Radical Environmentalists Part of Economic Meltdown

Commentary, Environment, Frontier Centre

The collapse of financial institutions is just one part of a disturbing failure of leadership in the business sector and is part of a wider crisis at all levels of society. The business world, pushed by government, has capitulated to greed and deception and that put people in financial jeopardy. Sadly, all this plays to a conundrum identified by David Lillenthal with regards to the United States: “Big business is basic to the very life of this country; and yet many–perhaps most–Americans have a deep-seated fear and an emotional repugnance to it.”

The financial debacle is serious but ultimately small change compared to the cost of unnecessary programs to deal with non-existent global warming, natural climate change and many other so-called environmental problems.

As Louise Gray explained in The Daily Telegraph in mid-September about the problems facing Britain, “We are looking at something that looks like a slow motion train crash,” and quoted another author who accused the Labour government of vacillating over climate change and energy policy, starving the power industry of direction and reducing investment to a minimum.

What was Gray referring to? Businesses that collude with governments and both of which capitulate to bullying from environmentalists, a problem exacerbated when they exploit the opportunities to make money from peoples’ fears and lack of knowledge, none of which actually resolves any problems.

In the long run, this business-environment-government collusion will be more devastating and costly to political freedom and global economies than the U.S. market problems. It already costs the poor people of the world, faced as they are with higher prices and more scarcity for the very basics of life.

That’s problematic, this deliberate greed and cynical exploitation.

For example, Enron has become synonymous with corporate corruption and a major part of that was the shell game was carbon credits. Enron and British Petroleum (BP) exploited the environmental issue of alternative energy and carbon credits before global warming was even a full-blown myth in the public domain.

As writer Deborah Barnes notes, “Before the company collapsed under the weight of financial scandal, Enron under CEO Ken Lay was a key proponent of the cap-and-trade idea. So was BP’s Lord John Browne….” The fact is the companies expected to profit handsomely from the Kyoto global warming fears by creating the worldwide trading network in carbon emissions credits.
Over the years, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in business. When they make money, they tell government to leave them alone; when lose money, they plead for government help. In the environmental game, I’ve also watched business duplicity. One can argue they have been bullied into capitulation, but in doing so they have put self-interest and profit ahead of logic, the truth and what is best for people and their country.

For example, why would Exxon apologize for and withdraw funding from research to determine what the climate is actually doing when it is essential to their business to know? Surely Exxon shareholders would expect the company to do the research necessary to protect and maximize their investments. Why would oil companies fund agencies that are openly advocating their demise?

The really troubling outcome from such actions is that they may destroy the very institutions they represent. People have a very low opinion of politicians for similar poor performances and self-aggrandizement, but unless they are megalomaniacs they do little long-term harm. As cynical wisdom has it, “If we get rid of this bunch of scoundrels, we just get another bunch of scoundrels.”
However, misuse and abuse of the financial system undermines capitalism, the very institution that has created better quality of life and freedoms for all the people, and allows socialists and communists to take over. As Milton Friedman explained, “What kind of society isn’t structured on greed? The problem of social organization is how to set up an arrangement under which greed will do the least harm; capitalism is that kind of a system.”

Similarly, abuse of environmental issues by business combines with its exploitation by environmentalists to place the entire concept in jeopardy. The environment is important and making sure it is not harmed is critical, but when the public find out what problems do not exist or have been manipulated and exploited, they will in the future say: we don’t believe anything you say.

Perhaps the saddest comment of all is that business and industry have the capability to deal with environmental issues but some environmentalists consistently fail to offer meaningful solutions and lack the necessary management and organizational skills; these are the armchair environmentalists who don’t understand the science, who want to tell other people how to live and think government can solve all problems. Then, too many in the business world adopt the ill-advised positions.

Before business, government, and environmentalists collude and continue to rush to judgment, they and we need to keep in mind the unintended outcome identified by John Henry Boetcker: “You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. You cannot help the wager by pulling down the wage payer. You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich. You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.”