“A man who could monopolize the atmosphere or drinking water could undoubtedly force all other human beings to obey him blindly. Such a monopoly would be unhampered by any competing economic agency. The monopolist would be able to dispose freely of the lives and property of his fellowmen” (Mises, Socialism 344).
The science relating to carbon dioxide as the major man-made driver of global climate change is supposedly settled and undeniable. We are told that the case is closed. The world is doomed, we are told, if we do not submit to the latest IPCC edict from on high. Even a cursory review of the literature reveals that the case is not closed and the science is not settled. For example, Singer and Avery, citing Veizer, state that, “empirical observations on all time scales point to celestial phenomena as the principal driver of climate…with greenhouse gases acting only as potential amplifiers. … The tiny carbon cycle is piggybacking on the huge water cycle (clouds included), not driving it” (36). Spectacular claims, such as the disaster of rising sea levels near Tuvalu necessitating the relocation of the entire population of the island have turned out to be false. In fact, “things are bad on Tuvalu, but not because of rising seas. In fact, sea level in Tuvalu has been falling—and precipitously so—for decades” (Michaels 204). Obviously, something is wrong when a little fact checking easily disproves the stories reported in the press.
To try to understand what is really going on, the history, or to be precise, the “deep history” pertaining to this man-made climate change issue must be explored. The phrase “deep history” refers to a phrase used by Peter Dale Scott and means “a chronology of events concerning which the public records are either false or nonexistent” (267). Incidents, such as the politically driven DDT ban in 1972, which causes approximately five million deaths per year (Mathiesen 23, 26) or 50 million deaths in aggregate since the ban (Driessen 66) and the recent Climategate email revelations justify using this “deep history” approach. Consequently, I approach this issue from the point of view that issues such as buying energy efficient furnaces, using fluorescent as opposed to incandescent light bulbs, and reducing carbon footprints are all just distractions from the deeper—and more sinister—issues underlying this debate.
Mathiesen’s review of the history of environmental campaigns, starting with DDT’s, shows that these movements follow a “nearly identical pattern, as though they had been scripted and choreographed” (15). The time sequence pattern begins with scaring the public about a pending crisis based on reporting a kernel of truth. This approach, reminiscent of Kurt Lewin’s “unfreezing” stage in planned organizational change (Schermerhorn, Hunt, and Osborn 397), sets the stage for planned change by creating a felt sense of urgency. Mathiesen (15) emphasizes that the story is always told in “very simple terms” (15) and hence is presented in a way that is accessible to the intellectually dependent people produced by public education (Gatto 7-9). Then, a media and political campaign that hammers away at the kernel of truth to be found in the initial scare is launched. A key component of this campaign is that all contradictory evidence is both suppressed and ignored (Mathiesen 16). Next, legislation is enacted and finally the process starts all over again with a new scare (Mathiesen 15-16). The common culprit is always economic growth or industry and the solution is always etatist or statist in nature. The solutions include redistribution of wealth (Mathiesen 15, 17), trade protectionism and the abandonment of the international division of labor (Driessen 108-109), and global bureaucratization of the economy. Driessen summarizes the nature of this global bureaucratic proposal succinctly as:
A massive bureaucracy, largely devoid of checks and balances, ensconced primarily in the EU and UN, fed and nourished with billions in tax dollars. The new bureaucracy would hold unprecedented power to control decisions by nations, states, communities, businesses and individuals—over energy, economic, housing, transportation and numerous other matters. (110)
The resurrection of Malthusianism in the 1970s launched the scare campaign. Thomas Malthus’s 1798 contribution to this debate is his “law of geometric progression,” the view that “human populations invariably expanded geometrically, while the means of subsistence were arithmetically limited, or linear” (Engdahl 147). Colloquially speaking, Malthusianism is the view that the Earth has too many people and is running out of the resources needed to maintain this current population. One of the important foundational documents regarding the adoption of this Malthusian viewpoint is the 1974 National Security Council Study Memorandum 200, issued by national security adviser Henry Kissinger (Engdahl 148). Another document issued at roughly the same time is Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb. The basic program can be summarized as follows:
Our position requires that we take immediate action at home and promote effective action worldwide. We must have population control at home, hopefully through changes in our value system, but by compulsion if voluntary methods fail. Americans must also change their way of living so as to minimize their impact on the world’s resources and environment. […] The birth rate must be brought into balance with the death rate or mankind will breed itself into oblivion. (Ehrlich xii)
Malthus’s original prediction proved wrong because his argument ignored “the contribution of advances in science and technology to dramatically improving such factors as crop yields, labor productivity and the like” (Engdahl 147). Not surprisingly, technological progress is raised today in objection to current Malthusian arguments (Driessen 26, 108; Singer and Avery 250-251). Ehrlich’s concern about man “breeding himself into oblivion” is conceptually just a restatement of the fears coming out of the Marxian “iron law of wages” in which Marx feared that man would “breed himself into perpetual poverty.” Marx feared that man would never be able to rise above the subsistence wage because he would keep breeding the second his wage rose above that of subsistence and the resulting additional supply of workers would bring his wage back down to the “natural” level. The erroneous assumption of both Ehrlich and Marx is that they both assume that man is an animal driven by instinct and not by his ability to choose between alternatives. Man can choose not to have children.
The essential shortcoming of the “iron law of wages” was that it denied to the wage earner his human character and dealt with him as if he were a nonhuman creature. In all nonhuman living beings the urge is inwrought to proliferate up to the limits drawn by the available supply of the means of subsistence. Nothing but the quantity of attainable nourishment checks the boundless multiplication of elephants and rodents, of bugs and germs. Their number keeps pace with the available aliments. But this biological law does not apply to man. Man aims also at other ends than those involving the physiological needs of his body. The “iron law” assumed that the wage earner, the common man, is no better than a rabbit, that he craves no other satisfactions than feeding and proliferation and does not know of any other employment for his earnings than the procurement of those animal satisfactions. […] If he earns more than the absolutely required minimum, he spends it upon the satisfaction of his specifically human wants; he tries to render his life and that of his dependents more civilized. (Mises, The Marxian Theory 145)
The ultimate problem, as I see it, is that the real agenda here is to establish a centrally planned economy on a global scale. This plan seems to be built upon an assumption that people will make bad decisions regarding the usage of resources if they are not told what to do and upon an assumption that markets are unable to allocate resources wisely. Proving the impossibility of centrally planning a national economy was the task that Ludwig von Mises embarked upon in the early 1920s. Applying Mises’s general thought process (Mises, The Why of Human Action 62-63) to what these global planners want to do, the first major problem is that central planning will result in more and not less waste of factors of production. In other words, the call for sustainable development (Driessen 20) cannot be achieved through central planning because the use of central planning will negate the initial goal that sustainable development seeks to achieve. The second major problem that our modern central planners face is that they want one and only one global solution. When Mises and his fellow collaborator, Nobel Prize winning economist F.A. Hayek were formulating this “economic calculation” argument back in the 1920s and 1930s, the central planners back then had a sneaky way of dodging the problem, viz., they could utilize prices determined on the markets of non-socialist countries. By insisting upon a global solution, our modern day planners will deny themselves access to this price information and so they will be hopelessly paralyzed. The global economy will grind to a halt because our planners will be clueless in their operating of the entire global economy (Mises, The Why of Human Action 62-63). The more economic allocation powers granted to this global power, the more paralyzed it will become because it will have less and less price information in which to make rational decisions. Of course, if one believes in Malthusianism, then one will want this global solution because the ensuing global economic collapse will, to be sure, facilitate a substantial drop in population.
In conclusion, the call for a global solution will not work because it will create a “paradox of planning” problem and hence must collapse if implemented. The Malthusian assumption underlying this solution is wrong as demonstrated by history. Man is not going to breed himself into oblivion because rising real wages encourage people to improve their standard of living and not to breed perpetually. The use of psychological techniques to manipulate and scare the pubic into adopting this solution is, unfortunately, all too common when dealing with governments. The solution to this problem starts by removing state control from education. When people can think for themselves, as opposed to being simply conformists, they will soon realize how they are being manipulated by the media into believing this far-fetched story that man-made carbon dioxide is destroying the world.
Driessen, Paul. Eco-Imperialism: Green Power Black Death. Bellevue: Free Enterprise, 2004.
Ehrlich, Paul R. Prologue. The Population Bomb. By Ehrlich. Cutchogue: Buccaneer, 1971. xi-xii.
Engdahl, William. A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order. Rev. ed. London: Pluto, 2004.
Gatto, John Taylor. Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling. Gabriola Island: New Society, 2008.
Mathiesen, M. Mihkel. Global Warming in a Politically Correct Climate: How Truth Became Controversial. Lincoln: iUniverse Star-iUniverse, 2004.
Michaels, Patrick J. Meltdown: The Predictable Distortion of Global Warming by Scientists, Politicians, and the Media. Washington: Cato, 2007.
Mises, Ludwig von. “The Marxian Theory of Wage Rates.” Economic Freedom and Interventionism: An Anthology of Articles and Essays. Ed. Bettina Bien Greaves. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2006. 142-147.
---. “The Why of Human Action.” Economic Freedom and Interventionism: An Anthology of Articles and Essays. Ed. Bettina Bien Greaves. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2006. 59-65.
---. Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis. Trans. J. Kahane. 6th Rev. ed. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1981.
Schermerhorn, John R., Jr., James G. Hunt, and Richard N. Osborn. Organizational Behavior. 7th ed. New York: Wiley, 2000.
Scott, Peter Dale. The Road to 9/11: Wealth, Empire, and the Future of America. Berkeley: U of California P, 2008.
Singer, S. Fred, and Dennis T. Avery. Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1,500 Years. Updated and Expanded ed. Lanham: Rowman, 2008.