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Sean Gabb - A Lecture on the Greens

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  • Dr Sean Gabb
    Free Life Commentary, A Personal View from The Director of the Libertarian Alliance Issue Number 166 21st November 2007
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 21, 2007
      Free Life Commentary,
      A Personal View from
      The Director of the Libertarian Alliance
      Issue Number 166
      21st November 2007

      My Contractually-Obliged
      Lecture on the Environment
      by Sean Gabb

      At one of the places where I teach, senior members of staff are required
      to work an environmental theme into every lecture course they give. Here
      is the lecture I shall give next Monday morning to three hundred
      undergraduates. I will not read this to the students. That is not my
      practice. It should instead be seen as a summary given in advance of what
      I shall say, and as a source of quotations to use against me in the
      subsequent group discussions.

      Our Duty to Save the Planet
      Sean Gabb

      According to all the newspapers and television stations and all the
      politicians, we are facing a serious environmental crisis. We are told
      that global temperatures are rising, and that they are rising because of
      economic development, and that, unless we make radical changes to the
      ways in which we live, sea levels will rise and the world in general will
      become less pleasant.

      I am not a scientist, and I am not competent to examine the detailed
      claims about the nature and extent and causes of global warming. But I
      believe these claims are all lies. I believe they are the latest attempt
      by some very nasty people to stop the progress of the human race to
      unlimited self-improvement.

      History and Class Oppression

      Until about 250 year ago, the normal situation of humanity was
      stagnation. There might be ages of improvement, but these hardly ever
      improved the lives of the poorest, and they were always followed by a
      decline of economic activity.

      This was a world in which society was shaped like a broad pyramid—a very
      small ruling class enjoying fabulous wealth and status, and a great mass
      or ordinary people at the bottom living in poverty. It was a world in
      which more than half of all children born died before they reached the
      age of five, and in which the great majority of ordinary people died in
      their thirties.

      The libertarian revolutions of the 17th century in England led to a
      sudden increase in general wealth during the 18th century. By around
      1800, it was plain that this was an improvement unlike any other before.
      For the first time, larger and larger numbers of ordinary people were
      enjoying cheaper and better food and clothing.

      Other European governments looked on this with envy, as greater national
      wealth meant greater military power. But many, both abroad and in
      England, were concerned about he social and political impact of these
      developments. They meant that more and more ordinary people were moving
      about and improving their lives, and they were thinking for themselves,
      and beginning to question political arrangements that delivered immense
      differences of wealth and status.

      The Reaction

      The first reaction against market liberalism was purely conservative.
      Churches and landowning interests put much effort into defending the old
      order of things. Look, for example, at this verse from a Church of
      England hymn:

      The rich man in his castle,
      The poor man at his gate,
      He made them, high or lowly,
      And ordered their estate

      The meaning of this is that God had given everyone a certain position in
      the world, and this position had to be accepted without complaint or
      attempts at change.

      Without massive government force behind it, this sort of reaction was a
      failure in every place it was tried. Even there, it tended to fail. No
      dungeons in this world, or threats of hellfire in the next, could stifle
      the news of freedom and enrichment.

      And so the next step in reaction was to disguise conservatism as
      progress. Ideologies were developed that looked progressive, but the
      effect of which would be to stop all further progress.

      That is the significance of many kinds of socialism and particularly
      Marxism. These doctrines spoke about equality and freedom and growing
      wealth, but were obviously about the exact opposite. Even before the
      first socialist experiments, liberals were analysing the socialist claims
      and announcing that a socialist society would be a dictatorship in which
      the great majority of ordinary people would be made poor again.

      This was the result of actually existing socialism in the 20th century.
      Countries like Russia, East Germany and Czechoslovakia had fast economic
      development among their stated goals. In fact, the only really growth was
      in the amount of pollution their factories produced.

      The only liberty and equality and economic development that have ever
      been seen have taken place in countries like England and America and
      Germany and Japan— where people have mostly been left alone to look after
      themselves and their families.

      With the collapse of socialism at the end of the 1980s, it looked for a
      moment as if all the barriers had been lifted to unlimited improvement
      for the whole human race. It seemed that we could look forward to a world
      in which everyone had a motor car and a refrigerator and a telephone.

      Environmentalism: The Last Communist Refuge

      Then the environmental movement grew big. This had been around since the
      early 1960s. At first, it concentrated on things like chemical pollution
      and rapid population growth and how the world would soon run out of oil
      and other minerals. The problem was that its claims were always proved to
      be wrong.

      For example, we were told in the 1960s that population growth would soon
      lead to mass starvation. In the event, living standards continued to rise
      faster and faster all over the world.

      Again, we were told that the oil would run out before the middle of the
      1980s. In the event, more and more oil was found, and we now know that we
      have enough o last for centuries to come.

      Again we were told in the 1970s that industrialisation was leading to
      global cooling and that there would soon be another ice age. This also
      did not happen.

      But, since the collapse of socialism, the environmental movement has
      grown bigger and bigger, and is now arguing for regulations and taxes
      that would soon stop all further economic growth—particularly in Asia,
      India, Africa and South America. That is the goal of all this endless
      propaganda in the media, and all the talk about carbon footprints.

      Now, it may be that there really is a problem with the environment. Even
      a broken clock is right twice a day. But I find it historically
      significant that environmentalism has grown big at the very moment when
      every other argument against human progress has been disproved.

      I therefore believe that the claims of the environmentalists are lies.
      They are an excuse for returning humanity to a dark age of inequality and

      An Invitation to Debate

      I am circulating this lecture a week in advance, to give you time to read
      it and to consider the issues raised. I hope this will make the long
      discussion after lunch even more lively than it would otherwise be.

      Sean Gabb
      Director, The Libertarian Alliance
      Tel: 07956 472 199

      NB—Sean Gabb's new book, Cultural Revolution, Culture War: How
      Conservatives Lost England, and How to Get It Back, can be downloaded
      free from http://tinyurl.com/34e2o3. You can help by contributing to
      publishing and distribution costs
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