The Conservative "Class War" against Expertise

By The Intersection | June 18, 2011 11:11 am

By Jon Winsor

One of the most surprising things about the Santorum interview on Limbaugh last week was how completely unsurprising it was. Here’s Santorum’s take on climate science:

There’s a variety of factors that contribute to the earth warming and cooling, and to me this is an opportunity for the left to create — it’s a beautifully concocted scheme because they know that the earth is gonna cool and warm. It’s been on a warming trend so they said, “Oh, let’s take advantage of that and say that we need the government to come in and regulate your life some more because it’s getting warmer,” just like they did in the seventies when it was getting cool, they needed the government to come in and regulate your life because it’s getting cooler.  It’s just an excuse for more government control of your life…

Got that? Scientists (who we can assume are included under what Santorum means by “the left”) are secretly “concocting” the science, because they want government to “control your life.” Obviously, this is not much of a scientific argument. But it’s a very recognizable political argument, and the kind we hear repeatedly. And some of us may remember the early 80’s when it was a new argument, at least in the mass-circulated form that we we see it in today. I would argue that the person most responsible for putting that argument into circulation was Irving Kristol. In 1975, he wrote:

[The] “new class” consists of scientists, lawyers, city planners, social workers, educators, criminologists, sociologists, public health doctors, etc.-a substantial number of whom find their careers in the expanding public sector rather than the private. The public sector, indeed, is where they prefer to be. They are, as one says, “idealistic”-i.e., far less interested in individual financial rewards than in the corporate power of their class. Though they continue to speak the language of “Progressive-reform,” in actuality they are acting upon a hidden agenda: to propel the nation from that modified version of capitalism we call “the welfare state” toward an economic system so stringently regulated in detail as to fulfill many of the traditional anti-capitalist aspirations of the Left.

This is primarily an emotional argument–as has become more and more clear over the years. Not only does it have nothing to do with the merits of specific claims and arguments (especially the merits of climate science), but Irving Kristol and his left-leaning colleague Daniel Bell turned out to be quite wrong in their predictions about the counter culture and what would happen to the welfare state as baby boomers entered the professions.

But even though the predictions about the “new class” turned out wrong, as a set of ideas they’ve had a wildly successful career, and even continue to have success. The reasons why are many:

  • Politically, this kind of argument can draw on the cultural resentments of everyone who isn’t an expert, and also draw on the strong force of US anti-intellectualism. As Amanda Marcotte put it a couple years ago, a politician (like Santorum) can use this style of argument to pick up “the spite vote.”
  • They could trade on fears of the counterculture, which were strong back in 1975 when Kristol was making his case, but has lessened now that the counterculture sells everything from running sneakers to Cadillacs (although images of the counterculture still have power to motivate the GOP base when the culture wars are invoked).
  • They built on the demonstrated success of Nixon’s strategy of stoking resentments: against intellectuals, the press, and all the snooty types who would oppose underdogs like Nixon (Americans love an underdog, which the conservative counterestablishment knows all too well).
  • It rang alarm bells for the donor class for conservative institutions, urging them to respond to the new proliferation of experts and help create their own network of counter-expertise (a favorite subject of Chris’s lately).
  • It piggybacked on previous conservative intellectuals’ work. See William F. Buckley on “the liberal establishment” and James Burnham on the “managerial elite.”
  • It allowed Kristol’s cohort of conservative intellectuals to mine all the brilliant content of the anti-bohemian and anti-communist feuds among the New York intellectuals, so they could fight the intellectual skirmishes they needed to fight to get establishment respect. The work of Daniel Bell alone is rich enough to spend decades unpacking (even though, again, he got many of his predictions wrong).
  • Most of all, Kristol’s formula of cultural class struggle against “elitist big government” made coordinated messaging easy. Even Sarah Palin can rail in favor of the “real Americans” and against the “elites.” And we can hear Kristol’s formula broadcast in stereo from Fox News, Wall Street Journal, Rush Limbaugh, the Washington Times, and the candidates themselves. (Everyone all together now: “John Kerry is a French elitist.” “Barack Obama is a socialist!” Or, “This climategate thing is BIG!!” If enough people say so at the same time, there must be something to it, right?)

Of course, these days there are almost no socialists left (except maybe Bernie Sanders), and the counterculture is starting to exist only late at night on Nickolodean. So the only people left to fight are the “intellectuals” (Irving Kristol’s “scientists, lawyers, city planners, social workers, educators… etc.”) This has become very worrying to smart conservatives such as David Frum and David Brooks because if conservatives oppose everyone that Kristol classified as “new class” intellectuals, they start to oppose expert competence itself.

But The Weekly Standard is having none of this:

Kristol would not brook being lectured to by thinkers feigning a concern for conservatism and shedding crocodile tears over its fall from a dignified version limited to quoting maxims from Edmund Burke. This group of salon intellectuals, still active today, would, in the name of “saving” conservatism, exclude from it people of faith because they are too religious, entrepreneurs because they wish to make too much money, and middle Americans because they are too patriotic. While Kristol acknowledged the dangers of populism, he also saw that it can be a “corrective to the defects .  .  . often arising from the intellectual influence .  .  . of our democratic elites.” Calling attention to a new fact of modern political life, he noted that the “people were conservative and the educated elites that governed them were ideological elites, always busy provoking disorder and discontent in the name of some utopian goal.”

Having policy informed by science–”utopian?” Is it something only “salon intellectuals” need to worry about? The Weekly Standard’s reviewer skates very fast over this territory because he’s on thin ice.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Culture, Politics and Science

Comments (27)

  1. Susan Anderson

    Today I was listening to a great presentation on world ice, and the summation included the words science and physics (a few others I don’t remember) as a kind of absolute. I think we need to be careful not to mix the observations done by science and the real world phenomena they describe with science itself. Scientific disciplines are concerned with observing and understanding the real world. The real world phenomena are, well, real, and the science develops techniques. Those saying science is a religion treat it as this absolute, which it isn’t.

    I think we need to be careful to differentiate between the tools and the product. The earth exists, and science is a tool for understanding it better. We do our best but that best is never absolute.

  2. The Intersection

    I’m making no claims about “absolutes” in a metaphysical sense. There’s a reason why Aristotle put those in a separate book from the Physics. ; ) (…And making that distinction doesn’t make science your “religion”–if it did, that would render a number of important theologians heretics.)

    –Jon Winsor

  3. Nullius in Verba

    “And some of us may remember the early 80’s when it was a new argument, at least in the mass-circulated form that we we see it in today.”

    The argument goes back a lot further than that – for example, in 1918 H L Mencken said: “Civilization, in fact, grows more and more maudlin and hysterical; especially under democracy it tends to degenerate into a mere combat of crazes; the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.”

    The idea of controlling the people by offering them safety from imaginary fears goes back to ancient times. Many people, I’m sure, have noted it besides Irving Kristol. However, I assume the idea was to segue smoothly from a discussion of the claimed climate scare to a pre-prepared position on Irving Kristol generally.

    I didn’t really follow the logic thereafter – it seemed to be along the lines of:
    The idea of the climate scare being used to justify more regulation comes from Kristol.
    Kristol generated many more ideas, some of which were wrong.
    Kristol tapped into widespread opposition to left-wing big-government intellectual elites.
    The only big-government elites left are the intellectuals.
    Conservatives are therefore opposed to expertise itself.

    The Santorum claim is that natural changes in climate are being used to justify more authoritarian control of the population. Opposition to authoritarianism from one’s own government is a more libertarian than conservative position. (The old word for it was “liberal”, but meanings change.) I’ve seen the same claim arise independently in libertarian circles around the world with little or no history in American Conservatism. So I’m dubious that this can really all be laid at the door of some conservative pundit from 1975.

    If you want to argue against it, it seems to me that you need to either demonstrate the truth of the coming climate catastrophe – and hence the actual necessity of authoritarian control of the population – or you need to show that authoritarian approaches are not really being advocated. (Or that they are not being advocated consciously by the elites.) Arguing rigorously about people’s real motives in cases where they’re also motivated to hide them is very difficult. You could also make a weaker point by showing that the elites genuinely believe in the coming climate catastrophe, even if it isn’t true. That would justify the left, if not their goal.

    There are several arguments I can think of that could be made against the green-authoritarianism claim made here by Santorum. (Some of that came up on the previous Santorum thread, aided by the ever-helpful 1985.) I would think that from the left’s point of view those are arguments worth making. But I didn’t follow this one.

  4. I’m sorry, but this is flat-out-misguided. You can protest all you want about distrust towards the intellectuals, but there is a very good reason for this. The previous century was the one ravaged by the intellectuals. In no other century have they had such free reign to enact their desires and plans in reality, and in no other century have they made such a hecatomb.

    I will repeat and restate what I have said about people like Lovelock who want to “temporarily suspend democracy”. Leaving aside this guff about scientists, there exists amongst left wing intellectuals, and particularly amongst American left-wing intellectuals, a hatred and contempt for the working class that is no better – in fact, no different – than racial bigotry.

    Think I’m joking? Try listening to the themes that someone like Bill Maher runs off when he is joking about the working class. What notes does he sound? A group that are indelibly uneducated and unimprovable. Who have funny customs. Who don’t look like “us”. Who eat weird things, and – this is a particular giveaway – have poor hygiene and depraved sexual habits and breed too much. These are all classic tropes of racialist thinking. Of course, when pressed, the Maher types will say they don’t think this about all the working-class (“Rednecks”, “Bogans” etc.), some of them are quite nice, if only they would know their place…

    Take a look at this:

    http://blogs.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/timblair/index.php/dailytelegraph/comments/of_cate_and_hate/P20/

    It does no good – none whatsoever – to protest that this is somehow different because both the intellectual and the worker are “white”. The most fanatical racialist hatreds spring up around minor differences. Also, this kind of left-wing contempt has a long pedigree. Virginia Wolf hated any contact with them. George Bernard Shaw wanted them gassed. Yes, gassed.

    Faced with this sort of an attitude, do you really think that the working class will just roll over and take it? No, they will fight back with everything they have. Further, there is no obligation, none, for them to behave reasonably; reason is only a value when force is off the table, but it is very much on the table. Remember, no one is being asked to install lightbulbs or practice carbon reduction voluntarily; they are being told that they will have to do it, or else. They can see that their jobs and livelihoods are at stake. What do you expect them to do?

    George Monbiot says, in cold print, that the Environmentalist agenda is:

    It is a campaign not for abundance but for austerity. It is a campaign not for more freedom but for less. Strangest of all, it is a campaign not just against other people, but against ourselves

    In other words, he wants planned, deliberate immiseration. I have rarely heard anything so wicked.

    Rarely, because there is even worse, and that is the attitude that the green movement towards the poorest of the earth in the Third World. If there were any justice, many in the Green movement would have by now stood trial for war crimes.

  5. The Intersection

    Nullius in #3:

    I don’t see a need to debate Santorum on whether scientists are engaging in a “scheme”, whether they’re part of some organized “Left”, whether they’re motivated to create bad science because they’re interested in big government instead of their individual careers, whether they’re latent totalitarians or authoritarians, etc.

    I’m more interested in the species of argument. It’s a kind of “master talking point,” and one with a history. I’m interested in why Santorum goes to it, what’s the history of its success (or lack of it in intellectual terms), and what are the relevant controversies in the Republican party today. For instance “RINOs” like David Frum and David Brooks think the Republican rejection of expertise is not so wise (including on climate). And I know David Frum thinks “new class” ideas are quite relevant to the modern conservative rejection of expertise…

    –Jon Winsor

  6. The Intersection

    Hugo in #4:

    I put intellectuals in scare quotes above. Are “scientists, lawyers, city planners, social workers, educators, criminologists, sociologists, public health doctors, etc.” really all beret-wearing, manifesto-writing, revolution-planning Intellectuals with a capital I?

    Also, gotta love that “etc.” at the end of Kristol’s sentence. Does he mean any expert who thinks for a living and happens to be at odds with Republican policy? It seems awfully convenient that you could just move over that “etcetera” and add another profession with intellectual-type know-how that puts them at odds with whatever GOP doesn’t like that day…

    –Jon Winsor

  7. Nullius in Verba

    “I don’t see a need to debate Santorum…”

    Fair enough. That surprises me, because it’s a fairly important question, but it’s more to your detriment than mine to let it stand.

    “I’m more interested in the species of argument. It’s a kind of “master talking point,” and one with a history.”

    I’m not sure what you mean by “talking point” here – the dictionary definition says it’s an especially persuasive point supporting one side of an argument. I get the feeling you mean something else by it, though…

    As I said, I’m pretty sure you’ve got the history of this particular talking point wrong – it doesn’t have anything to do with Irving Krystol. It’s a more general libertarian point that has been noted by many individuals independently, and it originates in a combination of the visible advocacy for government regulation as a solution to the climate change issue, the left’s history with authoritarianism, and the openly authoritarian/totalitarian writings of a number of environmentalists. Libertarianism is a philosophy with many authors, and the theme of “encroaching regulation” is as basic to that philosophy as the concept of “class war” is to Marxists.

    “I’m interested in why Santorum goes to it, what’s the history of its success (or lack of it in intellectual terms), and what are the relevant controversies in the Republican party today.”

    Santorum is trying to appeal to the libertarian wing of his party. The Republican politicians are anticipating an imminent collapse in CAGW belief, as are many others, and positioning themselves ready to take advantage of that. (And nobody cares what the RINOs think.) The tactic will succeed if/when mainstream belief in catastrophic AGW falls, and the internal controversy – if there is one – would only be over the timing. Will it be before the next election cycle or after?

  8. The Intersection

    And nobody cares what the RINOs think.

    Those guys know the intellectual architecture of the party from the inside out. One is a former Bush speechwriter. I’d be a fool if I didn’t read them when they write material like that.

    –Jon Winsor

  9. John,

    Did you read what I wrote? To tease out the one substantial point there, no, I do not believe and never have believed that scientists are part of a conspiracy. As for the rest of it – who do you think intellectuals are? From which ranks do you think they rose? Do you think that there is some sort of a finishing school where proper “revolutionary intellectuals” are trained, certified and sent out with ID cards? In fact, the group you have described is exactly what Orwell described as forming the base of the Party in Nineteen Eighty-Four.

    Here is a particularly good example,: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2006/mar/28/billionsaregoingtodiebut

    If we decide to put the planet first, then we ourselves are the pathogen. So we should let as many people die as possible, so that other species may live, and accept the destruction of civilisation and of everything we have achieved.

    Finally, we might decide that civilisation itself is worth preserving. In that case we have to work out what to save and which people would be needed in a drastically reduced population – weighing the value of scientists and musicians against that of politicians, for example – a prospect that does not look at all easy from here.

    Read that and read it again. A need for Lebensraum necessitates having to decide who will live and who will die. If you cannot hear the slam of the crematorium in those words, it is because you don’t want to. We are staring fascism in the face with this movement, and thank goodness that the working class is willing to fight against it.

  10. Sorry, that should be Jon.

  11. TTT

    I have to wonder if the attempts at taking Irving Kristol’s ideas seriously are actually a “Yes Men”-ish exercise in mass mock condescension–which would be appropriate, but if so the practitioners at some point need to let their audience in on the joke. As is, he was no more “serious” a thinker than Lee Atwater.

    Complaining about a “new class” is the same thing as complaining about “new money,” and by and large comes from the same sources, except it might manage to be even more snotty and trashy. Kristol was a primitive pseudointellectual con artist, and I’m very glad he never had the powers he wished for to institutionally establish so many millions of other Americans as being permanently inferior to himself. Though in his own mind, they always remained so.

  12. SLP

    Santorum did not say the data was concocting science. He said people with an adgenda were seizing data and concocting ideas to advance a political cause – control of the weak willed and simple minded. Your suprised that politicians would do that? By misrepresenting what Santorum said you are giving credence to his argument.

    But here’s the thing. When life on this planet was all but wiped out – not once but several times over the eons – Life came back. It always will until the sun stops burning. So what’s the problem?

    Massive temperature fluxuations have occurred multiple times during the life of the planet. Does anyone remember there were miles of ice over what is now Canada and much of the United States. What happened to that ice? Again what’s the problem.

    Species go extinct all the time for many reasons. Maybe it’s the Polar Bears turn to disappear. Maybe it’s humanity’s turn. And if humanity’s causing it so what – we are as natural to this planet as a rock. The point it doesn’t matter; Life will go on with or without us. Life will adapt regardless if humanity does something or not. It’s a conceit that it matters what we do, that we are gods of this planet and something needs to be fixed.

    I happen to agree with Santorum – science is being manipulated not to save the planet but to control people who can’t think for themselves. Don’t misunderstand, I like clean air, clean water, and warm temperatures and hope that later generations get to enjoy them too. My personal beliefs are simple – leave the planet a better place than when you got here.

    But that’s based upon my religious convictions and no burning desire to save the planet.

  13. TTT,

    Any evidence for those views? Any at all?

  14. TTT

    Hugo,

    Prima-facie absurdity is pretty good evidence. You yourself, by your own words, acknowledge that Kristol is wrong: you said you “don’t believe scientists are involved in a conspiracy,” yet it is exactly that which he proposes with his Strangelovian slander that they (along with doctors, teachers, lawyers, public sector workers, and everybody else targeted in the Cultural Revolution) are “acting upon a hidden agenda to fulfill anti-capitalist aspirations.”

  15. TTT,

    Scientists as a group. There are individuals scientists who do make that horrible pact – Lovelock – but the general outlines of the class he describes would strike no serious oldschool leftist as odd. Again, read Orwell on the matter.

    Now, you go on to accuse Kristol of far worse things, of being a “primitve pseudointellectual”, of wanting “to institutionally establish so many millions of other Americans as being permanently inferior to himself” and so on. You really must learn that you cannot make accusations like that without damning evidence. It works in the very short term, but in the end it just leaves you on the Ann Coulter level of argument.

    I have been reading his essay, and it strikes me as a very shrewd critique of corporatism:

    The danger is rather that the large corporation will
    be thoroughly integrated into the public sector, and lose its private
    character altogether. The transformation of American capitalism
    that this would represent-a radical departure from the quasi-bourgeois
    “mixed economy” to a system that could be fairly described
    as kind of “state capitalism”-does constitute a huge potential threat
    to the individual liberties Americans have traditionally enjoyed.

    That’s spot on. Or are you going to tell me that there is no funny business between buisnesses who promise to be “socially responsible” and politicians who promise to “help the economy”? Heck, look at the bailout fiasco.

    Or try this:

    In our pluralistic society we frequently find ourselves defending specific concentrations of power, about which we might otherwise have the most mixed feelings, on the grounds that they contribute to a general diffusion of power, a diffusion which creates the “space” in which individual liberty can survive and prosper. This is certainly our experience vis-a-vis certain religious organizations-e.g., the Catholic Church, the Mormons- whose structure and values are, in some respects at least, at variance with our common democratic beliefs, and yet whose existence serves to preserve our democracy as a free and liberal society.

    Again, that is very shrewd, and I must say that I like the dialectical and adversarial touch.

    In fact, your previous comment reminds me of the old joke: An Oxford sociology professor is visiting the States and bumps into one of his former students. After some pleasantries, he asks the student what he’s working on. The student replies “Well, I’m studying the class system in the United States.”

    “Really?” replies the professor “I didn’t know they had a class system in America.”

    “Nobody does. It’s how it survives.”

  16. @ Hugo: It’s a simple fact that the planet cannot support the present human population, let alone expected increases. Any resolution to this dilemma is going to be ugly, and it’s inappropriate of you to shout in horror when someone points this out. It’s not wicked to develop schemes to save some of civilization when the alternative is losing all of it.

    Meanwhile, please explain to me why I shouldn’t have contempt for people who think the Earth is 10,000 years old, who think God will save us from our own depradations (or the rapture is coming soon so we don’t have to worry about it), and who consider being required to buy practical light bulbs slavery.

  17. ThomasL

    ToSeek,

    Please explain to me why you think it is a personal issue what others believe… Perhaps some may someday take just as much personal interest in your beliefs, and attempt to use the power of the state to “correct” you as well…

  18. ToSeek,

    It is not a “simple fact”, and that mentality has been responsible for a great deal of misery and suffering. The idea that there are too many people leads to terminal plans for them.

    I repeat, I have a very serious problem with gross caricatures of the working class in manner that is identical to racial bigotry. Do you get this or do you not?

  19. Nullius in Verba

    #16,

    The number of people the Earth can support with current technology has been calculated by some to be up to a trillion people.

    Others have been predicting imminent collapse since Malthus – the big population scare in the 1960s said the famines and resource shortages would start by the 1980s and global civilisation would collapse by 2000. We all remember that, don’t we?

    The imminent end of the world has been an article of faith in many cults, and rituals to ward it off range from prayer to making sacrifices to buying twisty lightbulbs. And in all cults, when the appointed day arrives and passes without incident, the faithful do not doubt, but simply shift the date on the prediction.

    I don’t have any particular “contempt” for those who follow such cults, but I’m not happy that as a non-believer I should get coerced into following their ineffective rituals, or giving up my own prosperity or hopes of similar prosperity for the poor of the world in the name of their dream. You can believe as you choose. But we should be able to too.

  20. Nullius,

    Amen, comrade. I would just strengthen that by adding that population scares can be seen in the first century in China.

  21. @17: As an atheist, I’m used to others holding me in contempt. That’s their problem, not mine. But when other people’s behavior jeopardizes civilization then, yes, I do have a problem.

    @18, @19: You can live in your fantasy world, or you can look at the evidence: oil reserves, fish stocks, endangered species, arable land, drinkable water, etc. They’re all diminishing. Maybe some technological advances will postpone it – as it undeniably has already – but unlimited growth is impossible. I don’t care how much misery that attitude might have engendered – it’s a paper cut compared with what it’s trying to prevent.

    As for me, I may rail against the situation, but I’m pretty much resigned to it. By the numbers, Americans need to cut their resource usage to a third of what it is currently (or else some magical technology needs to triple the availability of all the resources we rely on). Considering the outrage over light bulbs and carbon taxes, that’s never going to happen.

    Eventually it’s all going to fall apart. I just hope I’m dead and buried before it does.

  22. Nullius in Verba

    #21,

    We have looked at the evidence. I’ve got books stacked with hundreds of pages of statistics and references on the subject. But the easiest and most obvious piece of evidence is that according to exactly the same claims and considerations you mention, and with half the population we have now, we should have run out of everything two or three decades ago and all died.

    Economists knew the claims were wrong then, and said so. (There’s an essay somewhere on the internet called “The Doomslayer” that tells the story.) But it didn’t make much of an impact on the public consciousness. “You’re all perfectly safe!” isn’t much of a newspaper headline.

    For that matter, they’ve been saying the same thing at intervals since Malthus’s time. There’s an amusing story from about 1890 where they calculated that for civilisation to continue to expand at the current rate, they would run out of horses, (civilisation was horse powered back then,) and that if they did somehow manage it, the streets of London and New York would be 9 foot deep in dung by 1930.

    They make the same mistake, the same basic misunderstanding, over and over again. Resources are not found, they are created. They are manufactured, by means of human ingenuity. Commenting on Malthus, Henry George summarised the basic issue pithily: “Both the jayhawk and the man eat chickens; but the more jayhawks, the fewer chickens, while the more men, the more chickens.”

    The resources we use at any given time also keep on changing, as technology moves on, but the assumption keeps on being made that everything will stay the same, only with more of us, and then extrapolating in a straight line. It is like claiming that we cannot keep walking indefinitely, because we live on a finite continent and must eventually therefore fall into the ocean. We keep postponing the inevitable by turning corners, but unlimited progress on a finite continent is impossible, right?

    Of course, there’s a way we can bring it all to an end, and it cuts to the heart of the conservationist paradox. We can stop using resources. The effect of which is obviously to make happen now exactly what people fear will happen when we run out of them. Famine. War. Ruin. The end of civilisation.

    If we stop using our present resources before we have used them to create the next set, it will be Game Over. And it will be a lot harder to start all over again from the beginning.

    Fortunately, there are enough people out there who understand, and it’s not going to happen. They’ll keep on digging the coal, drilling the oil, extracting the shale oils and tar sands to power the civilisation that feeds and clothes you and enables you to say this. They’ll ignore you and work around you and carry on.

    I hope you live long enough to see it.

  23. Fortunately, there are enough people out there who understand, and it’s not going to happen. They’ll keep on digging the coal, drilling the oil, extracting the shale oils and tar sands to power the civilisation that feeds and clothes you and enables you to say this. They’ll ignore you and work around you and carry on.

    As Daniel C. Dennet says, “Thank Goodness” for them.

  24. TTT

    @22: It is every bit as much the sign of an amnesiac cultist to promise that every new environmental law will destroy our economy and force us into the caves again. Since such predictions have always been wrong every time, each successive prediction requires ever-louder hyperventilation and convinces ever-fewer people. We survived the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, Superfund, and Montreal Accords just fine, and complaints over “twisty lightbulbs” are but watered-down and decaffeinated echoes of the frenzy that was raised over each of those in their day by prior generations of right-wing doomsayers and Chicken Littles.

    You can no longer fill up your car with leaded gasoline, buy tiger pelts, build houses full of asbestos, or drink cyclamates in your sodas. As a proud supporter of those tyrannical laws, which have clearly succeeded in their hidden goal of turning us into preindustrial commune-dwellers with a life expectancy of 12, I wish more people would remember to complain about them.

    That’s the thing about markets–they can adapt to changes in their environment, in this case the legal environment. Clearly the models that claim otherwise are flawed and need a Harry to read ‘em a bit closer to clean out the bugs.

  25. Nullius in Verba

    #24,

    I have no idea what you’re talking about.

  26. Susan Anderson

    24. You forgot that evil EPA, created by Nixon! But please do steer clear of religion, which gets everyone irrational and derails the discussion. Even you don’t know for sure. Personally, I agree that the idea of an anthropomorphic grandfather with a big file cabinet in the sky is a little weird, but a lot of people get sustenance and community from feeling they have a friendly if fierce family member in control. And there, I’ve done it, brought of religion – sorry.

    Inasmuch as we live and have thrived on exploitation, it behooves us to consider what happens when people are hurt or our home is depleted when exploitation reaches its final solution. It is simply nonsense to assume the earth can hold our exploding population with its exploding appetites – the evidence is all around us.

    Santorum was implicated in advantaging AccuWeather over the National Weather Service and receiving contributions from same (though dwarfed by our current levels of corruption). However, the model of bought legislators has firm hold of our process, to our great detriment.

    I hate to admit it, but Eisenhower the egghead exploiter had some famous words on the subject:

    “One core idea dominates every version: the first draft described “the conjunction of a large and permanent military establishment and a large and permanent arms industry.” Policing it would require “all the organizing genius we possess” to insure “that liberty and security are both well served.” It added, “We must be especially careful to avoid measures which would enable any segment of this vast military-industrial complex to sharpen the focus of its power.” Through scores of revisions, that idea persisted. As delivered, the speech memorably read, “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”

    http://www.newyorker.com/talk/2010/12/20/101220ta_talk_newton

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