from the Congress Action newsletter
by: Kim Weissman
April 15, 2001
Public policy in this country is no longer premised on rational thought and educated public debate, it is increasingly being driven by fear, hysteria, ignorance, and media disinformation.
Last winter, the U.S. was cold. Growing seasons are moving south. Orange groves in central Florida that used to be productive several decades ago, can no longer grow oranges because it's gotten too cold. Floridians complained that they couldn't remember a winter as cold as that just ending. Yet while they sat around their homes in sweaters, they earnestly discussed imminent world disaster from global warming. Fifteen hundred scientists, solely on the basis of computer models, predict doom from human caused global warming; and the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issues increasingly apocalyptic warnings about impending disaster. Yet over nineteen thousand scientists see no such danger from human caused global warming (a silent majority ignored by the media, because stories about disaster sell newspapers and boost viewers, but stories concluding "no problem" do not).
NASA has had satellites in space for over 20 years with the mission of measuring the earth's temperature, and has found that there has been a slight cooling over the past 20 years. NOAA issued a report that last November and December were the coldest such periods on record. Scientists measure ocean floor sediments and ice cores and find that the planet routinely undergoes significant fluctuations in climate, and that it has been doing so for thousands of years without any help from man. Twelve thousand years ago the planet emerged from the last great ice age. A century and a half ago the earth emerged from a mini ice age. When the planet emerges from an ice age, it gets warmer, without any help from man. But cynics in politics and global government types at the United Nations continue to demand we "do something" about global warming, and pandering politicians with a lust for power are only too happy to oblige. Completely forgotten are the dire warnings of a mere thirty years ago that we were all about to die from global cooling, with the same fearmongers warning of a looming, human-induced ice age. Hot, cold, no matter. Ignorant fear is the order of the day. Emulating the rooster that thinks its crowing causes the sun to rise, human ignorance, arrogance, and vanity causes some people to think that they have the power to fundamentally alter the climate of the planet.
Environmental extremists would like to see human society driven back to pre-industrial levels, and in California they have been given free reign to implement their vision. Thanks to a regulatory morass that has been instituted to mollify those extremists, and to pander to consumers who really think that they can have something for nothing, California is only beginning to experience the results of a decade of head-in-the-sand politics. It's a failure of the free market, cry the political panderers, government bureaucrats, and environmental socialists who created the mess. California's energy system is about as far from being a deregulated free market as anything can be — there are price caps on consumer electricity rates, thus there is no incentive for consumers to conserve, and no economic benefit to building new power plants; environmental restrictions make it virtually impossible to build new power plants anyway, and would make any new plant enormously expensive and economically unviable; there are restrictions on how power companies are allowed to buy fuel and electricity; and there was a centralized bureaucracy that controlled it all.
Offshore and across the country, existing oil wells are shut down and new wells banned; clean coal deposits were placed off limits in national monuments; hydropower dams are being dismantled to appease the fish lobby; and the nuclear power industry has been driven virtually to the edge of extinction by hysterical propaganda from "no-nuke" radicals, who have created in the public an irrational fear of nuclear power. Blaming deregulation, free markets, and greedy utility companies, ignorant populations (when was the last time you heard of a comprehensive course in fundamental free market economics taught in public schools?) warn politicians in other states considering deregulating their own power industries, "You better not!" And politicians bow to the pressure and put their own plans for deregulation on hold; while the same anti-capitalist radicals, politicians, and regulators who caused California's problems in the first place claim that the only solution is still more regulation. "Free markets don't work", the politicians proclaim, while they plan a state takeover of the power industry and feverishly work on a succession of plans to calm the troubled masses. Plans, they claim, that will magically create new energy by legislative fiat, without building more power plants or drilling for more oil, without making environmental extremists angry, and even without raising consumer utility bills.
The revolution in biotechnology holds the key to defeating disease, ending starvation, boosting the nutritional value of foods in poverty-stricken nations, inventing and producing breakthrough new pharmaceuticals, and helping to preserve the environment. Scientists are just beginning to understand how to alter human genetic codes to eliminate some hereditary diseases; more abundant food crops can be grown in previously hostile climates; simple foods can be enhanced with vitamins that will prevent blindness in children whose diets are currently missing those vitamins; food crops have been developed with natural resistance to insects and crop diseases, and can be successfully grown with a greatly reduced use of pesticides, or maybe no pesticides at all.
Yet animal rights extremists destroy medical research facilities, freeing research animals that are being used in experiments aimed at eradicating deadly human diseases. Hysterics in the radical environmental movement call genetically enhanced foods "Frankenfoods", they burn crops that have been genetically altered and destroy research facilities. They spread disinformation about "killer genes" that will somehow "get loose" and destroy the world, and they continue to hawk so-called "scientific studies" that have been proven fallacious, solely for the purpose of scaring people. Fearful populations are mobilized into massive protests to force governments to ban genetically altered foods entirely.
Does anyone really think that any of the foods they eat are unchanged from the way those crops evolved naturally? Cross-pollination and selective breeding of crops has gone on for ten thousand years. Farmers have selectively grown crops that have certain traits — specific genetic properties — and over generations have fundamentally altered the basic characteristics of those crops. Biotechnology simply allows scientists to do more precisely, gene by gene, what farmers have been doing in a scattergun approach for thousands of years. Instead of adding whole series of genes through cross-pollination, often with unpredictable results, scientists can now choose specific genes to produce single, specific crop improvements. But any scientists daring to stand up to the extremists are demonized and vilified and branded as tools of capitalist plunderers.
Chemical and pharmaceutical companies are portrayed as inherently evil. And around the world children go blind from the lack of crucial vitamins; starvation continues; people suffer and die from diseases that could possibly be eliminated; and our land and our water continue to be polluted by deadly pesticides. What is the cost to society of a breakthrough pharmaceutical that was never invented? Of thousands of children who could have grown up strong and healthy but who instead grew emaciated and went blind, or simply died from starvation? Those costs are fearsome, and those costs are paid by the most vulnerable among us. Those costs are not paid by the well fed, well clothed, privileged environmental extremists who mostly live in wealthy western countries, who travel around those wealthy countries in modern transportation mobilizing equally well fed, equally well clothed, and equally privileged masses of ignorant, hysterical people into often violent protest against biotechnology. In response to people starving in the Third World, dying because they are denied access to genetically modified foods, those well fed, well clothed, and overly privileged extremists paraphrase Marie Antoinette — "Let them eat dirt!"
For decades we have been preached to about an overpopulation "explosion" that is about to drown the planet in burgeoning humanity. In the face of all evidence, fearmongers continue to scold us that rich countries are consuming "too much" (how much is the right amount?) of the earth's rare resources. That we constantly discover more abundant quantities of those "rare" resources, and invent substitutes for those that are in short supply (one benefit of having ever increasing numbers of inventive minds populate the planet — because people also come with brains, not just mouths to feed) fazes the fearmongers not in the least. Global population control is a cause célèbre among the sleek elite who have nothing better to do. But lo and behold! We are starting to read reports about another population problem — too few people. It's a mystery, nobody knows why, but no matter. We're all doomed. Fear rules the day.
We are a nation sliding inexorably into ignorance and mediocrity. When this country was founded more than 200 years ago, the literacy rate in America was higher than any other place in the western world. After the Constitutional Convention, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay, published, in the popular press, a series of articles called The Federalist, for the purpose of stimulating public discussion about the nuances of the new Constitution. The relative merits of republic versus democracy was debated from taverns to state legislatures. Many elected legislators today, presumably knowledgeable about our form of government because of their positions, actually think that we live in a democracy, and would probably be hard-pressed to explain the difference. Most adults today, including those who have graduated from elite colleges, would have trouble even understanding The Federalist, let alone debating the concepts in those documents intelligently.
Most people have never even tried to read the Constitution or the Bill of Rights, nor the prolific writings of our nation's founders that clearly explain precisely what those who wrote, debated, and ratified those documents actually meant and intended, and why. And many people don't even care. Never having been taught their responsibilities in a self-governing republic, they think that they have no reason to know any of that. People who are that ignorant are ripe targets for tyrants and political demagogues who hate the idea of individual liberty.
Because of the defective nature of education, many people think that freedom is the natural state of mankind, that government is their friend, the source of their wealth and their happiness, and should provide their health care, their retirement, and teach them how to raise their children. Most people are ignorant of the fact that powerful central governments have always been the chief source of evil to their own people, and so we eagerly adopt the mantle of the victim who needs big brother to take care of us. In taking care of us, our masters have subjugated us into the role of medieval serfs, we now work more than a third of every year to pay our tribute to government, and we are afraid to even question the politicians who steal such a massive amount of our freedom and continue to demand more.
We even have magical incantations that obviate thought, and we instantly agree to whatever crack-brained scheme is attached to those incantations; so in the name of campaign "reform" we surrender our freedom to speak; in the name of "public safety" we surrender our right to defend ourselves, and become like children cowering in corners in fear for our lives; in the name of "the environment" we surrender the right to live our lives as we see fit, and condemn untold millions to unnecessary death.
Despite their substantive ignorance, most people have been taught, in the name of self-esteem, that their opinions always merit respectful consideration regardless of how irrational, vacant, and factually flawed those opinions may be. Feelings and beliefs supercede knowledge, and ignorance is accompanied by a sanctimonious certitude of their own superiority. We have devolved into a society in which emotion rules; how we "feel" about something, whether or not those feelings are at all related to reality, is all that matters. Logical thought and common sense analysis are increasingly rare commodities. We have become like a primitive society that stages human sacrifices to ward off solar eclipses and make the rain fall.
FOR MORE INFORMATION…
National Oceanic & Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA) record cold report:
Tax Foundation (tax freedom day analysis):
The above article is the
property of Kim Weissman, and is reprinted with his permission.
16 apr 2001