A vision of barracks life

June 29th, 2007
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Years ago I recall trying to convince an editor of mine that the campaign against global warming would of necessity be accompanied by a massive increase of administrative intrusion into daily life, with waves of new restrictions on individual liberty. He found this scenario overwrought and remained of the view that limiting carbon dioxide emissions could be accomplished with a few deft, high-level moves focused on the largest emitters plus some technological improvements driving greater energy efficiency.

The argument I advanced was that if developed (and already relatively efficient) countries were to accomplish actual gross reductions in their carbon dioxide emissions – not merely halting the annual increase, let alone poserish pretending – something rather more serious would be required. This was partly because the broad-stroke moves such as higher energy prices would inevitably trigger offsetting behaviour – rural dwellers switching over to wood heat, for example – that actually raised carbon emissions among the uncooperative.

If that was to be avoided, we would eventually require squads of “carbon police” roaming through neighbourhoods, checking what people were up to and forcing them into line. Government seals would be slapped on the wood stove, the beer fridge would be confiscated – along with a hefty “environmental charge” for its disposal – 100-watt bulbs would go in the trash, large bathtubs would be covered in plywood or filled in with expanding foam, and on and on, limited only by the imagination of the regulator.

The relatively free lives untrammelled by agents of the state that Canadians had enjoyed for 130 years, I predicted, would come to an end. Think that’s absurd? Remember, countries like the U.K. for decades have employed squads of television police to ensure people are paying their licensing fees. However, I was willing to listen to my editor’s entreaties to ease myself off the rhetorical ledge to the extent that I agreed this world, if it came, was at least several decades distant.

The blogger Wretchard the Cat, aka Richard Fernandez, proprietor of the Belmont Club weblog, has extraordinarily fine antennae for the totalitarian mindset. So it’s no surprise that in this blog entry he pounces on a story about carbon police already in action. They’re not even agents of the state – they’re self-appointed, as you can read. Kind of a green version of Curtis Sliwa’s Guardian Angels. Only in their universe, every ordinary human being is the guilty criminal, and it’s “the environment” that’s victimized and in need of protection.

I always expected this kind of thing would come from the government. Leftists the world over usually demand that governments do things for them, funded by taxes on “the rich”. But in this case they’ve jumped to the task unbidden, for it seems their self-righteousness and fanaticism is boundless. Still, the effects on individual liberty, I fear, will be similar.

Here’s Wretchard on what drives these people:

But what would be the fun in minding your own business? The fun is in minding others. What all the earthly paradises promised by social re-engineering projects have in common is not that they are free from unpleasantness and want; Stalin offered a vision of barracks life, cafeteria food and compulsory day-care and people were willing to kill for it; modern environmentalists present one of five-minute showers, subsistance [sic] living and rationed toilet paper and they are willing to descend on your home in order to achieve it.

They are bleak, unpleasant paradises. The attraction of these earthly utopias is not pleasance but freedom from doubt. Entry into a place where all the answers are supplied and there are no more dilemmas. What is required of that Brave New World above all is the final banishment of Hamlet’s soliloquy. The attraction of Communism, a world ruled by the Greens or lashed under the chains of Sharia Law is they leave no room for doubt. They offer a place where every aspect of life will be regulated, our carbon footprints measured at intervals, our piety audited periodically and we shall be rid at last of our greatest burden – freedom and uncertainty.

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