Environmentalism as the new socialism

Reflecting on the government power grabs being recommended at the Copenhagen climate summit, Charles Krauthammer explains how the left has turned to environmentalism for its new ideology:

This naked assertion of vast executive power in the name of the environment is the perfect fulfillment of the prediction of Czech President (and economist) Vaclav Klaus that environmentalism is becoming the new socialism, i.e., the totemic ideal in the name of which government seizes the commanding heights of the economy and society.

Socialism having failed so spectacularly, the left was adrift until it struck upon a brilliant gambit: metamorphosis from red to green. The cultural elites went straight from the memorial service for socialism to the altar of the environment. The objective is the same: highly centralized power given to the best and the brightest, the new class of experts, managers and technocrats. This time, however, the alleged justification is not abolishing oppression and inequality but saving the planet.

The desire for economic justice, social equality, and the elimination of oppression are worthy aims. One could argue that free market economics and conservative politics meets these goals better than statist systems such as the different varieties of socialism. But I have been struck at how snobbish so many leftists are today (as in their classist reactions to Sarah Palin and the populist “tea parties”) as opposed to their old image of champions of the working man and the voice of the common people. (One can certainly criticize them, but I’m specifically thinking about the critiques that consist of little more than looking down their noses at the “rednecks”–making fun of their clothing, their accents, their culture.) Economic populism still exists among the left, but it seems overshadowed by this new article of faith, that the world faces an environmental apocalypse. There was a time when the left supported, say, West Virginia coal miners. Now, it seems eager to put them all out of work. The left is concerned about the environmental impact of various policies, but it seems indifferent to the economic impact on ordinary people of their environmental policies.