Some socio-political scientists are starting to notice that today’s social engineering efforts are misleadingly described in terms of classical socialism or communism. For example, Michael Anton writes at American Mind, Socialism and the Great Reset. Excerpts in italics with my bolds and added images.
It has become increasingly common to hear those on what we may call the conventional Right claim that the main threat facing the historic American nation and the American way of life is “socialism.” These warnings have grown with the rise of the so-called “Great Reset,” ostensibly a broad effort to reduce inequality, cool the planet (i.e., “address climate change”), and cure various social ills, all by decreasing alleged “overconsumption.” In other words, its mission is to persuade people, at least in the developed West, to accept lower standards of living in order to create a more just and “equitable” world. Since the conservative mind, not unreasonably, associates lower standards of living with “socialism,” many conservatives naturally intuit that the Great Reset must somehow be “socialist.”
I believe this fear is at least partly misplaced and that the warnings it gives rise to, however well-meaning, are counterproductive because they deflect attention from the truer, greater threat: specifically, the cabal of bankers, techies, corporate executives, politicians, senior bureaucrats, academics, and pundits who coalesce around the World Economic Forum and seek to change, reduce, restrict, and homogenize the Western way of life—but only for ordinary people.
Their own way of life, along with the wealth and power that define it,
they seek to entrench, augment, deepen, and extend.
This is why a strict or literal definition of “socialism”—public or government ownership and control of the means of production in order to equalize incomes and wealth across the population—is inapt to our situation. The Great Reset quietly but unmistakably redefines “socialism” to allow and even promote wealth and power concentration in certain hands. In the decisive sense, then, the West’s present economic system—really, its overarching regime—is the opposite of socialistic.
It is unnecessary for our purposes here to recount Marx’s and Engels’s distinctions between the various forms of socialism. Suffice it to say that, in their account, all of those varieties constitute cynical or at any rate inconsequential concessions to the lower classes, intended to stave off the emergence of full communism and to preserve ruling class status and privileges. The “socialism” with which we are most familiar today—high and progressive taxation, a generous welfare state, nationalization of key services such as health care, an expansive list of state-guaranteed “rights,” combined with the retention of private property and private ownership of most means of production—Marx and Engels deride as “bourgeois socialism,” i.e., not only not the real thing but fundamentally closer to bourgeois capitalism than to true socialism, much less communism.
Yet there are ways in which this regime might still be tentatively described as “socialist,” at least as it operates for those not members in good standing of the Davoisie. If the Great Reset is allowed to proceed as planned, wealth for all but the global overclass will be equalized, or at least reduced for the middle and increased for the bottom. Many of the means used to accomplish this goal will be “socialistic,” broadly understood.
Neo-Socialist Class Warfare is Top-Down
James B. Meigs takes this further, showing how energy policies driven by carbon reduction mandates illustrate the process for imposing a two-tier society upon developed societies. The lengthy essay is worth reading, while I will provide here only excerpts expanding on the theme of this post. The City Journal article is The Green War on Clean Energy: Radical environmentalists fight against the very technologies that would cut carbon emissions. Excerpts in italics with my bolds and added images.
Ted Nordhaus, founder of the eco-modernist Breakthrough Institute, is skeptical of the “global climate-industrial complex” on display at COP26. “A climate movement less in thrall to fever dreams of apocalypse would focus more on balancing long-term emissions reductions with growth, development, and adaptation in the here and now,” he writes. The extremists of Extinction Rebellion and similar groups demand “system change,” by which they mean dismantling free markets, creating alternatives to existing democratic institutions, and deliberately reducing living standards through a process they call “degrowth.” The COP26 technocrats don’t advocate anything that radical, but they, too, envision a more centralized, less growth-oriented model for society. Under the COP26 paradigm, entire sectors of the economy—energy, transportation, manufacturing, housing—would undergo wrenching transformations.
According to this vision, markets are not adequate to manage the necessary transitions.
Instead, change must be driven through government regulation, supranational agreements between industry and NGOs, financial controls, and other top-down measures. Certain technologies—electric vehicles, say, or rooftop solar panels—must be heavily subsidized, while others—internal combustion engines, gas stoves—should be penalized or even banned. The use of fossil fuels should be curtailed by any means necessary, including pushing up prices by restricting drilling and pipeline construction. All policies must be geared to achieve “net-zero emissions” by 2050.
This is a staggeringly difficult goal, which would touch every aspect of modern life. Yet net-zero advocates too often reject or neglect the very policies most likely to help the world achieve it. As Nordhaus recently wrote in The Economist, the activist community “insists upon re-engineering the global economy without many of the technologies that most technical analyses conclude would be necessary, including nuclear energy, carbon capture and carbon removal.” In other words, green elites want to upend the lives of billions but show surprisingly little interest in whether their programs work. In some parts of the world, the climate lobby has already managed to enact policies that raise prices, hinder growth, and promote political instability—all while achieving only marginal reductions in emissions.
[See four-part series World of Hurt from Climate Policies]
The problem starts with the movement’s blanket opposition to fossil fuels. For example, most environmentalists viscerally oppose fracking and natural-gas pipelines. The Biden administration moved to curtail U.S. gas drilling within days of taking office (one reason U.S. gas prices have roughly tripled since Biden became president). But in fact, since natural gas emits nearly 50 percent less carbon dioxide than coal, it is one of our best tools to bring down emissions in the short term, while also benefiting the economy. Alex Trembath, deputy director of the Breakthrough Institute, writes: “The U.S. fracking boom of 2008 onward tempered inflation, created hundreds of thousands of jobs during the worst recession in a century, and, yes, reduced carbon emissions by displacing much dirtier coal-fired power.”
Eco-pragmatists like Trembath see natural gas as a “bridge fuel” that can ease the transition to lower-carbon energy sources. (Soon, carbon capture and storage [CCS] technology could make it feasible to harness the energy in gas while putting much less carbon into the atmosphere.) But most environmental activists argue that we must phase out natural gas as rapidly as possible, replacing it almost exclusively with wind and solar power. Wind and solar power can help reduce carbon emissions, as long as they are part of a mix of energy sources. But renewable-energy champions tend to gloss over the huge challenges of trying to power the grid primarily with such on-again, off-again energy sources.
Despite those obstacles, most green activists regard wind and solar power as something close to a climate panacea. So one would assume that environmental groups are lobbying hard to get these projects approved and built. Yet environmental activists often lead the way in opposing the construction of renewable-energy projects—especially when they’re slated to be built in their own backyards. In the U.S., environmental groups are currently fighting solar installations in Massachusetts, California, Nevada, Florida, and many other states. Wind-turbine farms face even more opposition: since 2015, more than 300 U.S. communities have rejected or restricted wind projects, according to a database maintained by energy author Robert Bryce.
The biggest roadblock that the green movement has thrown in front of cutting emissions is its long-standing opposition to nuclear energy.
Leading environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the League of Conservation Voters, have been fighting nuclear power since the 1970s. “When you are in the environmental movement, you are just automatically anti certain things,” Zion Lights told me. “And nuclear power is the biggest bogeyman.”
But what if nuclear research and plant construction had continued to advance at the pace seen in the 1970s? One Australian researcher concluded: “Had the early rates continued, nuclear power could now be around 10 percent of its current cost.” That cheap, clean power would have made the use of coal—and, in many cases, even natural gas—unnecessary for power generation. In turn, this hypothetical nuclear revolution would have eliminated roughly five years’ worth of global emissions from fossil fuels and prevented more than 9 million deaths caused by air pollution. Most green activists today would see such numbers as nothing short of a miracle. Yet it was environmentalists who led the campaign to halt the rollout of the cleanest, and greenest, of all power sources.
Despite hints of progress, the nuclear industry remains in a vise: on one side, nuclear plants face pressure from activists and politicians; on the other, they are financially squeezed by renewable energy, which receives comparatively massive subsidies. Not surprisingly, U.S. nuclear facilities are closing at a rate of roughly one per year, with several plants likely to shut down over the next five years. And groups, including the Union of Concerned Scientists, have begun lobbying against regulatory approval for the next generation of designs, including small modular reactors and other concepts. Despite ample evidence that these advanced reactors will be dramatically safer than today’s (already quite safe) nuclear plants, UCS opposes them—partly because their small size and low risk “could facilitate placement of new reactors in BIPOC [black, indigenous, people of color] communities.” The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently pleased these critics when it rejected an application from Oklo Power—one of the most promising nuclear startups—to build a test version of the company’s groundbreaking micro-reactor.
In New York’s Hudson Valley, the environmental nonprofit Riverkeeper has an impressive history of protecting the Hudson River habitat. But it also spearheaded the campaign to close Indian Point, the nuclear plant that provided 25 percent of the electricity in the New York City region. Advocates for closing the plant promised that renewable energy would easily replace the power lost. In addition to new wind and solar projects, they pointed to a planned underground transmission line that would carry renewable hydro power from Quebec to the metro region. Then-governor Andrew Cuomo promised that the closure would result in “no new carbon emissions.”
But when Indian Point shut down for good in April 2021, all the wind and solar facilities in New York State combined were producing less than a third of the power churned out by that single plant.
So, just as in other regions where nuclear plants have closed, grid operators turned to natural gas to fill the gap. Statewide grid-related CO2 emissions shot up by 15 percent. Analysts warned of potential blackouts. Electricity prices rose, too, jumping 50 percent for New York City residents. Then Riverkeeper executed a brazen maneuver: with Indian Point now closed, the organization began lobbying New York’s Public Service Commission against the proposed power line from Canada that it had previously supported. The group announced that it had “the courage to take a second hard look at this project.” Many clean-energy advocates were outraged. Jesse Jenkins, a respected energy analyst at Princeton, took to Twitter to say that he found it “incredibly frustrating to see environmental groups who allegedly see climate change as a ‘crisis’ regularly and actively opposing solutions.”
The list goes on. Time and again, climate visionaries propose sweeping transformations of our way of life in the name of reducing emissions. But then they fail to build—or even actively oppose—the infrastructure necessary to make that dream a reality.
Environmental radicals like the members of Extinction Rebellion might say that this is a good thing: our society is too rich, too energy-hungry; we must be taught a lesson in austerity. Even supposed moderates sometimes echo that message. Conservatives never forgot Obama energy secretary Steven Chu’s 2008 comment that “we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe.” Even as he tries to reassure Americans about today’s stratospheric gas prices, President Biden optimistically describes the price surge as part of the “incredible transition” away from fossil fuels.
Today’s economic and geopolitical crises may be an opportunity for climate activists to dial down the catastrophism and focus on policies that actually reduce carbon—without destroying our standard of living.
Footnote (just for fun)