Some intellectuals are arguing that democracy cannot effectively address climate change–and, indeed, makes it worse–and that what we need to save the planet is to eliminate political freedom and to turn towards a totalitarian government. Others don’t go quite that far, but they hold up as the role model for effective government the People’s Republic of China. (Never mind that China has the worst pollution on the planet!)
After the jump, an excerpt that demonstrates this from a study of the “Sustainability” ideology by the conservative academic organization the National Association of Scholars.
From the National Association of Scholars, Sustaintability: Higher Education’s New Fundamentalism:
David Shearman is an Australian-based leading advocate of sustainability and an emeritus professor of medicine at the University of Adelaide, South Australia. Writing in the book The Climate Change Challenge and the Failure of Democracy with his colleague Joseph Wayne Smith, Shearman comments,
Ecological services have little chance of surviving without tight control by law of human activity affecting the environment. This option would be thought of as totalitarian by today’s free societies, but this may be the only solution for us.
Self-government inevitably falls short, he claims, as men refuse to recognize and prioritize the common good. In fact, democracy proves the worst of all possible forms of government:
The institution of liberal democracy fails to adequately address the challenges of the environmental crisis, and by giving an even greater license to greed and individual self-satisfaction, it is potentially a more environmentally destructive social system than most other systems under which humans have lived.
Plato and Aristotle, along with America’s founding fathers, might share Shearman’s distaste for a pure democratic regime. Plato preferred a natural, virtuous aristocracy while Aristotle praised a polity for its stability; the American founders aimed at a representative republic meant to “refine and enlarge the public view,” as James Madison expressed it in “Federalist No. 10.” But the proper regime for a “sustainable” society, Shearman and Smith argue, is a totalitarian dictatorship. A sustainablegovernment is autocratic and clamps down on that dangerous phenomenon, human freedom, and the opportunity for self-government. The model, Shearman suggests in a blog post, is China:
The People’s Republic of China may hold the key to innovative measures that can both arrest the expected surge in emissions from developing countries and provide developed nations with the means to alternative energy. China curbs individual freedom in favour of communal need. The State will implement those measures seen to be in the common good. … Crises call for fast and sure action and an educated Chinese leadership could deliver.
Shearman, to be sure, is a fringe figure. We do not know of other sustainability advocates, at least those who have advanced degrees and reside in academia, who go so far towards explicit advocacy of totalitarian government as the solution to climate change. But Shearman isn’t necessarily that far from the mainstream.
Consider New York Times columnist and best-selling author Thomas L. Friedman. In a series of columns in 2009 and 2010, Friedman argued that the Communist Party in China really does offer an attractive model for addressing global warming. In one column he complained that skeptics in the U.S. had demonized the issue of climate change and had caused the Senate to “scuttle” an energy-climate bill. “While American Republicans were turning climate change into a wedge issue, the Chinese Communists were turning it into a work issue,” Friedman wrote. He quoted the chairwoman of the U.S. China Collaboration on Clean Energy who proudly explained, “There is really no debate about climate change in China.”
Friedman also appeared on Meet the Press on May 23, 2010, saying that he “fantasized” about making America “China for a day,” so that we could “authorize the right solutions” on “everything from the economy to the environment.” He then backed away, saying that “I don’t want to be China for a second.” But, “OK, I want my democracy to work with the same authority, focus and stick-to-itiveness.”
The think tank Reason labeled Friedman’s view “authoritarian envy.” And that is probably what we should take away from both Shearman’s and Friedman’s expostulations. They and many other global warming alarmists are frustrated that the broader public and the duly elected legislatures in the U.S., U.K., Australia, and other nations have not embraced their cause. They imagine—with rather different degrees of self-awareness—that bypassing the structures of self-governance in favor of coercive authority would provide the “answers” they seek.