Politics & Policy

Goodbye, Green New Deal

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D, N.Y.) and Senator Ed Markey (D, Mass.) at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., February 7, 2019 (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
After a couple of weeks of great economic sacrifice, it's already proving hard for Americans to take. No one will sign up for a lifetime of it.

What will happen next with the coronavirus epidemic is unknown, but it seems certain to claim one very high-profile victim: the so-called Green New Deal.

Good riddance.

The current crisis in the U.S. economy is, in miniature but concentrated form, precisely what the Left has in mind in response to climate change: shutting down large sectors of the domestic and global economies through official writ, social pressure, and indirect means, in response to a crisis with potentially devastating and wide-ranging consequences for human life and human flourishing.

What is under way right now in response to the epidemic is in substance much like the Green New Deal and lesser versions of the same climate-change agenda: massive new government spending, political control of critical industries, emergency protocols modeled on wartime practice, etc.

But the characters of the two crises are basically different.

Set aside, for the moment, any reservations you might have about the coronavirus-emergency regime, and set aside your views on climate change, too, whatever they may be. Instead, ask yourself this: If Americans are this resistant to paying a large economic price to enable measures meant to prevent a public-health catastrophe in the here and now — one that threatens the lives of people they know and love — then how much less likely are they to bear not weeks or months but decades of disruption and economic dislocation and a permanently diminished standard of living in order to prevent possibly severe consequences to people in Bangladesh or Indonesia 80 or 100 years from now?

For years, we’ve been hearing, “This is climate change” and “That is climate change,” every time there’s a flood or a storm. If that’s the fact, then climate change is, relatively speaking, manageable. There is no way Americans—or people around the world—are going to agree to endure anything like the current economic downturn in order to prevent problems of that nature.

Without failing to appreciate the severe immediate economic consequences being felt by Americans in this episode, asking retail and service-industry workers to forfeit their incomes for a few months until their establishments can reopen is a relatively manageable thing even if we are (as I believe we should be) very liberal in doing what we can to protect them financially in the meantime. Telling everybody who works in coal, oil, natural gas, petrochemicals, plastics, and refineries — and a great many people who work in automobiles, aviation, shipping, utilities, construction, agriculture, manufacturing, food processing, utilities, and dozens of other fields — that their companies and their jobs are going away forever is a much larger thing. Telling everybody who does business with those people that they’ll have to consult Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for solvents and industrial polymers — and, you know, lights — would send waves of chaos rippling around the world hard and so fast that you’d need Tom Araya to properly give voice to them.

“Oh, but we’ll find them jobs in the new green economy!” comes the response. “It’ll be a net positive!” As though petroleum engineers were lumps of labor that could be reshaped at will by a committee of lawyers in Washington, if only we gave them the power. Nobody is buying that. Not many people are that stupid.

As I wrote at the beginning of this outbreak, Americans are hard to quarantine. We may yet end up paying a very heavy price for that — in some circumstances, a non-compliance rate of 20 percent (i.e., if every fifth person is a knucklehead) will have effects quite similar to a non-compliance rate of 95 percent. A 51 percent majority works in a city-council election, but an effective social-distancing regimen requires much more.

Those spring-break clowns down in Florida and the “coronavirus party” doofuses in Kentucky are We the People, too, and if they are not willing to spend a couple of weeks watching Netflix to save grandma’s life — or their own lives — then do you really think they’re going to take an economic bullet over the prospect of losing 3 percent of world economic output a century from now to global-warming-mitigation costs?

What we are seeing right now is what it looks like when Washington tries to steer the economy. There are times when that is necessary, and this is one of those times. But emergencies do not last forever, and emergency measures should be, by nature, temporary. The attraction of the climate-change crusade is that it creates a permanent state of emergency. The Left wants very much to convince Americans that climate change presents an emergency of the same kind requiring the same “moral equivalent of war” worldwide mobilization.

One suspects that the people who are missing their paychecks right now, and the ones who worry that they may be missing them soon, are going to need some convincing. The adverse effects of climate change are likely to be significant and may prove severe — as noted, many of our progressive friends insist that they already are. But we have a new point of comparison, and those challenges feel relatively manageable if the alternative is an extended version of the coronavirus shutdown — and no amount of marketing will change the fact that that is precisely what is being advocated.

A couple of months of this is going to be very hard to take. Nobody is signing up for a lifetime of it.

Most Popular

U.S.

This Is Why We Need Guns

‘Only the cops need guns” simply could not live forever alongside, “The cops are racist and will kill you.” And so, at long last, the two circles of the Venn Diagram have filed for an amicable divorce. In the end, the differences proved irreconcilable. At least, they proved irreconcilable without ... Read More
U.S.

This Is Why We Need Guns

‘Only the cops need guns” simply could not live forever alongside, “The cops are racist and will kill you.” And so, at long last, the two circles of the Venn Diagram have filed for an amicable divorce. In the end, the differences proved irreconcilable. At least, they proved irreconcilable without ... Read More
U.S.

The Lockdowns Are Now a Scandal

A boy in my neighborhood committed suicide a few weeks ago. It’s possible that the teen’s preexisting problems were exacerbated by the seclusion, tediousness, and helplessness of a national lockdown. Maybe not. I didn’t really know him. I do know that locals were forced to pay respects by sitting parked ... Read More
U.S.

The Lockdowns Are Now a Scandal

A boy in my neighborhood committed suicide a few weeks ago. It’s possible that the teen’s preexisting problems were exacerbated by the seclusion, tediousness, and helplessness of a national lockdown. Maybe not. I didn’t really know him. I do know that locals were forced to pay respects by sitting parked ... Read More
Elections

Good Riddance, Valerie Plame

In a week full of bad news, the defeat of Valerie Plame in a New Mexico Democratic congressional primary is easily overlooked. Had Plame won, she would have had a good chance of winning the seat, as the 3rd District is pretty heavily Democratic-leaning, scoring a D+8 in the Cook Partisan Voting Index. In ... Read More
Elections

Good Riddance, Valerie Plame

In a week full of bad news, the defeat of Valerie Plame in a New Mexico Democratic congressional primary is easily overlooked. Had Plame won, she would have had a good chance of winning the seat, as the 3rd District is pretty heavily Democratic-leaning, scoring a D+8 in the Cook Partisan Voting Index. In ... Read More
Science & Tech

About That Scary Hydroxychloroquine Study

Remember that scary hydroxychloroquine study in The Lancet and New England Journal of Medicine that everyone in the media was writing about a few weeks ago? It turns out that the underlying data were likely fake: A Guardian investigation can reveal the US-based company Surgisphere, whose handful of employees ... Read More
Science & Tech

About That Scary Hydroxychloroquine Study

Remember that scary hydroxychloroquine study in The Lancet and New England Journal of Medicine that everyone in the media was writing about a few weeks ago? It turns out that the underlying data were likely fake: A Guardian investigation can reveal the US-based company Surgisphere, whose handful of employees ... Read More
World

Welcome Home, Hong Kong

London doesn’t have the power to push the corrupt little junta in Beijing into being halfway decent to the people of Hong Kong, but Boris Johnson has a bold solution for almost half of those people: Come to the United Kingdom. Hong Kong is a former British territory, and about 3 million of its 7.5 million ... Read More
World

Welcome Home, Hong Kong

London doesn’t have the power to push the corrupt little junta in Beijing into being halfway decent to the people of Hong Kong, but Boris Johnson has a bold solution for almost half of those people: Come to the United Kingdom. Hong Kong is a former British territory, and about 3 million of its 7.5 million ... Read More