Sunday, July 22, 2007

HOT AIR. Roger Scruton makes a case for conservatives as stewards of the environment based largely upon hatred of liberals, represented here by Mao, György Lukács, and other such like. As is typical in such arguments, Scruton uses "little platoon" environmental successes -- like the disposition of a dump in his small Virginia town! -- as an example of how the whole problem can be solved.

It is almost embarrassing to have to point this out, but America's large-scale successes against its large-scale pollution problems have been overwhelmingly won through the use of state power, as with the late-20th-century regulation of air quality in Los Angeles. When people started blowing black snot, LA didn't ask polluters to please think of the children -- county supervisors enpowered pollution control officials to create regulations suggested by scientific research. State officials got in on the act, and eventually so did the Feds. Car and gas companies got the message and began retooling to meet both regulations and regulatory threats. (So much for Scruton's claim that "Environmental movements on the Left seldom pause to consider the question of human motivation.") Neither urban California nor America became as a result unproductive Sovietized wastelands, but healthier places to live.

Scruton wants to portray the effects of industry on the environment as if they were theoretical issues, leading to such humorous sentences as "First, the damage done to our environment is connected in many people’s thinking, and to a great extent in reality, with the activities of business," and to his association of environmentalism with "the cult of the victim." Mises, Burke, and Hayek are mentioned; the current Administration's notorious politicizing of science is not.

The article is merely a pernicious fantasy dressed up with grad-school citations. I wonder if even Scruton thinks it serves any purpose other than filling a need for a "conservative" position on an important issue. They have to have one, I guess, and apparently all it needs to do is criticize what liberals have been doing, not matter how successful they have been.

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