"I don't think a lot of electricity is a good thing," said Gar Smith of San Francisco's Earth Island Institute a few years back. "I have seen villages in Africa that had vibrant culture and great communities that were disrupted and destroyed by the introduction of electricity," he continued, regretting that African peasants "who used to spend their days and evenings in the streets playing music on their own instruments and sewing clothing for their neighbors on foot-pedal-powered sewing machines" are now slumped in front of "Desperate Housewives" reruns all day long.Ya gotta love the modern Luddites and their political pals, no?
One assumes Gar Smith is sincere in his fetishization of bucolic African poverty, with its vibrantly rampant disease and charmingly unspoilt life expectancy in the mid-forties. But when an hereditary prince starts attacking capitalism and pining for the days when a benign sovereign knew what was best for the masses he gives the real game away.
Capitalism is liberating: You're born a peasant but you don't have to die one. You can work hard and get a nice place in the suburbs. If you were a 19th century Russian peasant, and you got to Ellis Island, you'd be living in a tenement on the Lower East Side, but your kids would get an education and move uptown, and your grandkids would be doctors and accountants in Westchester County. And your great-grandchild would be a Harvard-educated environmental activist demanding an end to all this electricity and indoor toilets.
Beginning with FDR, wily statists justified the massive expansion of federal power under ever more elastic definitions of the Constitution's commerce clause. For Obama-era control freaks, the environment and health care are the commerce clause supersized. They establish the pretext for the regulation of everything: If the government is obligated to cure you of illness, it has an interest in preventing you getting ill in the first place — by regulating what you eat, how you live, the choices you make from the moment you get up in the morning.
Likewise, if everything you do impacts "the environment," then the environment is an all-purpose umbrella for regulating everything you do. It's the most convenient and romantic justification for what the title of Paul Rahe's new book rightly identifies as "Soft Despotism."
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Mark Steyn Tells It Like It Is, Viro-Wise
Mr. Steyn gives the sincere viros, all of whom are borderline psychotics, what for.