Tuesday, December 17, 2013


There are days it seems to me that the openly left-wing media such as NPR hire only commentators and prognosticators who have been certified incapable of understanding incentives. This remarkably myopic article is the latest evidence. Here's the bit that lit my boilers this morning:

...clans and families on Easter Island didn't fall apart. It's true, the island became desolate, emptier. The ecosystem was severely compromised. And yet, say the anthropologists, Easter Islanders didn't disappear. They adjusted. They had no lumber to build canoes to go deep-sea fishing. They had fewer birds to hunt. They didn't have coconuts. But they kept going on rat meat and small helpings of vegetables. They made do.

One niggling question: If everybody was eating enough, why did the population decline? Probably, the professors say, from sexually transmitted diseases after Europeans came visiting.

OK, maybe there was no "ecocide." But is this good news? Should we celebrate?

I wonder. What we have here are two scenarios ostensibly about Easter Island's past, but really about what might be our planet's future. The first scenario — an ecological collapse — nobody wants that. But let's think about this new alternative — where humans degrade their environment but somehow "muddle through." Is that better? In some ways, I think this "success" story is just as scary.

What if the planet's ecosystem, as J.B. MacKinnon puts it, "is reduced to a ruin, yet its people endure, worshipping their gods and coveting status objects while surviving on some futuristic equivalent of the Easter Islanders' rat meat and rock gardens?"

Humans are a very adaptable species. We've seen people grow used to slums, adjust to concentration camps, learn to live with what fate hands them. If our future is to continuously degrade our planet, lose plant after plant, animal after animal, forgetting what we once enjoyed, adjusting to lesser circumstances, never shouting, "That's It!" — always making do, I wouldn't call that "success."

People can't remember what their great-grandparents saw, ate and loved about the world. They only know what they know. To prevent an ecological crisis, we must become alarmed. That's when we'll act. The new Easter Island story suggests that humans may never hit the alarm.

[Link courtesy of Random Nuclear Strikes.]

Author Robert Krulwich has adopted wholesale a version of Easter Island's history purveyed by two Hawaiian anthropologists, Terry Hunt and Carl Lipo. If true, would it eventuate in the conditions found on Easter Island by Twentieth Century visitors from civilized lands? It seems so. Is it well supported by any form of evidence? Unclear, as no evidence is presented in the article. But the implications Krulwich wants us to draw are as plain as a fart:

  • Human beings don't possess enough memory or intelligence to grasp the consequences of their actions;
  • Success in the economic sense leads inevitably to socioeconomic deterioration and decay;
  • We need to become "alarmed," such that the Omnipotent State will rescue us from our drive for "success."

A clearer brief for ecological alarmism, after the fashion of the "global warming / climate change" fanatics, could hardly be composed. After all, we need to be "alarmed." We're too undersupplied with information, too numb to cause and effect, and too inflexible in the face of evidence to react as wisely as our betters. They simply must take us in hand, strip away what remains of our freedom to live, work, and prosper as we please...for our own good!

Splendor of the risen Christ, there are days I think that even one more article this contemptuous of Mankind will tip me over. If only our "betters" would wear some identifying sigil -- preferably something easily recognized at a couple of hundred years' distance -- I'd hit the supermarket for a fresh package of Oreo Double-Stufs,® unpack the Barrett .50, and go looking for a well placed clock tower.

But that's enough of happy fantasies. Until Christmas morning, at least.

Why are the eco-fascists so determined to stamp out human economic progress? How many of them are sincere? Are the rest merely power-seekers, or ought we to look for additional motivations for so much Chicken-Littleism?

I find it hard to credit any great number with sincere convictions, inasmuch as so few practice what they preach. "The man who eats meat cannot sneer at the butcher," as Heinlein put it. The eco-fascists tend to live just as well as the sane among us -- and in some cases, so indulgently as to defeat any imaginable attempt at rationalization.

Once sincerity is subtracted, only low motivations remain.

The power motivation is the obvious one. Eco-alarmism is an obvious play for totalitarian power over all of life. Were we to cede our remaining freedom to the cause of "protecting the planet" from our supposed eco-villainy, no imaginable development would fail to be used as a rationale for confining and restricting us. I have no doubt that there are many in the eco-fascist movement for whom that is the end in view:

What to do, when a ship carrying a hundred passengers suddenly capsizes and there is only one lifeboat? When the lifeboat is full, those who hate life will try to load it with more people and sink the lot. Those who love and respect life will take the ship’s axe and sever the extra hands that cling to the sides....

The United States symbolises the worst ideologies in the world: growth and freedom....

Any dictatorship would be better than modern democracy. There cannot be so incompetent a dictator that he would show more stupidity than a majority of the people. The best dictatorship would be one where lots of heads would roll and where government would prevent any economical growth.

We will have to learn from the history of revolutionary movements — the national socialists, the Finnish Stalinists, from the many stages of the Russian revolution, from the methods of the Red Brigades — and forget our narcissistic selves.

A fundamental, devastating error is to set up a political system based on desire. Society and life have been organized on the basis of what an individual wants, not on what is good for him or her....

Just as only one out of 100,000 has the talent to be an engineer or an acrobat, only a few are those truly capable of managing the matters of a nation or mankind as a whole. In this time and this part of the World we are headlessly hanging on democracy and the parliamentary system, even though these are the most mindless and desperate experiments of mankind. In democratic countries the destruction of nature and sum of ecological disasters has accumulated most. Our only hope lies in strong central government and uncompromising control of the individual citizen.

Take a moment to shudder over that before we turn to the motivation that will really sicken you.

A brief digression to an important ancillary topic: In a low-energy, subsistence-only economy, where an individual's life consists solely of actions performed to keep him alive, there is no "extra" time, and certainly no pool of "extra" resources, with which to attend to developing crises, including crises that can be clearly foreseen. An economy locked into a subsistence-only pattern will inevitably experience the sort of degradation that beset the Easter Islanders, precisely because its members will have no way to avert nor escape it without endangering their immediate survival.

Are the trees falling? Is the moisture departing the soil? Are rats overrunning the island and eliminating what little prospect of agriculture might remain? Nothing to be done about it just now; we're all too hungry. Besides, the search for potable water takes what little time we have left after we've harvested and consumed the morning's ration of rat tartare.

Only a high-energy economy can cope with such developments. First, it provides its members with the economic signals -- prices -- required to foretell a looming crisis. Second, it accumulates the resources needed to cope with such a development. Third and finally, it enables its members to work against it without sacrificing the needs of immediate survival. Where subsistence economies dwindle and die, high-energy trade-based economies adapt and prosper still further.

Which sort of economy was that of Easter Island?

The most important low motivation for demanding the suppression of economic growth and the resultant prosperity is envy: the desire to see another person brought low even at cost to oneself. Joseph Sobran and others have called it "hatred of the good for being good," which captures the corruption at the core of the envy-ridden soul. It is a wholly destructive emotion. In tandem with tribal hatreds, it is responsible for nearly all the misery in pre-civilized societies. Yet, as Helmut Schoeck has so brilliantly pointed out, it is the animating force behind every campaign that flies the banners of "redistribution" or "social justice:"

Envy is ineluctable, implacable and irreconcilable, is irritated by the slightest differences, is independent of the degree of inequality, appears in its worst form in social proximity among near relatives, provides the dynamic for every revolution yet cannot of itself produce any kind of coherent revolutionary program.

The hatred of the envious synergizes beautifully with the desires of power-seekers. Indeed, the emissions of American power-seekers are principally concerned with eliciting envy from targeted groups and then promising to assuage it if given power. This program is centuries old. It's not new even here in America; the history of the "Progressive" movement, all the way back to the Benthamites and the followers of Edward Bellamy, bears this out in full.

The very first thing to suspect of a man who demands that which is not his by right is that he's driven by envy. The first thing to suspect of a public figure such as the odious Robert Reich, who harps on "inequality" and demands redistribution or economic control by the State, is that he seeks to mobilize the envious to propel him to power.

In neither case should their demands be respected in even the slightest degree.

Leaving aside questions of motivation for the nonce, the plaints of the Krulwiches, the Reiches, and the rest of their ilk are attacks upon growth, prosperity, and success as we have known it. What they advocate, whether expressly or sotto voce, is failure. Those who protest that they merely want to halt or restrain growth are either deluded or deceitful, for the stasis they claim to champion is entirely unstable. Introduce any perturbation whatsoever into their scheme and it collapses with a swiftness to boggle the imagination.

The end in view is always power over others: either the totalitarian control for which power-seekers have yearned since Man first walked upright, or the power to destroy those who, being exemplars of success and well-being, cast shadows upon the envious by their very existence.

Let them be recognized and labeled as what they are: failurists, men who create nothing, yet demand that the rest of us huddle in the cold and the dark.

Grant them neither respect nor respite.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice copy at the Woodpile.
What do you think of this, CYA?

Take care,
Dennis in Iowa