In a recent Opinion piece, Vermont “climate scientist” Alan Betts rejoiced at the world’s financial troubles, beginning with his title: “The global economy crumbles.”
Hundreds of millions of people are faced with imminent starvation globally, but Mr. Betts (an expert in “atmospheric research”) gloats that “...reality has intruded on sacred “free-market” theology.”
To Betts, all of the world’s problems were created by cruel, unnamed capitalists who manipulated the poor while toxifying the environment. He lambasts these horrible antagonists:
Capitalism has no moral guiding principles, it simply demands growth and profits, with no consideration for resilience and long-term stability. Historically, justice for working people was not considered, let alone justice for life on Earth…. Looking back, it is clear that the growth of the capitalist system was powered by fossil fuel.
Ironically, Mr. Betts has not “historically considered” the state from whence he is shrieking. Vermont, which boasts a history of self-reliance and small-farm production, has long been sustained on that capitalism he disdains as unjust (long before fossil fuel dependency). But for him, Vermont must be delivered from capitalist injustice through the unnamed virtues of socialism, by embracing more local production and control.
...we must step away from the endless pleas for growth, and grasp the simple reality that exponential grow [sic] of the consumer economy means sacrificing the planet just so some can profit. This too is stupid when our engineers could easily and cheaply build long-lived products for a sustainable society instead of the throw-away culture that was started in the 1950s.
This “simple reality” must be the one Betts suggested had “intruded on sacred free-market theology.” But Betts’ “simple reality” points to “the consumer economy.” Is that the fault of the mysterious capitalists? Mr. Betts blames the producers and the consumers of the goods -- Is he Marxist, or Bourgeoisie?
Mr. Betts promises undisclosed socialist panaceas to rescue the planet’s future from the totalitarian grip of the capitalist past. His sole (atmospheric?) policy prescription is a regressive tax on gasoline:
Now is a perfect time to add a fossil carbon tax, when the price of oil is low, to fund the transition to an efficient society powered by renewable energy. The public would not notice, but what is obvious to us is unthinkable to the rich and powerful oil industry, which demands instead subsidies to protect profits as usual.
Betts wishes to use what he calls the “clueless central government” to take money from low income drivers (while they “won’t notice”) to transfer (as subsidies) to the rich and powerful renewable energy industry, in the name of the “rich and powerful oil industry.” Presumably, the money siphoned off those poor-slob car-drivers would “fund the transition” to throw away that throw-away culture and manufacture a new Shangri-La.
But Betts hasn’t asked for consumption to be thrown away. He also hasn’t told readers where to throw away the tens of millions of people facing starvation due to the “global economic crumbling” he chortles over. He has thrown away capitalism with Vermont history, discarded self-reliance with self-respect, and cast common sense to the wind. Yet Mr. Betts has not thrown away economics:
We can also delight in the benefits from the large economic downturn. Decline in the pollution from air travel and less driving helps Earth. The big drop in global air pollution from the reduced burning of fossil fuels benefits the planet, and ironically may save as many lives as are dying from COVID-19.
Mr. Betts proposes to 1) use a collapsing economy and gas prices to 2) take money from working-class people to 3) finance renewable energy projects and Electric Vehicles that benefit the wealthy, while 4) blaming wealthy capitalists and 5) saving all life on planet Earth.
Families are struggling financially, with food security threatened for some -- even in Vermont. The government faces fiscal crisis. But with gasoline consumption the lowest since the Vietnam War, Mr. Betts and other progressive Earth rescuers have dropped the pretense that a fuel tax will reduce consumption, and are simply grabbing for a tax.
There is a big difference between an existential futuristic threat of global climate change, and the very real and present harm to humanity of seismic economic collapse. There is also a huge gulf between dreading, versus delighting in, that economic downturn, which may yet claim exponentially more lives than were taken by COVID-19 (or saved by that “big drop in air pollution”).
It is surreal to delight in the face of mass human suffering, while opportunistically advocating a regressive tax on cheap gas to “transition to an efficient society.” Human morality is crumbling faster than the global economy.
What is this new sacred theology that is replacing the free market?