August 30, 2010

"The Greening of Godzilla"

This is the title from a piece written by Walter Russell Mead for The American Interest Online that could not be improved upon. Mead dismantles the "green" movement not so much from a scientific standpoint but to illustrate that it has become the enemy that it abhors: The Establishment.

The case environmentalists used to make was that modern science was too crude and too incomplete to take into account the myriad features that could turn a giant hydroelectric dam from a blessing into a curse. Yes, the dam would generate power — for a while. But green critics would note that the dam had side effects: silt would back up in the reservoir, soil downstream would be impoverished, parasites and malaria bearing mosquitoes would flourish in the still waters and so on and so forth. Meanwhile the destruction of wetlands and river bottoms imposed enormous costs to wildlife diversity and the productivity of river systems. Salmon runs would disappear. Often, the development associated with hydroelectric dams led to deforestation, offsetting gains in flood control.

Mead goes on to point out that greenies have morphed to espousing a simple solution (cap and trade) for a very complex problem (the environment). They now hide behind the "expert" label to hush critics. That's interesting but perhaps not all that groundbreaking.

What is more interesting is how Mead parallels liberal enviro regulation to their handling of the economy. We're told that financial reform will smooth all of the economic cycles and eliminate future "bubbles." Of course, that's nonsense because the economy, like the environment, is too complex for central planning.

Essentially, the core environmentalist argument against big projects and big development is the same argument that libertarians use against economic regulations and state planning. The ‘economic ecology’ of a healthy free market system is so complex, libertarians argue, that bureaucratic interventions, however well intentioned and however thoroughly supported by peer reviewed science of various kinds, will produce unintended consequences — and in any case the interventions and regulations are too crude and too simple to provide an adequate substitute for the marvelously complex economic order that develops from free competition.

This piece seems to meander between subjects, but the common thread is "experts" trying to solve problems that cannot be solved with grandiose solutions. The result is stifling regulation that creates as many new problems as it solves.

Worth the whole read.

Deleterious Anthropogenic Warming of the Globe Posted by Boulder Refugee at August 30, 2010 12:38 PM

Professor Mead is generally worth the read.

Great link, I loved it, but I think Mead joins our beloved brother jg in oversanguininityness. Epic fail yes, but while Mead was learning history and politics, I was watching horror movies. And the monster is usually not dead when it appears so.

No cap and trade -- but Colorado just passed a law to send our utility bills through the roof. We'll tell our grandchildren about incandescent bulbs like Uncle Benny told us about soda fountains. Weatherization, hybrids...

Posted by: jk at August 30, 2010 3:08 PM

Steven Hayward at The American piles on:

First, with the complete collapse of cap-and-trade in the Senate, the greens should face the ironic fact that if Senator John McCain had been elected president in 2008, we’d almost certainly have some form of cap-and-trade in place right now. Recall that McCain cosponsored two previous cap-and-trade proposals in the Senate and would have made cap-and-trade a higher priority than healthcare reform. He could also have brought some Republicans along for the ride. Yet despite his green sentiments, McCain received a zero rating from the League of Conservation Voters in 2007 and 2008, while President Obama received perfect marks (when he showed up to vote, that is). So, environmentalists threw in their lot with Obama.

Hayward's point is that the enviros are battered spouses mishandling their own interests. What drops out is that he is right. I'd rather have Cap'n Tax® than ObamaCare®, but I don't feel so bad anymore.

Posted by: jk at August 30, 2010 3:38 PM | What do you think? [2]