What we call liberalism in America is a global philosophy or movement. Thus, what Janet Daley writes in England’s Telegraph applies equally here, and across the West: “The Left now has a demonic new aim: to make ordinary people poorer.”
We are living through the most startling political realignment in more than 100 years. Never since the advent of modern socialism in the early 20th century has the Left openly advocated making ordinary people poorer, thereby leaving those on the Right to defend the spread of mass prosperity. The debate (if this tendentious chorus of unanimity can be called a debate) on net zero has entirely shifted the ground on which modern political discourse has been based.
This role-reversal is especially clear in the features that were once most characteristic of Left-wing and Right-wing allegiance: it is the radical young who now tend to be most adamant that the freedoms and comforts that come with widespread disposable wealth should be prohibited, while the traditionally conservative older generation is left to fight for what used to be the Left-liberal doctrine that higher income and the independence it brings should be spread as widely as possible. Where organised protest movements in the past have been inspired by the idea that the masses were too poor, now they promote the idea that most ordinary people are too rich.
That is exactly right. The liberal philosophy, reduced to its essence, is that most people need to be poorer, to consume fewer resources. To do less. To enjoy less. But not them, of course. Us.
This is most obvious when it comes to energy:
Until very recently, there was no respectable voice calling for an end to the spread of prosperity to the developing world, as well as in the advanced nations. Now it is not just the juvenile Left making this extraordinary demand. Politicians of the centre-Right who had adopted pretty much wholesale the doctrine of social justice – which is to say, everybody having an equal chance for economic self-determination and a materially comfortable life – find themselves having to justify penalising ordinary people for heating their homes or for travelling beyond their own neighbourhoods.
She refers here to the Conservative Party in the U.K.; Boris Johnson is one of the worst greenies of all. Happily, our Republican Party is not as far gone.
The consequences for those populations [Ed.: That is, pretty much everybody] in the short term are carefully elided with fuzzy rhetoric and unsustainable government subsidy. Somehow a vague dream world is created in which the immediate deprivations become just a transitory stage leading to a utopian paradise in which all these apparently insoluble problems will be resolved. Even if this is feasible – the ultimate carbon-free heaven in which energy is supplied without sin – it is a very long way away.
It isn’t feasible. It isn’t going to happen, as liberals well know. The privation is intended to be permanent.
Nobody is venturing any figures for what the cost – in misery, financial privation, hypothermia, lack of mobility and choice – is going to be to those who will endure the first experimental stages. In truth, most of the radical permanent solutions are in their infancy and many of them involve practices that the Left would once have regarded as unacceptable like the exploitative mining of minerals in developing countries.
Good point! It is only conservatives who are at all queasy about African children mining cobalt, the demand for which explodes with “green” policies, and washing ore in the nearest river.
But it isn’t only energy. Food is the next frontier:
[R]eversing two centuries of manufacturing which made the modern world and put an end to the feudal economic structures of Old Europe might prove easier than the eco-Left’s next project. That is to abolish animal farming, which has been a civilising feature of human society for much longer. The devastation that such a ban would create on rural life would rank with the Enclosures Act as a social and economic cataclysm.
Actually, it isn’t just animal husbandry that liberals oppose. They don’t much like grains either, demanding an end to modern fertilizers and agricultural chemicals, without which something like one-half of the world’s population would starve to death.
But, hey: you can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs, right? That formula, until now regarded as extreme and morally bankrupt, is the philosophy of today’s liberals, including those who run our federal government and many of our states.