Monday, January 13, 2020

The War Against Economic Growth

Here in the Western world, an unholy alliance of leftist billionaires and environmental zealots is doing everything in its power to ensure that the West loses out to Asia in the current clash of civilizations.

They have declared war on economic growth and aspire to lead their nations and the West to a period of lower economic growth. In order to save the environment they want us all to return to more feudal living conditions.

All of us except for them, that is.

Those conditions require less energy and produce less environmental pollution. The great minds who concocted this road to misery neglect to point out that less economic growth, less wealth means less medical research. While proposing that everyone go back to living in mud huts, they ought, in their so-called minds, recall the plagues that characterized those periods.

Among the great human curiosities of our time is the presence of obscenely wealthy men like Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer, accompanied by their comrades in disarmament from Silicon Valley and other leftist redoubts, leading the march toward a no-growth economy.

They may not know it, but they are making a very good argument for wealth confiscation. If they cannot use their wealth responsibly to advance wealth creation for everyone else, why should they have it? Someone should do a study about the effects of having too much money. If you have billions of dollars in the bank you cannot, effectively spend money. No rational expense will cause your purchasing power to decline. And thus, you cannot really grow your own wealth. Does this cause them to imagine that no one should every grow their own wealth?

Furthermore, these tech billionaires, having become masters of the marketplace of information seem to believe that they must now conquer the marketplace of ideas. They seem to imagine that their outsized wealth means that they are great thinkers. Some of them even mistake themselves for philosophers. They do not seem to understand that their anti-growth schemes will immiserate billions of people, while leaving them alone in their gated communities, with armed security, to enjoy their own infinite wealth.

There is no way that the West, under these circumstances, will ever be able to compete against the East. We will end up incapable of financing a modern military and will never be able to defend ourselves. You cannot grow your military if you cannot grow your economy. 

Anyway, the Western left has been taking a stand against economic growth. It seems to be suggesting that it cannot win out against the rising nations in the East. And thus that it must devote itself to higher ideals by saving the environment.

Joel Kotkin outlines this ominous turn toward self-deconstruction in a long and wise article. Everyone would do well to read it in its entirety.

He begins by pointing out that economic growth has done wonders for mere mortals, and that means, especially the middle and lower classes:

For much of the last seventy years, economic growth has lifted the quality of life in Europe, North America, and East Asia, providing social stability after the violent disruptions of World War II. Today, however, many of the world’s most influential leaders, even in the United States, reject the very notion that societies should improve material wealth and boost incomes given what they believe are more important environmental or social equity concerns.

Now that governments are implementing more climate friendly agendas, their people are rising up against them. In practical terms, saving the environment means increasing taxes on carbon… a great panacea offered by New York Times columnist Tom Friedman. 

The combination of reduced real income, green-driven rises in energy and housing costs, and growing concern about pensions has sparked a new wave of protests in countries as diverse as Norway, the Netherlands, France, and Chile. The dismal future prospects suggested by slow growth have also led to protests in developing, politically fragile countries such as  Lebanon, Brazil, Iraq, Sudan, and Algeria.

In place of growth political leaders are embracing more woman-friendly policies, involving saving Mother Nature, better health care and less free market competition:

Now political leaders in France, Iceland, as well as the European Commission increasingly believe, along with influential economists such as Joseph Stiglitz, that growing the economic pie should be supplanted by such goals as better health care, less inequality, and fighting climate change.

Some on the environmentalist left even prescribe shutting down industry and manufacturing. Democratic Party presidential candidates have happily declared that they would shut down the fracking industry, regardless of what it does to energy prices and regardless of how many people lose their jobs:

Many, particularly on the environmental Left, go even further and advocate “de-growth,” essentially urging societies to consciously reduce their economic wealth. This agenda requires that energy, housing, food, and other consumption costs steadily increase, or be legally prohibited, so that ordinary people will be unable to eat meat regularly, use more energy, live in larger spaces, and travel freely. There’s even a quaint notion that we need to return to a more primitive state of existence, essentially cancelling out the progress of the last few centuries. America’s Green Party, for  example, would seek to limit long-distance trade entirely in favor of a feudal economy that is “largely self-sufficient in the production of its necessities.”

It’s a return to the state of nature, the implementation of policies that will allow us to achieve an ideal state that Romantic poets and philosophers touted centuries ago. Naturally, those who suffer will be from the middle and lower classes. Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer will still have plenty of money to enjoy all manner of creature comforts.

Thus, the new green left does not just want us to ration access to hamburgers, but it wants government to limit our ability to have children.

Some  zealots on the Left, such as the Guardian’s George Monbiot, openly welcome economic decline and believe that recessions will reduce carbon emissions, even if it causes people to lose their jobs and homes. Monbiot and many other climatistas offer only a degraded quality of life, including rationing of virtually everything and calls for restrictions on having children due to their “carbon legacy.”

The policies have produced a revolt of the middle class taxpayers who have been forced to pay for it.

Many of the progressive gentry dismiss these movements as primitive populism, producing detestable things like Brexit and the election of Donald Trump. But the “great revolt” has since expanded to countries with liberal cultures and evolved welfare states, including France, Chile,  even Norway and the Netherlands. In most places these rebellions are led not by perpetually outraged students, laid off workers, or angry immigrants, but by solidly middle-income workers who feel their long-term prospects, and those of their children, are increasingly dismal.

And also,

These fears are particularly acute for workers in environmentally inconvenient industries, such as energy, manufacturing, or home-building, who are losing their jobs or have been explicitly targeted for unemployment by the green Left. Those who continue to work in unavoidably energy-intensive industries like agriculture continue to be saddled with ever rising costs for critical commodities like diesel fuel. These energy price rises particularly impact most Europeans who drive to work.

So, California’s great cities have become open air toilets and medieval diseases are beginning to return, people cannot live in the Golden State on a middle class salary, and the woke billionaire left is backing these policies:

But, increasingly, a large part of the business establishment in wealthier nations has adopted the low or negative growth and “sustainable” economic ambitions of the green Left.

The biggest backers of California’s draconian climate change laws include not just ragged tree-huggers, but many of the state’s biggest hedge funds, venture capitalists, tech firm CEOs, and their fortunate heirs. The marriage of old capitalist money with Left green policies has been called “the new face of the environmental movement.”

As an increasing number of the ultra-rich and their foundations turn to the green Left, corporate leaders, particularly those secure in oligopolies, feel little reason to risk the wrath of activists.  Some support hectoring other industries, such as oil and gas, while earning windfall profits from environmental schemes to promote renewable energy and such things as electric cars. Others are cloistered in powerful institutions like academia or government positions, nesting places that shelter them from the impact of tough regulations. Despite an epic collapse in newspaper, magazine, and other such employment, the media continues to be largely uncritical of the Left green agenda, possibly because modern journalism depends increasingly on patrons from the progressive rich.

And Kotkin adds that given pension liabilities and the cost of government programs, a shrinking workforce will bankrupt Social Security and Medicare programs, among others. And they will surely undermine corporate pension programs:

The prospect of stagnating incomes amidst ruinous pension and other costs comprise a toxic cocktail with potentially profound de-stabilizing effects.


David Foster said...

See my related post Of Energy and Slavery:

UbuMaccabee said...

It appears the Morgenthau Plan will win out in the end after all.

Dan Patterson said...

I hadn't thought of Morgenthau but that is something like it, isn't it?
My instinct was to categorize actions and philosophy of the foolish according to old-brain reflex: Men create, build, repair, and defend all that against aggression and theft. Women, in addition to providing nurturing nests seek to equalize all the behaviors of all children so that none are favored (except hers). The fools with tons-o-cash behave similarly by pursuing policies bent on reducing the accomplishments of the West telling me their loyalties lie elsewhere.