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Roger Pielke comments on Shearman & Smith's recent call for the replacement of democracy by some species of authoritarianism (technocracy, perhaps?) due to the looming threat of climate change. Jonah Goldberg also takes note, but it takes the Blogfather to come up with the proper bon mot.

Seriously, though, WTF? Where are all the soft libertarians and similarly-minded progressives who have been howling for the last seven years about the return of the National Security State? Evidently having cities blown up and losing the war against fascist Islam is of relatively little concern next to the threat of eventual climate change, which humanity has somehow managed to survive repeatedly without giving up what freedoms we'd managed to wrest from various kings & despots.

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( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
nornagest
Feb. 9th, 2008 05:52 am (UTC)
Assuming you're not just saying that rhetorically, I think most of the right wing of soft libertarians got absorbed into the neocon coalition (Eric S. Raymond is a good example) and got shouted down on civil-liberties points by the national-greatness conservatives and Reagan ex-Democrats. The left wing (ACLU types and similar) have always been susceptible to public-welfare arguments, and when existential risks are involved (viz. ocean anoxic events and other dangerous but unlikely worst-case scenarios) the usual calculus of risk vs. reward gets all screwed up.

In all fairness, this is a complicated issue. I've tried to keep all possibilities in mind so far, if only because I'm a computer scientist and I know how sensitive iterative models can be to initial conditions, but the balance of evidence is suggesting more and more that this particular risk isn't entirely chimerical. It's not going to end civilization even in the worst case -- if nothing else, world populations are likely to stabilize around 2030 and that'll do a lot to cool growing energy consumption -- but that doesn't mean it isn't worth trying to deal with. Preferably in the private sector, but something on the stick side of things might not be entirely out of place if we can come up with a good estimate for future economic damage per unit CO2.

Which is not to say that authoritarian government of any kind is a good idea. Climate change might kill some people a few decades down the road, but authoritarian governments always seem to kill a lot of people almost immediately. "Governance by experts and not those who seek power" is no solution; I'd rather avoid talking about the more famous regimes, but I will mention that Maximilian Robespierre et al. were very enthusiastic about exactly that sort of government-by-reason.
wombat_socho
Feb. 9th, 2008 03:09 pm (UTC)
I don't consider ESR and Glenn Reynolds soft libertarians since they've consistently supported the war on Islamofascism; they would be hard libertarians in my book. (The hard/soft distinction harks back to the French Third Republic, where the splintered political scene made it easier to break politicians down along pro-war "hard" and anti-war "soft" lines.)

The arguments in favor of human-driven global warming have always seemed more driven by politics and power than actual science, and that starts with bad data. (Kate at Small Dead Animals has an ongoing series of posts showing where the climate measuring stations are and just why they might be showing warmer readings.) Aside from that, the raw hypocrisy of GW boosters like Al Gore and the Hollywood intellectualoids rubs me the wrong way. You want to lead, lead by example, you jet-setting bastards.

As a Falangist, I'm certainly comfortable with authoritarian regimes of the right up to a point (in other countries), but agree that they all (left or right) tend to start out with a lot of bodies in ditches, after which the left keeps piling them up because for some reason people don't like being treated like sheep. Frankly, I don't see any way that a technocracy or "scientific authoritarianism" could avoid being taken over by politicians on the make, and then we're right back to Robespierre, Lenin, and that sort. That's when I reach for my revolver.

Edited at 2008-02-09 03:10 pm (UTC)
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