On Cambridge University, post-modernism, climate change, Oppenheimer’s Razor, and the Re-Enlightenment
By Neil Lock
In the early 1970s, I studied mathematics at Trinity College, Cambridge. I enjoyed it at the time, but was left with a feeling that something wasn’t quite right. Although I scraped a First, and was offered a place on Part III of the Tripos, I decided to go out into the real world instead. Never did I make a better life decision.
Over the intervening decades, I have come more and more to question the value of universities. I would have expected the remit of a university to be (1) to seek, (2) to develop, and (3) to pass on, ideas and practices to improve the human condition, both today and in the future. There should be no dishonesties in their processes, no imposed orthodoxies, and no restrictions on the freedom to seek, or to tell, the truth. Yet, universities – not just at Cambridge, but world-wide – seem to have become bastions of political correctness. Anyone in the faculty, who doesn’t toe the party line and parrot the narrative of the moment, will find difficulties in funding or in getting papers published, or may even be in danger of dismissal. Peter Ridd in Australia and Susan Crockford in Canada are topical examples.
Today, Cambridge University seeks assiduously to cultivate its alumni; for the purpose of donations, no doubt. And they do this through a glossy called CAM (Cambridge Alumni Magazine), which they send out three times yearly. To a mailing list which includes me.
I confess that, for me, CAM has previous. In 2016  it published what I can only describe as a full-page ad for nanny-statism. This article talked of: “increasing support for interventions – often by governments – to forcibly change environments to make easier the healthier behaviours that many of us prefer.” And of “how to increase public demand for such interventions.” Yet the author, Professor Theresa Marteau, stands high in the favour of the UK’s current ruling class. Even having, in 2017, been made a Dame Commander of the British Empire.
So, to the latest CAM: . There are some good articles in this issue. But it also shows a more sinister side of Cambridge thought today; one which, indeed, makes Professor Marteau’s nanny-statism look a bit tame.
Technology and human rights
The article “Human Rights in a Digital Age” looks at how large companies like Facebook and Google threaten human rights by distilling, and selling on, the personal data they collect.
What I found remarkable here was the tone of the quotes from some of those interviewed. The recurring mention of surveillance capitalism suggests a desire to besmirch capitalism in general. Two of them talk, in a disapproving way, of a neoliberal idea of individual human rights. Another, a former colleague of Professor Marteau, is negative about the use of common sense in evaluating politics, describing it as “entrenched beliefs and familiar tropes.” Another seeks “collective protections… now,” wants to “affirm the collective good in our systems,” and talks appreciatively of a “Just Transition” (whatever that means) to zero carbon (which, I assume, is code for “zero nett carbon dioxide emissions.”)
Taking these together with Professor Marteau’s article, I detect, among some Cambridge academics at least, a top-down, collectivist mentality. This mentality favours big government, is hostile to business, industry and the free market, and disdains individual human beings and our rights and freedoms. But it isn’t, as some on the political right seem to think, a resurrection of Marxism. To me, it looks more like a cross-breed of Lysenkoism and fascism.
The post-modern connection?
At this point, I must tip my hat to writer Lucy Jolin for an aha moment. Early in her essay “How to be Modern,” she makes an approving reference to post-modernism. Cambridge University, indeed, sees enough value in post-modernism to have lent the kudos of its name to two Cambridge Introductions and a Cambridge Companion on the subject. So, what is this way of thinking, that seems to have taken over so much of academic Western philosophy and literature in the last few decades? To show that the hymn sheet I’m singing from isn’t all of my own composition, I refer you to Britannica’s very brief introduction to post-modernism: .
For those who didn’t take the link, I’ll paraphrase. Post-modernism denies the existence of objective reality and objective truth. Instead, it claims that these things can only be relative to a culture. It denies any basis on which to build up knowledge, and rejects as totalitarian any attempts to systematize knowledge. It denies that there are any objective moral values. It denies that reason and logic, science and technology, business and industry are tools to better the human condition. Instead, it paints them as instruments of oppression and destruction. And it denies that there is such a thing as human nature, independent of culture. Instead, it sees individuals as formed and moulded by the society they happen to live in.
Amazing, isn’t it? This is a mind-set that opposes, in almost every respect, the Enlightenment values which underpin our Western civilization. Such as: Reason. Science. Freedom of thought and rational enquiry. Religious and doctrinal tolerance. The idea that there is a moral core common to all humanity. Natural rights, and recognition of the worth and dignity of the individual. The rule of law and justice. Government for the benefit of the governed; that is, for the benefit of all the governed, real criminals excepted. A positive view of human progress, and a rational optimism for the future. And yet, Cambridge University, no less, sees much value in this anti-Enlightenment credo!
In its more extreme manifestations, and notably among those of the deep green persuasion, this dogma goes further yet, towards anti-humanism. It denies that humans are special, and capable of far more than mere animals. And it denies that the Earth is our planet, and that its resources are there for us to use wisely in order to build the best civilizations we can. So, this mind-set denies us the right to make our planet into what it should be: a comfortable home and a peaceful, beautiful garden, worthy of civilized humanity.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that all, or even a majority of, Cambridge academics have let themselves be taken over by this post-modernist and anti-human creed. Particularly since, in academic circles, post-modernism seems now to be a was more than an is. But the damage has been done. I’m in no doubt that the collectivist mind-set, which I identified from the earlier CAM articles, has at its core ideas close to post-modernism.
And what a crazy bunch of ideas they are! No basis for knowledge? That means no reason at all to have universities, or indeed any institutions of learning. Reality is only relative to a culture? So, people from different cultures have no basis on which to agree on anything; a recipe for a Hobbesian war of all against all. Science, technology, business and industry are bad? That means prosperity is bad, and poverty desirable. Except for the élites, of course. Earth isn’t our planet? If you believe that, it surely isn’t your planet.
No objective truth? That means it’s OK to lie, deceive, mislead or make false accusations. Or to ignore or pooh-pooh facts that don’t support your narratives. No objective moral values? That means anything goes, as long as you can get away with it. Arrogance, selfishness, callousness, recklessness, dishonesty and hypocrisy become normal, and personal responsibility goes out of the window. In short, psychopathic behaviour becomes OK. Individuals are formed by the societies they live in? That leads to demands for more and more central power, to force everyone into the politically correct mould du jour.
Indeed, identity politics, a spin-off from post-modernism, goes further yet. It promotes the idea that any group of people – for example, feminists or Extinction Rebellion protesters – if they can get enough political clout, have a right to force others to kow-tow to their demands.
But this anti-Enlightenment and anti-human syndrome has spread far beyond academe. The political class, including all the mainstream UK political parties, seem to have swallowed the extremist, humanity-hating agenda whole. Virtually all the media, many celebrities, those that think they’re trendy, and a sizeable slice of the rich and the corporate élites have bought it too. And today, its foot-soldiers are desperately trying to spread it among the general population, with lies, hype and ever-repeated screams of “It’s worse than we thought!” Causing serious psychological damage to many young people, whose bullshit meters are not yet well enough developed to resist the assault.
To the final CAM article; on the university’s program to “de-carbonize” itself, and to soften people up for the de-carbonization of Western economies, which the current political élites want to force on us all. The title, “Absolute Zero,” echoes a joint report published last November by five UK universities, using the collective moniker “UK FIRES.” Its director is a professor in the Engineering department at Cambridge. For a summary, see .
I confess that, if I hadn’t been given the link by a reputable source, I would have thought this was merely a sick joke. But sadly, it’s real. And, after just a single pass through the diagram summarizing the proposals, I could see that the whole idea is a nightmare; dystopian for us, and Utopian for the élites, at the same time. The proposals read like the edicts of a crazed, ultra-conservative dictator; and they make Soviet five-year plans look like a cake-walk.
No new petrol- or diesel-engine cars from right now? That would kill the automotive industry, quickly. Moreover, how would people in rural and suburban areas be expected to get around? (If you answer “buses,” how many new buses would be needed?) And how would people, who need to carry loads from place to place, do so?
All UK airports closed, and all freight shipping stopped by 2049? What would happen to the people, like seamen, airline workers and airport workers, who would be forced out of their jobs? And to those in affected industries, like travel and tourism? What would happen to UK trade with the USA? India? China? South America? What would happen to time-critical trade, like fresh fruit from Spain or Morocco? And – just to pick one more from many things that obviously haven’t been thought through – if there is no new home construction but the population is still increasing, where will the new people live?
Oh, and more. Why no mention of nuclear energy? Where’s the cost/benefit analysis, with all the uncertainties? How do we know it’s feasible within the timescale? Where would the money for all this come from? And beyond that, my common sense asks: Where’s the proof that any of this is necessary?
Back to the CAM article. I gagged when I read: “It is clear that we are in a state of climate emergency.” Just because politicians like Michael Gove or Theresa May say there’s an emergency, doesn’t make it true. Indeed, my own take is that anything any politician says should be considered dishonest, or even a lie, until proven otherwise. And then there’s the question… why now? What, objectively, happened in the year 2019, that caused a sudden shift to emergency? Apart from a storm of scares and propaganda, of course.
My state of health did not improve when I read: “We need to transform our whole society over the next couple of decades. Because the science is very clear. Time is running out.” “How do we spark individual behaviour change?” And achieve the “transition to a zero-carbon future… in a way that works for all sectors of society?” Further: “How do we put in place policies that will accelerate transition to a green future?”
That checks a lot of the post-modernist boxes, doesn’t it? The deceit of claiming there’s an emergency, without showing any hard evidence of one. The lie that the science is clear, when it’s about as clear as a hippo in a mud-bath. The arrogance of seeking to “transform” whole societies, without reference to those affected. And of seeking to use government force to facilitate the process. The recklessness of doing such a “transformation” all at once, and in a ridiculously short timescale. The collectivism of lumping us together into “sectors of society.” The clear sense of hostility to the ordinary human being, and the palpable desire to control us and to hurt us.
Moreover, nothing in this article provides or links to any hard, objective evidence that human emissions of carbon dioxide are responsible for any of the claimed effects of climate change. Nor, indeed, that those effects are in any way terrifying. Why not? Why have today’s Cambridge academics seemingly rejected the sage advice of Bertrand Russell, himself a Cambridge man? “When you are studying any matter or considering any philosophy, ask yourself only what are the facts and what is the truth that the facts bear out. Never let yourself be diverted either by what you wish to believe or by what you think would have beneficent social effects if it were believed, but look only, and solely, at what are the facts.”
Where is the proof of guilt?
Now, these proposals would without doubt cause a lot of harm to a lot of people. So, where’s the justification for them? What have we done, to deserve such treatment? Why should any of us accept any restrictions or inconveniences, without first seeing hard, conclusive evidence of what it is that we are supposed to have done wrong, and why it was wrong?
In a country like the UK, supposedly based on the rule of law, a charge such as causing catastrophic global climate change ought to be tried under due process of law. Ought it not? With all sides telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. And in due process of law, human rights come into play. If accused of a murder, for example, each of us would have rights to assure us fair treatment. We must be presumed innocent until proven guilty. That is, it is up to the accusers to substantiate their case beyond reasonable doubt. We must also have the right to fair judgement by an independent and impartial tribunal. Each of us must have the right to speak up in our own defence, and to call whatever witnesses, including experts, we find necessary for our defence. And objective records of the trial should be accessible to all who wish to scrutinize them.
Moreover, if those accused of murder should have all these rights (and they should), how much stronger should the safeguards be, when the future of our entire civilization is at stake? Should not the charge be debated and assessed, objectively and rationally, in open and honest court, free from all political, emotional or media bias? Should not those involved in the assessment, on all sides, be required to give their evidence under oath, on penalty of perjury or worse if they lie or mislead? Should not the charge itself, and the conduct of those promoting it, first undergo a thorough audit by independent, honest, unbiased parties? And if the case is not proven beyond reasonable doubt, or if there has been any misconduct at all by the accusers in the case, should the charge not be dismissed with prejudice?
The first right of anyone accused, though, must be to a clear statement of the allegations. As far as I can make out, the charge sheet in this case reads: CO2 emissions by humans are causing catastrophic change in the climate on a global scale. And therefore, governments must take action – immediate action – to limit, or even to eliminate, these emissions.
And yet, I for one see no hard, objective, incontrovertible evidence being put forward that we humans are in any way guilty on this charge. Where is the evidence? Not theories, not computer models, not what-ifs, not guesstimates with huge error bounds and uncertainties. Just evidence: facts, and rational deductions from them, which can be independently verified.
Where, for example, are the millions of climate refugees? The thousands of dead polar bears, and the hundreds of thousands of square kilometres of dead coral reefs, that would have been still living without human-caused global warming? Where is the proof, beyond reasonable doubt, that weather is getting worse on a global scale, and that the cause is human emissions of CO2? And where is the proof, beyond reasonable doubt, that global sea level rise is accelerating abnormally, and for that same reason?
Is there a case to answer at all?
When I look at the supposed case against us, I wonder whether there’s actually any substantive allegation to counter at all. To put their case, the accusers would need to elucidate, using only hard evidence and logical deductions, answers to four questions. (1) Is it warming on a global scale, and if so, by how much? (2) If there is significant global warming, how much of it is caused by human emissions of CO2? (3) If human CO2 is causing significant warming, what would be the likely consequences for human civilization? (4) If there are significant likely negative consequences to civilization of human caused warming, what are the costs and benefits (to all the parties involved) of (a) reacting to problems only as they arise, or (b) putting in place preventive schemes to abate some of the problems?
I’m not going to argue the science in detail here, as that might turn off many of my potential audience. So, what I’ll try to do is be Socratic; that is, ask questions. Here are some of the questions, which any prosecutor seeking to prove the case, and any independent auditor seeking to assess it, would need to address.
To the first question: is it warming? Yes – it’s been warming since the 17th century. But how much is it warming? Which raises questions like: how accurate and reliable are the various sets of temperature data? How global are they? How far back do they reliably go? How affected are they by local influences, like urban heat islands? Is there hard evidence of anything unusual, above and beyond past variability, in recent decades? Where adjustments or in-filling have been necessary to raw data, how well are they justified and documented? Are their effects neutral with regard to trends, as you would expect if they were being done honestly? And, what are the uncertainties? Hint: they’re bigger than you probably think.
As to the second question, how much of this warming is caused by human CO2? This raises questions like: What caused earlier warming periods, like the Minoan, Roman and mediaeval warm periods? What caused the warming out of the Little Ice Age? What factors, like solar activity, might affect warming today, and how have they been accounted for? How much human-emitted CO2 stays in the atmosphere, and for how long? How much warming would be expected in theory from these levels of human CO2? How sure are we that the theory is quantitatively accurate? What happens to the warming afterwards, for example what are the knock-on effects of changes in cloud cover? Have the climate models got the underlying physics correct? And – as always – what are the uncertainties? Hint: they’re a lot bigger than alarmists let on.
The third question – what would be the consequences of warming for our civilization – is, I think, the crucial weak link in the accusation. For historically, human civilization has tended to flourish during warmer periods. So, the assertion that the effects of two, or even 5 or 10, degrees Celsius of global warming will be negative needs serious justification. Indeed, the only credible threat I can see to our civilization from any such warming is sea level rise. And sea level data is… Accurate? Reliable? Global? Properly adjusted for local effects like rising and falling coastlines? Consistent between tide gauges and satellite measurements? Showing anything unusual in recent decades, when considered objectively and as a whole? Moreover, how much, of the sea level rise there has been, has been caused by human emissions of CO2?
Then, there are the economic models, that alarmists have used to loudly proclaim that It’s Worse than We Thought. I don’t claim skills in that area, but I’d expect that some probing by independent experts into the economic calculations, and the assumptions on which they are built, might bear fruit. But in any case, we’re now into such a tower of economic models on assumptions on carbon cycle models on emissions models on climate models on dubious data, that the uncertainties will have grown to monstrous proportions.
As to the fourth question: As any mathematician or businessman knows, if you subtract one uncertain number from another uncertain number, particularly if the two are close together, the uncertainty is likely to become so large that no sane cost-benefit decision can be made. If I remember right, the UK’s 2008 climate change bill had a factor of 7 uncertainty in the estimated costs, and a factor of 12 in the “benefits.” Anyone offering such figures ought to have been told to go away, and not to come back until they had some numbers fit for purpose.
The conduct of the accusers
Next, I’ll ask: How well have those on the accusers’ side behaved? How well has the conduct of the whole process, scientific and political, measured up to the reasonable expectations of those who are being subjected to its consequences? My one-word answer is: atrociously.
What about the scientists? We’ve seen doctoring of data, to make it look more alarming. Hockey stick, anyone? We’ve seen data, that doesn’t support the alarmist narrative, airbrushed out. We’ve seen refusal to release data. We’ve seen suggestions that data should be deleted to forestall Freedom of Information requests. We’ve seen suppression of dissenting scientific views, and even attempts to get journal editors sacked.
Now science, if it is truly to be science, must be conducted in an entirely honest way. If it isn’t honest, it isn’t science. So, if someone took taxpayer money to do science, and what they did using that money was dishonest, is that not fraud against taxpayers?
What about the politicians? We’ve seen politicians making costly green commitments on behalf of the people they are supposed to represent, without any attempt at rigorous justification. We’ve seen political interference in the science, as with the 1995/6 IPCC report. We’ve seen goalposts moved arbitrarily, like lowering some supposed temperature limit from 2 to 1.5 degrees C above historical levels. We’ve seen government whitewashing misconduct by scientists and others, as in the Climategate inquiries.
As to the media, the BBC  has likened allowing climate change realists to speak to “letting someone deny last week’s football scores.” Even though their own guidelines  say: “We are committed to reflecting a wide range of subject matter and perspectives… so that no significant strand of thought is under-represented or omitted.” In the murder trial analogy, this amounts to denying us the right to speak up in our own defence, and to have our witnesses – including experts – heard at all.
The precautionary principle
But for me, the most egregious act of bad faith by the accusers is their perversion, indeed inversion, of the precautionary principle. Which, at its root, is “Look before you leap,” or even “First, do no harm.” The 2002 UK government report “The Precautionary Principle: Policy and Application” is here: . Here are a few quotes:
- The purpose of the precautionary principle is to create an impetus to take a decision notwithstanding scientific uncertainty about the nature and extent of the risk.
- Although there is no universally accepted definition, the Government is committed to using the precautionary principle, which is included in the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development.
- Applying the precautionary principle is essentially a matter of making assumptions about consequences and likelihoods to establish credible scenarios…
- ‘Absence of evidence of risk’ should never be confused with, or taken as, ‘evidence of absence of risk.’
- …invocation and application of the precautionary principle carries a general presumption that the burden of proof shifts away from the regulator having to demonstrate potential for harm towards the hazard creator having to demonstrate an acceptable level of safety.
Do you see what they did there? Not only have they abandoned all pretence of presumption of innocence; but they have also inverted the burden of proof. They demand that we, the accused, must show that everything we’re doing is safe. They require us to prove a negative, that we’re not causing a problem. Which, in general, is impossible. And even if we’re not actually causing any risk at all, they can use the ‘absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence’ trick to find us guilty anyway! In a murder trial, such bad faith ought to lead to immediate dismissal of the case, and prosecution for perverting the course of justice. How much worse, then, is conduct of this kind when our whole human civilization is on the line?
Would a zero-carbon economy be sustainable?
Oh, and there’s more. In this case, it isn’t anything the accusers have done. Rather, it’s something they ought to have done, but haven’t.
From the start, one of the major green buzz-words has been “sustainability.” Now, my dictionary defines sustainable as “capable of being sustained,” or, otherwise said, able to endure into the future. And sustainable development, according to the UN: “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Supposedly, the rationale for all the fuss about global warming is that the alarmists think the current world economic system isn’t sustainable.
So, I ask: Would the zero-carbon future, which the politicians, academics and activists think is so important and urgent, actually be sustainable? Would it meet the needs of the present? Would it be able to endure into the future? Or would it, if put into practice, fail; for example, leading to widespread starvation, or people freezing to death? More generally, should not any contemplated political action, on the kind of scale the zero-carbonistas (as I dub them) seek, first be tried out on a smaller scale, to check that it wouldn’t have any negative effects? And would not failure to prototype the effects of such a proposed action be an egregious violation of the true precautionary principle, “Look before you leap?”
The solution is obvious. Isn’t it? Set up a zone, in which those committed to the zero-carbon project can indulge their fantasy without harming anyone else. Let all those, that have promoted or supported the project, go live in that area. Starry-eyed fanatics, that actually think it might work. Academics, that have lived off taxpayers while seeking to drum up support for an agenda that harms us. Corrupt bureaucrats and “scientists,” that have done the agenda’s dirty work. Empty-headed celebrities, that like to virtue-signal their green credentials. Cynical company bosses, that profit and have profited from the agenda. Activists, that hate human civilization and prosperity, and have a yen to destroy them. Media figures, that have trumpeted and hyped the agenda. Politicians that should have done their duty to the people they are supposed to serve, by strongly opposing the agenda; but failed to do so.
We might think, perhaps, of siting this zone in Cambridge. But Cambridge is too valuable as a tourist draw. Better, I think, to find a suitably sized parcel of fen not far away. I’m sure Trinity College will have acreage to let! Then, let the zero-carbonistas all go there to build their very own Shangri-La. As to those that have promoted or supported the agenda, but refuse to go, we’ll call them out as the hypocrites they are, and no human being will ever take any of them seriously again.
The purpose of the exercise, of course, is to find if a zero-carbon economy is sustainable, or not. To that end, we’ll require that the zone doesn’t emit any more CO2 than comes in. And though we’ll allow them to trade with people outside the bounds of their zone, we’ll require the zone as a whole to be economically self-sufficient. They have to show that a zero-carbon economy can survive and prosper without subsidies, grants, or gifts of money or goods from outside – including from government. (Especially from government!)
All this having been set up, we’ll leave them there for – say – fifty years. By then, the planet itself will probably have shown us that their accusations about human CO2 emissions causing catastrophe were pure crapola. Either that, or their sustainability experiment will have ended in failure; a failure which would both prove them wrong and serve them right, and which all human beings worth the name would greet with cries of “good riddance.”
The war we’re in
Now, let’s face it; we’re in a war. A war of a kind that, in England, hasn’t happened since the 17th century. Just as Charles I and James II sought to impose on the people the autocratic “divine right of kings,” so today an establishment cadre of anti-human politicians, bureaucrats, activists, academics, corporate bosses and other vested interests want to use the “climate change” scare to take dictatorial control over all of us. If you doubt that, look at this document from 2009: . That one ticks all the post-modernist and anti-human boxes, too. And the organization that produced it, the “UK Energy Research Centre,” is still a major academic player in the “war on carbon.”
How do we defend ourselves against these enemies of humanity? We’ve tried arguing the science. That doesn’t work, because our enemies don’t care about either science or truth. Those, who think it worthwhile, might try forming an overtly climate realist political party, like the Forum voor Democratie in Holland. Though there are practical difficulties, like making sure such a party doesn’t degenerate into far-right nationalism or social conservatism. Civil disobedience is a third possibility. But that can only be a last resort.
No: for me, there is only one way forward. That is, to change hearts and minds. We need to create some climate change, for the better! To do this, I think we must seek to address three main audiences. First, the sizeable portion of the general population who, as polls show, aren’t convinced by the alarmist rhetoric, and aren’t willing to make sacrifices for a cause they don’t believe in. Second, academics at Cambridge and elsewhere, who are concerned that what their activist colleagues are doing is likely to alienate the public, and who want to avoid themselves being brought into disrepute as a result. Third, and probably most important in the short run, those few who have some degree of political influence, but are either new to politics, or have managed to remain uncorrupted by the system. And who are, therefore, willing to look at, and act on, the facts instead of toeing the establishment line.
So, how do we create climate change, for the better, in hearts and minds? The first step, at any rate, is simple. It is to know who, and what, our enemies are.
Here’s a tool I use to separate the “sheep” – friends and neutrals – from the “goats” – enemies and likely enemies. I call it Oppenheimer’s Razor, after Franz Oppenheimer, the German Jewish sociologist who lived from 1864 to 1943. Here are some quotes from his master-work, The State, first published (in German) in 1908; English edition, 1922 .
- The State may be defined as an organisation of one class dominating over the other classes.
- There are two fundamentally opposed means whereby man, requiring sustenance, is impelled to obtain the necessary means for satisfying his desires. These are work and robbery, one’s own labor and the forcible appropriation of the labor of others.
- I propose in the following discussion to call one’s own labor and the equivalent exchange of one’s own labor for the labor of others, the “economic means” for the satisfaction of needs, while the unrequited appropriation of the labor of others will be called the “political means.”
- The industrial city is directly opposed to the state. As the state is the developed political means, so the industrial city is the developed economic means.
The blade of the razor is easily visible. To mis-quote George Orwell: Economic means good, political means bad. Even a beginning student of moral philosophy should be able to see, that those who strive always to use the economic means are civilized human beings; whereas those, that use the political means for their own profit, are crooks and villains. And that description applies to all those that take taxpayer money, and use it otherwise than for the benefit of those taxpayers. Such a student should also be able to see, that societies based on the political means rather than the economic means cannot be sustainable in the long term.
But, with the hindsight of more than a century, we can see that Oppenheimer’s optimism, in foreseeing swift victory of the economic means over the political, was premature. For, even in republics and democracies, the state is very much still there. In fact, its size, its power and its overreach have expanded hugely, to the detriment of all of us. And the users of the political means today do far more, and far worse, things to us than merely feathering their own nests. They have agendas and ideologies, that they want to force on all of us, whether we like them or not. And to those ends, they promote, make, support and enforce bad laws.
Bad laws, as Edmund Burke told us 250 years ago this year, are the worst sort of tyranny. You can see the truth of this, by looking at the atrocities committed by fascist and communist governments in the 20th century. But those that promote the zero-carbon agenda today seek to go further than Hitler or Stalin did. They aim at no less than the liquidation of Western industrial civilization, and of everything we human beings have, so laboriously, done to build it up over the last two centuries and more. Contrary to greens’ stated objectives of conserving species habitats, they aim to destroy our habitat, and our rights and freedoms as civilized human beings.
What is to be done?
Just as they were for him, these words of Lenin – no less! – are for us a key question. As I said earlier, arguing the science won’t work. Though I do think it’s valuable to have a repository of the best scientific arguments against the green agenda in general, and the zero-carbon agenda in particular. But arguing the wider case, including the economic and moral aspects, I think may well be more productive. For most people don’t like being ripped off. Nor do they enjoy being on the wrong end of injustice.
There has already been for many years a rising tide of discontent, in the UK at least, against the political class and their cronies. Shown, for example, by the Brexit vote, and people’s reactions to the subsequent fiasco. I’ve no reason to believe this tide doesn’t exist also in the USA and other places too. So, what will happen, as more and more people become aware of the lies and misconduct by the promoters of the green agenda? Of their arrogance, callousness, recklessness and hypocrisy? Of their failure to observe due process, and their trashing of our rights such as presumption of innocence? I expect that people will come more and more to feel contempt, not just for specific politicians and their hangers-on, but for politics as a whole, as it’s practiced today; and for all those that practice it.
Polls tell us that most people really don’t bother much, if at all, about the climate change issue. But as the restrictions on our lives, made in the name of combating climate change, become tighter and more and more onerous, I think there will come a tipping point. At which, many people will come to see the green activists, and those that have promoted and supported them, as the criminals they are.
Ask yourselves: Is it not our right to defend our economy, and the business and industry which has given us so much, against those that want to trash it? And is it not the duty of every human being worth the name, to do what we can to Save Our Civilization?
Should we not respond to our enemies’ “Absolute Zero” with our own Absolute Zero? A studied and contemptuous rejection of political arrogance, selfishness, callousness, recklessness, dishonesty and hypocrisy? And of all those, that use and have used them? Moreover, do not those that have sought to swing a wrecking ball through our human civilization deserve in return to be expelled from our civilization, and denied all its benefits?
But to win a war like this, we’ll need something more. We need positives that people can hang on to, and say “yes, I’m with that.” And we have one right there, in our past: The Enlightenment! Is it not time to get the ideas and values that fuelled that revolutionary period in our history, on both sides of the pond, out of the cupboard, dust them off, and polish them up? Is it not time to spark a Re-Enlightenment? Is it not time to re-introduce these ideas into the common parlance of ordinary people? As I listed them earlier: Reason. Science. Freedom of thought and rational enquiry. Religious and doctrinal tolerance. The idea that there is a moral core common to all humanity. Natural rights, and recognition of the worth and dignity of the individual. The rule of law and justice. Government for the benefit of the governed; that is, for the benefit of all the governed, real criminals excepted. A positive view of human progress, and a rational optimism for the future.
We need to re-activate some deeper ideas, too. That we human beings are special. That the Earth is our planet. And that it is our nature to build the best civilizations – plural – we possibly can. For in order to flourish, human beings need an environment of diversity; in which every individual has free choice among many options. That is why good people must utterly oppose any idea of a world government, and reject all attempts towards creating such a thing, like the United Nations and the European Union.
We also need a more concrete and down-to-earth vision for the future, which ordinary people can easily buy into. That future, I think, must be one in which Franz Oppenheimer’s economic means will have superseded, and entirely replaced, the political means as the defining way in which we human beings do things. The future, I foresee, will be one of trade-trade, not raid-raid. Peace, justice and personal responsibility; not wars, bad laws and “sovereign immunity.”
Is it not through our economic activities, that we human beings take control of our environment, and so fulfil our nature? And – monkeys grooming each other notwithstanding – are not business and trade the characteristics which separate us from mere animals? No other species, to my knowledge, has developed a system which allows diverse individuals each to develop their own skills, do what they can for others, and reap in return the rewards they have earned. So, let’s go at it!
Let’s Change the Climate!
Our enemies are right in one thing. Substantial transformations are necessary, to take us human beings and our civilization beyond the failed political system under which we all suffer today. But in a totally opposite direction from what our enemies seek, of course.
The essence of the change I am looking for is something like the humanism of the Renaissance. Which, at the same time, looked back to ancient Greece and Rome, and forward to new developments, spurred on by the technologies of the time, like new aids to navigation. Those humanists were the progressives of their times. So am I; and so, I hope, are you!
Let’s look back to the Enlightenment, and at the same time forward to a better future. Let the climate change begin!
 https://www.alumni.cam.ac.uk/magazine/cam-77 (“The force is not with you,” page 13)
Thank you. Thank you for writing this. It reflects very many of my own views. I think you have clearly identified the problems that we are facing.
There are difficulties in combating it however. I din’t have time right now to write more on my thoughts but I will come back later to add more. I hope my comments, when I post them, will be constructive and useful.
A nice discussion in commendably reasoned tone. Sadly, the climate alarmists have reached the outer edges of rationality, and none of this is likely to have any effect on them. But it may persuade others to look more closely at the claims.
Thank you, Sean; you correctly divined my intention. In fact, I was following one of your own recommendations from a while back, along the lines of: “Don’t try to talk to your enemies. Talk about them.”
Your statement is so clear it counts as an original insight