In Environmentalism

It has been rightly said that perhaps the scariest phrase one can hear is this: “Hi, we’re from the Government and we’re here to help you.” Whenever you hear those words, you should either turn and run as fast as you can, or at least ask some very hard questions.

Mind you, some of these politicians and bureaucrats may have the best of intentions. But good intentions, especially those coming from Big Government, can be a very real worry indeed. Politicians may claim to have your interests at heart, but often it is their own interests that are being pandered to.

Conservatism is rightly suspicious of Big Government, while the Liberal Left can’t seem to get enough of it. This is not the place to rehearse the reasons why limited government should be the preferred option, but suffice it to say that any number of excuses crop up as to why government must become ever more extensive and encroaching.

Lately, talk of saving the planet has become a good ploy to expand the reach of government. In the interests of saving the environment, governments are becoming more draconian and invasive in their control over everyday life. Columnist Kevin James begins a recent column by looking at one such bizarre proposal:

“Democrats say they want government to stay out of your bedroom. Actually, they want government in every room of your house and in the ventilation system as well. By now, you’ve probably heard about the proposal of the California Energy Commission to require that all new homes in the state be outfitted with a “programmable communicating thermostat,” an Orwellian device which would allow the government to control the temperature inside your house. Imagine: a government bureaucracy along the lines of the Department of Motor Vehicles or the U.S. Postal Service controlling the comfort level you are allowed to maintain inside your own home!”1

Fortunately, after a tidal wave of protest, the Commission backed down and dropped this Big Brother idea. But the ideas keep coming. A good way for governments to gain more control over ordinary citizens is to latch on to a legitimate concern and turn it into a gloom and doom scenario which only governments can save us from. The global warming panic is a good case in point. James continues:

“Environmental doomsaying is one of the most powerful tactics that liberals use to obtain and wield power. At its heart, the Democrat Party is a coalition of interest groups that feed at the trough of the government. The more power the politicians and bureaucrats have, the more contracts and benefits the groups can gobble up. Notice how the rhetoric of environmental protection has changed over the last decade to justify the expansion of governmental power and rapid erosion of personal freedom.”

Not too long ago it was the issue of acid rain. “Liberals used the fact that clouds crossed state lines to propose onerous federal regulation of the energy industry. The first President Bush outsmarted them in 1990 by implementing a free-market program that monetized a limited right to pollute, and acid rain became an issue of the past.”

Today of course it is global warming. “By the mid-1990s, the liberals had turned their attention to ‘global warming.’ Problem: the theory of human-caused global warming is challenged by the fact, among others, that average temperatures were higher during the Medieval Warm Period a thousand years ago. Never ones to let facts stand in their way, the liberals changed their slogan a few years ago to ‘climate change,’ which had the advantage of being impossible to disprove. Hotter or colder today than yesterday? We are destroying the planet! Our kids will have no air to breathe, no water to drink! Call out the National Guard!”

Indeed, more government interference is needed to save the day. “People quickly caught on to the slickness of ‘climate change,’ and the left changed its spots again, now demanding an armada of new rules and regulations to control the size of each person’s ‘carbon footprint.’ (Of course, wealthy liberals like Al Gore and John Edwards purchase questionable carbon offsets so as not to impinge upon their lavish lifestyles. Sacrifice is for the little people).”

But a few inconvenient truths need to be mentioned here: “Everything you do has a carbon footprint and could be regulated by the government. If the Democrats have their way, you could face new limits on what you eat for breakfast, the way you travel to work, the computer on which you read, the medicines you take, the clothes you wear, the DVDs you watch, everything – everything!”

Concludes James, “‘Carbon footprint’ is code for limitless government intrusion into every detail of your life. Nothing is beyond the reach of a government determined to reduce your carbon footprint in the name of the environment. To these people, nothing is sacred, nothing is private, nothing is truly yours. Not even your thermostat.”

History is replete with examples of government bureaucrats using legitimate concerns to grab more power for themselves. We certainly want to look after the environment and take care of planet earth. But we need to be aware of the fact that many shouting with the loudest voices about the environment are the ones most intent on taking away more of our liberties so that they can further consolidate their own power and control.

Life is always about trade-offs. There are costs and benefits to most worthwhile things in life. We are all willing to give up some freedoms to an extent in order to procure certain goods. Thus we need to be cautious and wise here. Having a healthy environment is a good end which we should be willing to make some sacrifices for. But just who has to make the sacrifices, and to what extent, needs to be carefully considered.

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