Getting the policy right
By Henry Lamb
No one is surprised that the Bush administration is recommending expanding the use of our own natural energy resources. Nor should anyone be surprised by the howls of protest that are rising from the environmental extremists. The energy crisis is forcing Americans to choose sides, finally, in a philosophical tug-of-war that has been pulling at public policy for a generation.
On one end of the rope (the right end of the political spectrum), are those people who value their individual freedom to choose where to live, what kind of car to drive; who want a full range of goods and services available to purchase; who believe that free markets should determine price and availability of all goods and services -- including energy.
At the other end of the rope (the left end of the political spectrum), are those people who believe that the earth, the air and water, and all resources, belong to all people who should share the earth's bounty equitably. While this is not a new idea, its power in domestic policy in the last two decades is new. These people tend to view land and natural resources from a totally different perspective than those tugging at the other end. The energy crisis will force lawmakers to take action soon, that reflects the power of the people at one end of the rope -- or the other.
It's time for people to choose sides, and let their elected officials know which way to pull. Before choosing, however, people should consider carefully on which end of the rope they belong .
The energy crisis is occurring because the people pulling on the left end of the rope have pulled public policy toward their philosophy over the last two decades. The impact on energy is just the most visible consequence of this philosophy; other consequences lie ahead, should this philosophy -- which we will call "extreme-green" -- ultimately prevail.
The extreme-green philosophy is rarely seen in its totality. Only glimpses are made available in PBS documentaries that depict wild animals, and in environmental organization literature that features cuddly panda bears. Wide open spaces and majestic mountains are presented as visual symbols of this extreme-green philosophy -- to evoke strong emotional response. It has been an effective presentation.
When all the segmented glimpses are examined together which requires a great deal of work the picture is less appealing. Perhaps the most comprehensive picture of this philosophy is available in the 1140-page Global Biodiversity Assessment, a publication of the United Nations Environment Program.
The extreme-green philosophy begins with the notion that all life forms have equal intrinsic value. All species have a natural right to use other species -- only to the extent required to sustain life. They believe that because the human species has developed the technology to destroy other species, well beyond that required to sustain life, the human species has, therefore, become immoral, "a cancer on the earth," as some extreme-greens have put it. This immorality must be brought under control, and government is the instrument of choice to force human behavior into compliance with their philosophy.
Locking up land away from human use is a way of "protecting" other species from the immoral behavior of humans. The sales pitch used by the extreme-greens, claims to protect the wilderness for future generations.
Think about it: by protecting the land and its resources through government-enforced wilderness designations, future generations are prevented, as is the current generation, from any benefit of the land and its resources. The lock-it-up, protectionist policies of the extreme-greens are, in reality, to protect the various life forms from the immoral actions of current, and future generations of the human species.
The land and resource lock-up also prevents the immoral humans from getting to the energy that allows the human species to multiply its muscle power in its rape of the earth. Keeping people off the land and preventing access to energy is a double victory for the extreme-greens.
The extreme-green philosophy embraces the notion that government must manage and regulate the behavior of humans in order to protect the helpless species that have been immorally exploited by the greedy humans -- especially Americans, who consume far more resources than they actually need.
The extreme-green philosophy would have government manage and regulate human behavior by locking people out of the nation's forests, and oil and coal reserves, and by forcing them off the grazing lands of the west. The extreme-green philosophy has been winning this public policy tug-of-war.
In order to manage and regulate human behavior, the extreme-green philosophy would have government intervene in the market place and require manufacturers to build only "government -approved" automobiles, washing machines, homes, even clothing. Human behavior should be further managed and regulated by forcing people to live in government-defined "sustainable communities," rather than in the suburbs. The extreme-green philosophy would also manage human behavior by changing the curriculum in schools to make children believe that these policies are necessary to save the "delicate ecosystems" on the "only planet we have," which must be "home to all people on earth."
This is the philosophy pulling at the left end of the political rope. At the other end, are those who rarely think about the planet earth, they just enjoy it. They rarely think about the form of government that was designed to prevent government from managing and regulating human behavior -- beyond the policies to which they have consented.
Typically, these people arise each morning, expecting nothing from anyone, thankful for another opportunity to go out into the world and make whatever it is they need or want. They realize that their intelligence and energy are gifts, as are the resources which they convert into the goods and services they need and want. They know, inherently, that the resources they manipulate, are the raw materials of prosperity. They know, instinctively, that the cultivation of raw materials is the cultivation of prosperity. This knowledge constitutes a philosophy which we will simply call "right" -- that is being dragged into obsolescence by the extreme-greens.
These "right" people have been too busy cultivating prosperity to even notice the growing number of extreme-green converts congregating at the left end of the political spectrum. They are noticing now, only because the extreme-green philosophy has produced rolling blackouts in California, that threaten replication across the nation.
The extreme-green philosophy has prevented development of new energy reserves and energy generating capacity in California, and elsewhere.
Now that "right" thinking is suggesting the cultivation of resources to produce more energy, the extreme-green crowd is recruiting more people to tug on its end of the rope. Energy, or the potential absence of it, is the immediate crisis attracting the attention of the extreme-greens, and a growing number of "right" thinking people. The consequences of government management and regulation of the people, as is the goal of the extreme-greens, includes the abolition of such fundamentally "right" ideas as choosing where one wants to live.
So-called "smart growth" is managed growth, managed by government, to regulate human behavior. "Smart growth" is not a "right" idea. It is a policy pulled into existence by the extreme-greens tugging at the left end of the rope.
The prohibition of grazing on federal land, is not a "right" idea. It too, is a policy pulled into existence by the extreme-greens who reject the idea the people should live wherever they choose. They reject the idea that resources should be manipulated -- by unmanaged, unregulated individuals to produce prosperity.
The prohibition of fossil fuel and nuclear energy, is not a "right" idea. It reflects the extreme-green philosophy of denying the human species the energy it needs to multiply its muscle-power to manipulate the resources that produce prosperity.
The "right" philosophy values most, the freedom to use all the gifts provided. The "right" philosophy knows full well that abuse, or misuse of any of the gifts provided, results in certain, but absolutely appropriate, penalties.
It was the "right" philosophy which produced the system of government that prohibits arbitrary management of people, and requires that no public policy be imposed without the consent of the governed.
It is the "right" philosophy that encourages the responsible use of all our resources. It is the "right" philosophy that insists that people remain free to choose where they want to live; free to choose how they want to live, and free to choose which end of the political rope to pull.
Those who subscribe to the "right" philosophy must take some time away from simply earning a living and enjoying the gifts. Real effort must now be expended pulling public policy back from the abyss of the extreme-green philosophy. The tug-of-war will get serious as the Bush administration offers its comprehensive energy policy. The extreme-greens will pressure elected officials to vote no. The "right" thinkers will pressure elected officials to vote yes.
Know that the vote on an energy policy is a vote on far more than keeping the lights on; it is a vote on the philosophy that will guide our great nation, and the world, in the formative years of a new millennium. The "right" philosophy offers the world the best hope of health, happiness, and prosperity. The "right" people need to pull together, and there's plenty of room on the right end of the rope.
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