Thursday, June 27, 2013

Obama’s War on Prosperity. By William Tucker.

Obama’s War on Prosperity. By William Tucker. The American Spectator, June 27, 2013.


So what is going on here? Why is President Obama so utterly unconcerned about economics, so blasé about unemployment, so absorbed with tales about the coming environment apocalypse? Well, here’s my analysis.

President Obama has managed to win election by assembling two major constituencies: 1) a lumpen proletariat that has no idea how the economy works, is dependent on the government, and votes for him because he promises more handouts; and 2) an upper-crust constituency that thinks “we already have enough,” isn’t interested in any further economic development, and believes, if anything, that we already have too much of material possessions and it’s time to start cutting back on things. This has been the theme of environmentalism for 40 years. The rationale changes — we’re undergoing a “population bomb,” we’re drowning in pollution, we’re running out of oil and other resources — but the message is always the same. We’ve got enough. Time to call off all this progress. Let’s go back to spinning our own yarn, growing our own vegetables, and putting up windmills.

Together these two groups form a perfect vice to smother the ambitions of people who are interested in furthering the advance of progress and technology — the ones you might call “average Americans.”

All this was perfectly illustrated two weeks ago when filmmaker Robert Stone, who has just released the pro-nuclear documentary Pandora’s Promise, took on Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., that perfect embodiment of the environmental ethos. (Nuclear energy, by the way, the only technology that could possibly forestall global warming, received barely a passing mention in Obama’s speech. His main contributions have been to appoint a chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission who is opposed to nuclear power and try to shut down the fuel reprocessing plant in South Carolina.)

A scion of wealth who lives in a retreat in the Hudson River Highlands, Robert Kennedy plays the upper-crust aristocrat who has turned against technology, just as Veblen outlined in The Theory of the Leisure Class. He wants to close Indian Point, he’s against fracking, he objects to natural gas pipelines, he opposed offshore windmills both off Cape Cod and in Long Island Sound, he’s opposed to genetically modified food, he’s even crusading against vaccines these days. But he has invested his money in a couple of huge, useless solar plants in the California desert.

So when Kennedy kicked off the Pandora debate by calling the film “an elaborate hoax” and accusing Stone of being on the payroll of the nuclear industry, Andrew Revkin, the New York Times environmental blogger who moderated the debate, threw him a challenge. “You’re invested in solar energy,” he said. “Doesn’t that mean you have your own interests? Why should we believe you?”

Kennedy pulled up short. You could almost see the wheels turning in his head. “Don’t you know who I am?” he seemed to exude. “I’m a Kennedy! We Kennedys don’t invest to make money. We already have money.” His investment, he finally explained, was for the good of mankind.

Environmentalism is the philosophy of an aristocracy. It works perfectly for people who already have what they want and aren’t terribly concerned with getting more. Much more important is that lots of other people don’t get what they already have. That would mean crowding into their restrictively zoned neighborhoods, discovering their vacation hideaways, and generally engulfing them in the common herd.

And of course all this plays extremely well in the faculty lounges across America, where tenure keeps things comfortable, where aristocratic mannerisms are forever in fashion, and where Obama imbibed most of his knowledge of the world before becoming President.