Belated “Earth Day” Thoughts

Many people are not even sure what “Earth Day” is all about anymore. I doubt whether many know of its origins or why it is now an institution. I don’t. And I don’t care that much. I suspect that many share my ambivalence. Therefore I was quite prepared to ignore the hoopla and not even acknowledge it yesterday. The high volume of “a day late and a dollar short” promotions of the “green” variety received in my e-mail today has changed my mind.

The related topic of “man-made global warming” represents a sort of rallying cry from political leaders and specially interested groups like environmentalists. Despite the “consensus” views to the affirmative on this topic, the science is far short of conclusive and many respectable scientists have opposing views. I do not propose here to argue the point one way or the other. Frankly, it is my view that even conceding that a problem may exist is not an argument for a collectivist solution–free markets would move toward a solution more expeditiously and at far less cost of economic resources and political liberty.

It was Randolph Bourne who said, “war is the health of the state”. What he meant by that was that the state could expand its influence and power over citizenry by going to war. War is ugly, hellish and evil but collectivists are always able to overlook the inconvenience of sacrificing soldiers in the name of expanding state power. The greatest travesty committed against individuals in this context is conscription. When the US enlisted this practice during the Civil War it may have marked the turning point for political liberty. Since then Americans have lost a great deal to tyranny in the name of expanding state powers. In the 20th century collectivism advanced as an intellectual school, mostly through the default of liberty’s defenders. Two world wars were fought that were started by collectivists. Even the “good guys” had to suffer devastating losses of individual lives and treasure. But the residual was more power to the state.

Intuitively, collectivists in government have recognized the effectiveness of war in rallying individuals to reprioritize political liberty in favor of expanding the power of the state. William James, I think, spoke of the “moral equivalent of war”. The statists recognize the opportunity behind rallying cries to “common causes” like the threats of “climate change”–real or imagined. Thus we have the War on Poverty, War on Drugs, and War on Terror all of which have two characteristics in common: they are for all practical purposes, never-ending and secondly, each has resulted in the losses of political and economic liberty.

Today, the US president (and his wife) call for national service and volunteerism. Obama says he refuses to believe that the American people will not unite behind the common cause of discovering alternative energy sources. Of course he is not the first American president to make national service appeals. His predecessor George W. Bush, among others have similarly called for such acts of “sacrifice”. Keep in mind the essence of these pleas: it is to give up all or some part of your life and liberty to the state. I hope I do not need to remind you that appeals like these were very popular among European dictators in the last century. Their objective was to destroy the individual. In ignorance, US leaders are making the same appeals in the name of a collectivist, organic view of society united in fighting some imaginary enemy or some positive goal established not by individuals voluntarily, but by the compulsion of the ever-growing state.

If it has not been declared yet, I expect there will one day be named a “War on Global Warming” or its equivalent.

Copyright 2009 Edward Podritske

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