Capitalism as anti-conservative.

I meant to link to this yesterday. Do yourself a favour and go read Sullivan at his most reflective in a long while. His conclusion offers a good summary:

All I know is that it is a core conservative idea that revolutions can end in nightmares. But we conservatives also long supported and indeed recently breathed new life into the industrial and post-industrial revolution. We see the consequences far beyond the suicides of elderly Koreans. And in my bleaker moments, I wonder whether humankind will come to see this great capitalist leap forward as a huge error in human history – the moment we undid ourselves and our very environment, reaching untold material wealth as well as building societies in which loneliness, dislocation, displacement and radical insecurity cannot but increase. It seems to me this is not the moment for Randian purism.

Do we not as conservatives have a duty to tend to the world we helped make?

Yet in the midst of what Stephen Gardiner has rightly called the “perfect moral storm” (due to the literally deadly mixture of climate change’s undeniable severity, and our apparent inability to care), “conservative” politicians aren’t only silent. In America, they’re caught up in a wave of denial that causes them to actively oppose and openly mock environmental efforts as unnecessary job-destroyers. Senator Inhofe believes a passage in Genesis refutes all climate science. In contrast, conservatives in Britain may by and large accept that the phenomenon is real, but they’re not doing much more to deal with it, and they’re certainly not leading the efforts. The coalition is too caught up with short-term present-day economics to even turn its attention to the plight of future generations. How is the Conservative party’s symbol still a tree? When did Cameron last mention, nevermind make a serious speech about, climate change? This is an abject, unforgivable failure of leadership. A large part of politics is about electing people to counter our own biases and guide us towards the tough but brave and necessary decisions we ought to make. And yet we see no such foresight and wisdom. We only see the same short-sightedness we all suffer from in our daily lives.

And what’s worse is that the solutions aren’t beyond us. Externality theory in economics has been around for decades, and there’s a vast consensus, body of literature and empirical data on what legislative proposals would effectively curb carbon. Cap and trade would be a start, and a carbon tax probably even better. That’s our only hope of collective action to reverse our current tendency to deplete the earth’s resources and cause unparalleled pain, suffering and instability for humans well into the future.

But what happened when such a proposal reached the floor of the US Senate the other year? The “conservative” party blocked it.


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