... but thank God for the Eastern Europeans! This editorial in the Financial Times, written by Vaclav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic, is right on point in the global warming debate. Klaus suggests that the greatest threat to free people is not climate change, but climate-change politics. This man, who lived most of his life behind the Iron Curtain, fears environmentalism more than communism. I agree with him.
This interests me because I've believed for years that the modern environmental movement is little more than a safe haven for anti-free-market types. Without suggesting there is a conspiracy cooked up in some smoke-filled room in Moscow, I believe that western Marxists have collectively realized in the years since the fall of the Soviet Union that they cannot be honest with the public about their desires, and have taken refuge behind a cloak of environmentalism. Because the Soviet system failed, outright collectivism doesn't sell in the West anymore. However, tree-hugging still does.
Klaus's astute description of modern political correctness (there is "only one permitted truth" and "everything else is denounced"), coming from an Eastern European politician, gives me hope that the newly-freed countries of that region haven't yet fallen victim to the worst parts of modern liberalism, which is seductive but misguided. True or classical liberals (which included many of the men who signed our Constitution) should protest loudly the suggestion that a "scientific consensus" on a theory developed in the past decade is sufficient to roll back personal and economic liberties throughout the free world.
Perhaps people who lived under the tyranny of post-WWII communism in Eastern Europe remember more vividly how quickly the masses will give up their freedom in exchange for protection against mythical hobgoblins created by those seeking power. Authoritarian features of East German communism, notably the Berlin Wall, were ostensibly necessary to defend against facist aggression. In reality, of course, the aggressors were already on the eastern side of the wall.
I don't mean to suggest that global warming is unworthy of consideration as an international issue. On the contrary, I believe that addressing the problem, if indeed it exists, is a unique opportunity for the free people of the West to show the superiority of our systems of government. I think Klaus understands this.
Al Gore's documentary, despite its name, was an argument on one side of the debate. There are many prescient arguments on the other side. Our philosophical tradition would have us settle the dispute in the public forum, with all sides allowed to throw in their two cents. Unfortunately, a tactic incompatible with the philosophical underpinnings of western government has grown strong roots in recent years, and has been employed most notably by the environmental movement. As Klaus implies, environmentalists often don't want to convince you they're right; instead, they aim to use the power of political correctness to deny everyone else a rebuttal. Don't believe me? Read how they argue:
Ellen Goodman - Denying global warming is like denying the Holocaust
Al Gore - Global warming is a moral, not political, problem
MSNBC report - Head of NASA forced to retreat from statements skeptical of global warming
U.N. special envoy on climate change - "Completely immoral" to question the reports currently published on the subject, or to question the issue itself, or to question whether immediate action must be taken
That last one would be very scary if it came from an organization other than the U.N. The point remains, however. Environmentalists don't want to be bothered with a debate, or criticism, or reevaluation (all part of the scientific method, a real scientific consensus). This is simply not the way western republics should work. Our freedoms and way of life should only be sacrificed if the electorate is fairly convinced that there is no other way.*
I hope that Klaus's editorial is representative of a widely-held understanding in the new republics of Eastern Europe. Because many of these people have first-hand knowledge of how totalitarianism works, they may understand through practical experience what I, as an American, can only understand in the abstract. The environmental movement, possibly the modern home of Marxist ideology, seeks insidiously to use political correctness, a not-so-distant cousin of totalitarian propaganda, to circumvent the protections of individual liberty that are part of the western democratic process and convince us to give up our economic freedom in exchange for protection from the scary monster under the bed: global warming.
* "Fairly" means that no viewpoint is completely denied a forum. Modern political correctness often denies controversial viewpoints a voice through different means but to the same ends as totalitarian propaganda; the Nazis simply arrested or killed those with opposing views to silence them and leave government propaganda as the only viewpoint, while the PC police destroy careers and reputations, also to achieve their silence, leaving only politically correct viewpoints available. I would also qualify "electorate" as including countermajoritarian protections such as judicial review, not just a simple majority of the voters.