to the problem which I’d argue, after militant Islam, probably represents the biggest political and economic threat to the world today because its tentacles spread so far and because its influence is so insidious.
Environmentalism – the “climate change” scare, especially – is the hard left’s Trojan Horse: unlike the Soviets, unlike the Nazis, it intends to destroy Western liberal civilisation not from without but from within.
So where are conservatives going wrong? How is it that they are constantly allowing themselves to be outflanked by the enemy? Can they ever win the argument?
Well, to answer the last question first, yes, absolutely they can but first they need to read this brilliant essay by Alex Epstein in Forbes.
Republicans – and this applies just as much to Conservatives in Britain and Europe, and Liberals in Australia – whenever the environment comes up they are always arguing at a disadvantage.
They are, as Epstein puts it, reactive and overwhelmed whereas their left-wing opponents are proactive and overwhelming.
Is this because right wing people are ignorant of science, don’t care about the environment and only want to rape the planet? Well, that, of course is what the green propaganda machine would like you to believe.
But actually it’s much simpler than that.
The current debate about the environment is constructed round an entirely dishonest core premise: “that we need to get off fossil fuels and onto green energy.”
So long as this remains the debate’s core premise, the right will always lose because the best it can ever hope for is to do what Epstein calls “arguing to zero” – effectively conceding the enemy the field on every issue.
Here’s how he explains it:
Here is an X-axis from -100 to 100, with 0 as the midpoint.
The axis refers to our moral evaluation of a policy, product, or technology. -100 means the lowest evil, 0 means neutral, and 100 means our highest ideal.
In today’s debate, -100 is the ever-growing use of fossil fuels (“dirty energy”) and 100 is a society completely powered by “green” energy, usually solar and wind.
A good policy, on this scale, is one that helps us get off fossil fuels and onto green energy. With each proposal, Democrats are “arguing to 100”—arguing that a given policy is bringing us closer to the ideal and away from the evil. If anyone ever stands up for fossil fuels, Democrats will “argue to -100”—argue that the person is bringing us toward evil.
This positioning is incredibly powerful—because the ideal frames the debate. And he who frames the debate, wins the debate.
Take the debate about fracking. Rarely if ever do you hear the right arguing confidently that it is a good thing which will make everyone’s lives’ better by bringing down the cost of energy and enriching the economy. That’s because conservatives are far too busy defending it against the terms set by the left: that it pollutes the environment, uses up too much water, poisons wells and causes earthquakes.
Even though the right wing argument is closer to the truth here than the left wing argument, the right wing argument is failing to prevail because doesn’t suit the current environmental narrative which has been dictated almost entirely by a hard core of misanthropic greenies who loathe Western industrial civilisation and probably much prefer animals to people.
But Republicans – and other conservatives and, even more so, libertarians – can very easily win this debate simply by reframing its terms of reference.
To reach the right conclusion on what to do about energy, we need to be clear on our moral goal, our standard of value—and that the right standard of value is maximizing human well-being rather than the environmentalist standard of minimizing human impact. If we look at the big picture, both positives and negatives, of fossil fuels by the standard of maximizing human well-being, we find that short-term and long-term they improve every aspect of life by increasing mankind’s ability to use machines—including our capacity to make a naturally dirty environment far cleaner and our capacity to make a naturally dangerous climate far safer.
Epstein is right. What the environmental movement is doing to the economy, to the lives of ordinary people (the poor especially), to liberty and to nature is ignorant, dangerous and often evil but saying this – as some of us like to do quite often – is never going to win over the unpersuaded, who continue to delude themselves that greens are kindly, thoughtful types who really care about the planet.
No. To win the environmental argument, conservatives must reframe the debate.
Here’s how Epstein thinks we should do it:
Whenever I discuss any energy and environmental issue with anyone, near the very beginning I make sure to ask: “Would you agree that our goal here is to find the policy that will maximize human well-being? Would you agree that we need to look carefully at all the costs and all the benefits to get to the right answer?” It’s often necessary to bring up the non-impact issue explicitly: “Would you agree that to maximize our well-being we need to impact the world in all kinds of ways and that impact is not a bad thing but often a good thing? That we just want to minimize impacts that harm us?”
That reframing may seem simple or go unnoticed, but the resulting framework changes everything.
There is a lot at stake here. Conservatives, for far too long, have seen environmentalism as a fringe issue, of little concern to them because it doesn’t impact too obviously on their key area of concern, the economy.
They couldn’t be more wrong, as the American example shows:
Consider the following ongoing policy battles: the Clean Power Plan, methane regulations, fracking bans, ozone regulations, pipeline blocking, new pipeline regulations, new train regulations, renewable fuel standards, wind production tax credit, solar subsidies, CAFE standards, green building standards, energy efficiency mandates, “green jobs” schemes.
All of these policy initiatives were initiated by Democrats, and Democrats are winning on most of them. Even when they “lose,” it doesn’t change the trajectory; Democrats have an unlimited supply of new anti-development, anti-freedom initiatives to propose if the old ones fail. Witness the short-lived “victory” of blocking a particular anti-fossil fuel proposal (cap-and-trade) being followed by a host of Executive Orders and international agreements to accomplish the same goal.
Since the Democrats make all the proposals and the Republicans react, Democrats control the direction of energy policy—against development and freedom, particularly the development of our most important form of energy, fossil fuels.
Science is not going to win the global warming debate because it’s not about science; climate is not going to win the global warming debate because it’s not about observed reality. If conservatives want to stop the global warming problem in its tracks the solution is within their grasp: refuse any more to indulge the left’s fantasy games; start talking about the interests of real, living people.