Russell Taylor – in Praise of Pragmatism

Russell Taylor is a classical liberal who believes in low taxes and a small state, and holds the Left responsible for just about everything wrong in the world today.

One of the obvious lessons of the Asian Tsunami of 2004 was that ramshackle coastal settlements don’t cope well with natural disasters. If the same waves had hit the United States, the damage would have been a fraction of that inflicted on poor Asian countries, because America’s technological and industrial infrastructure is much more advanced.

It could be said that the Asian Tsunami was a dress rehearsal in microcosm for the predicted effects of man-made global warming. Advocates of the theory claim that sea-levels will rise, causing widespread devastation to low-lying regions. This will allegedly take place over a period of decades, rather than hours, but the net result will be the same: vast swathes of land underwater.

Defending against this kind of destruction doesn’t come cheap, which is why it’s vital that world governments support free markets and free trade, which have the best record of promoting economic and industrial growth. But it’s precisely this growth that environmentalists have identified as the cause of rising temperatures. Their preferred solution – to rein in development, directly or indirectly, through the power of the state – will supposedly slow global warming, but will leave nations ill-prepared for its worst effects. Which leaves us in something of a quandary.

The advantages of economic growth are well-known. It relieves hardship, broadens horizons, and allows people to live safer, healthier, more fulfilling lives. Throw in better readiness for the effects of global warming and there’s a compelling argument for saying that the benefits of growth outweigh those of the retrogressive, risk-averse ‘solutions’ favoured by the environmental lobby and most world governments.

But there’s another side to this issue that goes beyond any practical concerns. When people are free to spend money and reach accommodations with others, they tend to reward those who best serve their interests. In such a society, a mutually-beneficial relationship is formed between individuals and the businesses who employ them and provide them with the things they need. This arrangement favours those who trade in the goods and services people choose to pay for, but freezes out those who deal in high-flown ideas and their top-down application – or, at the very least, relegates them to a less influential role than they think they deserve.

This latter group – the intelligentsia, if you like – comprises politicians, bureaucrats, technocrats, academics, journalists, media luvvies, and all manner of so-called experts. They are people who crave status and influence, but will always struggle for social endorsement of their sense of entitlement as long as the rest of us are free to think and act for ourselves.

This is where theories like global warming come in. Its disciples (let’s call them warmists and be done with it) like to think of sceptics as greedy, heartless philistines, who lack the sensitivity required to care about the issue, or the intelligence to understand the science behind it. By contrast, the warmists fancy themselves as enlightened souls, who have transcended the selfish concerns and lumpen ignorance of the sceptics, and are willing to support a policy of state-enforced abstinence in order to avert a global catastrophe. In other words, they imagine they exist on a higher moral and intellectual plane to everyone else.

A belief in global warming bestows a longed-for sense of superiority on posturing twerps and alienated wallflowers; but to members of the intelligentsia, it is far more important. It assures them that a society that leaves its population to its own devices is destructive, rewards the ‘wrong’ people and the ‘wrong’ values, and requires their urgent intervention. Like so many other fashionable theories, global warming is merely a pretext for crushing the institutions and ambitions of free individuals, and expanding the influence of a state staffed and guided by the intelligentsia, and sympathetic to its goals.

It is for this reason that the reality or otherwise of manmade global warming is largely beside the point. There is an important debate to be had about the reliability of the science and the efficacy of our response, but, when it comes down to it, I suspect the two sides are arguing past each other. One is interested in what’s real and what works; the other is concerned with what will afford them the image and influence they hunger for. When someone is genuinely concerned with facts and solutions, it’s easy for them to abandon foolish beliefs. When their very identity is at stake, they will watch civilisation fall before they admit their folly. More’s the pity for the rest of us.


2 comments on “Russell Taylor – in Praise of Pragmatism

  1. Carl Wilson
    March 28, 2013 at 7:35 am #

    Very true. This global warming farce has bugger all to do with the environment. It’s about control.

  2. Despairing Realist
    March 29, 2013 at 12:52 pm #

    Bullseye! Absolutely brilliant.

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