The New Road to Serfdom

A local event in Townsville illustrates how the climate change panic and the political hysteria it has produced will affect every aspect of life in Australia. The day after the leader of the federal opposition declared his party’s support for the Rudd government’s Emissions Trading Scheme it was announced that the ETS would force a local billion-dollar nickel refinery to shut down, with the loss of 1200 jobs. Asked for his reaction, the local federal member supported the ETS and claimed his job was to argue for a sustainable future for his children. Oddly, he also remarked that if the ETS really caused problems for the refinery then there would be “a back door” by which assistance would be provided (Townsville Bulletin, 26/11/2009, pp. 1, 4). 

Several issues arise from this. Firstly, one would have thought that the job of this MHR was to represent the interests of those who elected him to parliament, not his family. Secondly, there is the contrast between the concrete here-and-now crisis facing the refinery and its 1200 workers – with all its flow-on affects throughout the community – and the abstract future difficulties allegedly to be faced by people in the future. Why do the latter matter more? Why do real people in the real world matter less than those in some speculative, increasingly unlikely, science-fiction vision of the future? 

Thirdly, what is this “back door” that the refinery can access for help? Is there to be a consistent, properly coordinated policy or isn’t there? Are businesses being expected to make adjustments and then compete on a level playing-field, or are they expected to go cap-in-hand to make deals with their local members and ruling party apparatchiks in order to ensure their survival? Are we to have an efficient market economy like those that have generated the bulk of the world’s wealth for several hundred years, or are we to be transformed into a ramshackle statist dystopia reminiscent of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe?

Such issues will become increasingly common throughout Australia under the new climate change regime to be imposed by the Rudd government, and they illustrate how Australia – and the Western world – has reached a turning point in history. As Christopher Booker observes in The Real Global Warming Disaster (2009), the campaign to use alleged climate change as a pretext to completely reshape the political and economic structures of the world is “one of the most extraordinary episodes in human history”, in which “the real disaster to be brought by global warming”, will not be the predicted eco-apocalypse, but rather “those measures being proposed by the world’s politicians in the hope that they can avert a nightmare scenario which, as many experts now believe, was never going to materialize anyway” (pp.307, 1).  

It is in this context that the present turmoil in the Australian Liberal Party needs to be understood, as many of its parliamentarians and party members work commendably to come to grips with their responsibilities to the nation. At the most obvious level, the question is whether Kevin Rudd is to be allowed to bulldoze parliament and make a name for himself on the international stage as a true believer and messianic leader who can deliver up his country as an opening act sacrifice upon the alter of the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference; or whether Australia has politicians prepared to put the brakes on Rudd’s ego-driven desire to commit Australia to an untenable economic and political future in the name of an eco-apocalypse whose proponents are being revealed to be fanatics, charlatans, and frauds, as the leaked documentation from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia and other revelations illustrate. 

At a deeper level however, Australia is presently just the latest site in an ongoing ideological and political battle over the very nature and future of Western civilization, between those who value its enormous achievements, and recognize that its strength lies in its liberal democratic political and economic institutions and wide range of freedoms; and those who rage against it, and regard its institutions and freedoms as outmoded obstacles to their own agenda of radical social change based on an all-powerful state over which they alone have control. As the climate change debate illustrates, the coalition parties stand amongst the former group, while the Australian Labor Party stands with the latter. 

Indeed, the Rudd regime’s climate change policies are a local instance of a world-wide campaign to achieve a highly centralized form of global socialism by stealth, using climate change panic as a stalking horse. The aim is to put permanently in place a global system to concentrate political power within United Nations agencies while redistributing economic wealth from the productive economies to the economically defunct authoritarian regimes and kleptocracies that dominate the UN and its associated NGOs and other radical organizations. All this is to be done on the totally specious and opportunistic grounds that poor countries and developing nations will not reduce their carbon emissions unless they receive massive assistance from developed countries – at the level of at least $110 billion p.a. to be paid forever. In effect, they are practicing a form of blackmail where the alleged dangers to the planet are being exploited by ruthless regimes to extort gargantuan levels of ‘compensation’ from the West, with virtually no guarantees that they will actually observe any agreement about emissions reductions. 

Predictably, the proposition that the eco-apocalypse campaign has to be seen as a manifestation of deeper political maneuvering is derided by true believers as a piece of ‘conspiracy theory’ propagated by skeptics who are typically dismissed as intellectually debilitated and morally corrupt – e.g., as ‘flat-earthers’ who care nothing for their children and their children’s children, etc. However, such true believers are either disingenuous or ignorant, because the draft Copenhagen agreement makes clear that the underlying intention of this campaign has always been to manipulate Western nations into legally committing themselves to a highly bureaucratized system that will transfer power over political and economic activity to unaccountable United Nations agencies with the capacity to intervene in a vast range of domestic activities, transfer wealth on a massive and global scale, and impose huge punitive fines and other penalties on countries who resist its depredations and interference. This proposed treaty is a well-known document, discussed in the media, so those who deny that the climate change true believers are making a global power grab are either trying to hide their strategy or are simply ignorant dupes.   

Moreover, the objectives, history and implications of the climate campaign are also well known. As Booker shows, the unfounded idea of malign anthropogenic climate change emerged in the 1980s and was taken up by a coalition of political, scientific and ideological zealots and opportunists committed to transforming the world in their own image and at any cost. And these costs, as Booker observes, “would be astronomic, making them by far the most expensive set of proposals ever put forward by any group of politicians in history [involving] such a dramatic change in the way of life of billions of people that it would be hard to imagine how modern industrial civilization could survive in any recognizable form” (p.2).”   

And it is here that a connection can be made between the present crisis and a book that is widely recognized as one of the most important and influential works of the twentieth century, Friedrich von Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom, published 65 years ago as liberal democracies waged a war to the death against vile forms of totalitarianism that also sort to destroy Western civilization. Using Nazi Germany and the communist Soviet Union as examples, Hayek showed how comprehensive central planning by the state sets in train processes that lead inexorably not only to Kafkaesque bureaucratic tyrannies run by a New Class of ‘nomenklatura’ – vast armies of unproductive officials implementing masses of unworkable laws and regulations – but also to the radical diminution and even ultimate extinction of individual freedom in every area of life. 

Central to this process are the inherent limitations of central planning that arise from the nature of human knowledge and the transmission of information within an economy. While an open market economy overcomes these constraints through the price mechanism operating within a system of exchange between free individuals, no conceivable central planning agency can do this because it will always be unable to marshal or apply the information required to run an economy at any acceptable level of efficiency. Moreover, as a consequence of this inevitable failure, such an agency will be driven to impose ever more draconian controls and regulations as it seeks continuously to impose its will and justify its existence. This rule applies as much to an agency attempting to regulate carbon emissions as anything else.   

As the agency’s inherent tendency towards failure and the economic distortions it creates express themselves, it will demand and receive ever-increasing powers of intervention, regulation, and coercion, while at the same time descending into inefficiency and corruption on a massive scale. This will be the fate of the ETS and any similar scheme, especially those imposed and administered as part of a global system run by the UN and its agencies. As a result, the Australian economy will be dragged under by the massive burden of an entirely unproductive bureaucratic superstructure and regulatory regime run by a new nomenklatura of green zealots – all indoctrinated with the ideology of the eco-apocalypse and the moral bankruptcy of the West – and as totally convinced of their sacred mission as the masses of Soviet bureaucratic minions were, right up until their regime collapsed under its own weight. 

This is, of course, a nightmare scenario, but as the past century has demonstrated time and again, our nightmares are all too often exceeded by reality. Under the circumstances, a healthy skepticism about the entire climate change issue would seem the only sane position to hold. Equally, the most absurd position would be to accept co-responsibility – without even getting any of the short-term kudos – for the ETS and the panoply of policies that will send Australia down this new road to serfdom.  

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