Naomi Klein: could the Heartland Institute be right?

Fascinating if rather long article by Naomi Klein (of Shock Doctrine fame) on H/T to Byron Smith.

In brief, what she is arguing that when the Heartland Institute (very pro-free market, very anti-environmental regulation of any sort, particularly for climate change reasons) make the claim that global warming is a left-wing plot to undermine free-market capitalism they aren’t totally crazy.

Of course, it’s not a plot, but it’s very likely that any plausible set of policies to address it will, by its very nature, be inconsistent with the kind of economic system they prefer.

Just a couple of excerpts to give the feel:

The deniers did not decide that climate change is a left-wing conspiracy by uncovering some covert socialist plot. They arrived at this analysis by taking a hard look at what it would take to lower global emissions as drastically and as rapidly as climate science demands. They have concluded that this can be done only by radically reordering our economic and political systems in ways antithetical to their “free market” belief system. As British blogger and Heartland regular James Delingpole has pointed out, “Modern environmentalism successfully advances many of the causes dear to the left: redistribution of wealth, higher taxes, greater government intervention, regulation.” Heartland’s Bast puts it even more bluntly: For the left, “Climate change is the perfect thing…. It’s the reason why we should do everything [the left] wanted to do anyway.”

There is no joy in being right about something so terrifying [as the climate scientists being proved right]. But for progressives, there is responsibility in it, because it means that our ideas — informed by indigenous teachings as well as by the failures of industrial state socialism — are more important than ever. It means that a green-left worldview, which rejects mere reformism and challenges the centrality of profit in our economy, offers humanity’s best hope of overcoming these overlapping crises.

But imagine, for a moment, how all of this looks to a guy like Heartland president Bast, who studied economics at the University of Chicago and described his personal calling to me as “freeing people from the tyranny of other people.” It looks like the end of the world. It’s not, of course. But it is, for all intents and purposes, the end of his world. Climate change detonates the ideological scaffolding on which contemporary conservatism rests. There is simply no way to square a belief system that vilifies collective action and venerates total market freedom with a problem that demands collective action on an unprecedented scale and a dramatic reining in of the market forces that created and are deepening the crisis.

While some of the conclusions Klein draws from all of this are perhaps more anti-capitalist than some would like, a slightly watered down version of her recommendation to the green movement seems spot on: don’t sit in your own silo and ignore the left-win economic protesters. You have more in common that you might think and need to explore how your visions of the future fit together.

Another observation: while denialism may be more rational than we like to make out, it still seems to have a strong basis in fear. Fear of losing privilege and wealth from the rich, no doubt, but a perhaps more genuine fear from those less well-off: for all the failings of the economic system, it has genuinely brought higher standards of living (in the Global North anyway), and calling them to step out into a complete unknown future is a big ask. So we need to do what we can to soften the blow and present possible futures in as positive way as we can, despite the uncertainties.


1 Comment

Filed under Links, Thoughts

One response to “Naomi Klein: could the Heartland Institute be right?

  1. Denialism may be more rational than we like make out? Only if it is rational to do all one can to preserve one’s ideology in the face of the various disasters it is causing.

    Otherwise, yes, it was indeed a very interesting piece from Klein and I intended to say something at more length myself but really only had space to post the link. Thanks for these thoughts!

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