Friday, February 22, 2008

Global-Warming Authoritarianism

Reprinted with permission from the Ayn Rand Institute. My comments follow.

February 20, 2008.

Irvine, CA--Many people are calling for drastic political action to cope with climate change. But the authors of a new book, The Climate Change Challenge and the Failure of Democracy, go much further, claiming that global warming can be effectively dealt with only by "an authoritarian form of government."

In an article promoting the book, co-author David Shearman praises China's recent ban on plastic shopping bags, expressing special admiration for its authoritarian quality. "The importance of the decision," he writes, "lies in the fact that China can do it by edict and close the factories."

"Views like this reveal an ugly and ominous aspect of the political frenzy surrounding global warming," said Dr. Keith Lockitch, a resident fellow of the Ayn Rand Institute. "Though easy to dismiss as overwrought and atypical, such views expose a very real authoritarianism underlying the calls for action on climate change.

"While few global-warming activists are willing--as Shearman is--to come out in favor of openly dictatorial policies, the kinds of laws and regulations that activists do call for will hand a comparably frightening degree of control over our lives to politicians and environmentalist bureaucrats.

"In one form or another, every minute of our every day involves the emission of carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas claimed to be the cause of climate change. Every moment we spend running our computers, lighting our homes, powering countless labor-saving appliances, driving to work or school or anywhere else--we are using industrial-scale energy to make our lives better.

"But global-warming activists want our use of the fossil fuels that provide the major source of that energy to be strictly controlled by the government and severely curtailed, no matter the harm that causes.

"Despite the constant assertion that global-warming science is 'settled,'" Lockitch said, "it is far from certain that we face any sort of catastrophic global emergency. But in the name of 'saving the world' from unproven threats, such activists want to impose a draconian regimen of taxes, laws, regulations and controls that would affect the minutest details of our existence. Their solution to their projected 'environmental disaster' is to impose an actual economic disaster by restricting the energy that powers our civilization and subjecting its use to severe political control.

"Let us not allow panic over the exaggerated claims of climate alarmists to deliver us into the hands of would-be carbon dictators."


Galileo Blogs comments:

This is an excellent editorial that captures the essence of what is wrong with those who want to curtail human emissions of carbon dioxide in order to stop the alleged threat of global warming. In essence, it would create an "actual economic disaster" to stop the potential and not yet proven disaster of global warming.

Moreover, it can only do so by imposing dictatorial controls over our daily lives. This is so because "every minute of our day involves the emission of carbon dioxide." How can a government restrict our activities in such an intimate manner without assuming dictatorial powers?

This fight against global warming will enslave us and impoverish us to achieve its purported goal.

The proper image of our future, should the global warming dictators be successful, is Bangladesh, a poor and authoritarian country where thousands of people die every few years from floods. Contrast Bangladesh with Holland. Thousands of Dutch have lived below sea level for hundreds of years, yet they are safe from floods, protected today by a multi-billion dollar system of dikes, high-tech sensors and dams. However, the real protection of the Dutch against floods is their wealth. The Dutch can afford to protect themselves from floods.

Their relative freedom is what makes the Dutch wealthy. In contrast to the freedom and wealth of the Dutch, and the protection they offer against floods and other natural threats, the coming global warming dictatorship will only ensure that the entire world becomes like Bangladesh.

Where would you rather live?

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Making Socialized Medicine Real

This Canadian patient of that country's system of socialized medicine offers a warning to Americans. It will happen here, unless politicians learn that Americans don't want it.

(HT: Truth, Justice and the American Way)

Monday, February 04, 2008

This Is Not Capitalism

Yesterday, Google began an effort to lobby government to forcefully prevent Microsoft from acquiring Yahoo. Over the weekend, Microsoft had announced an offer to acquire Yahoo. The offer price was a generous one, amounting to a 61% premium for holders of Yahoo stock. This is a serious, attractive offer for Yahoo shares by a serious, deep-pocketed acquiror. Yahoo investors would receive either cash or stock in the new combined company.

Google wants to step in between this pending marriage-by-choice between Microsoft and Yahoo's shareholders. How do they intend to do it? Are they going to offer a higher price? Are they going to attempt to persuade Yahoo's shareholders that the deal is not in their interest?


Google's first stop wasn't to its bankers to make a better offer to Yahoo shareholders or to its public relations experts to make the case to shareholders why the acquisition was not in their interest.

Google's first stop was to Washington. Google immediately instructed its lobbyists to concoct arguments against the merger that would persuade congressmen and regulators to scuttle the deal. This type of "persuasion" hardly costs Google anything. For the price of some hundreds of thousands of dollars in lobbyists' fees, fees that legally bribe congressmen in the form of campaign contributions, wine-and-dine them over dinners and soirees at expensive restaurants or through more nefarious contributions to designated "charities" and honoraria for "speaking engagements," Google can scuttle the potential Microsoft-Yahoo deal on the cheap. Certainly for a lot less money than having to top Microsoft's $42 billion offer for Yahoo.

Google will wrap all of this in some sort of argument about how a Microsoft-Yahoo combination will hurt "the public." That argument is expensive hogwash concocted by mercenary economists and lawyers. Even if Microsoft and Yahoo merged, their combined market share in Internet search would be a fraction of Google's. Google is the big gorilla in Internet search (a position they did earn legitimately) and they would remain the big gorilla even after a Microsoft-Yahoo merger. (Actually, it doesn't matter what Microsoft-Yahoo's market share would be. Even if it would far exceed Google's, it represents no harm to anyone. Such market share was earned in the marketplace and would have to be defended in the marketplace.)

Google earned its impressive leadership in Internet search and advertising by aggressively offering a more valuable service than its competitors. I use Google everyday and I marvel at the elegance and power of how they make the Internet useful to me. Google earned their position, but instead of keeping it through further entrepreneurship, they will use the same method the Mafia uses to keep its "market share": the pointed end of a gun.

The fact that this gun is legally held by the chairman of the Federal Trade Commission or by the Speaker of the House does not change its nature.

Capitalism is the system based on the opposite principle to the Google principle used against Microsoft and Yahoo. Capitalism is not based on force, but on voluntary trade. It is based on a person's right to his own life and the corollary of that right, his right to property. No one has the right to violate another's rights through the use of force.

That is exactly what Google wants to do. It wants to use the government's policing power to violate the rights of Microsoft's and Yahoo's shareholders to associate or not as they see fit.

Remember that Google's actions, in their essence, are no different than a Mafia chieftain who hires a street gang to tear up and destroy businesses that refuse to pay him protection money.

This is not capitalism; this is hooliganism.