Two events filled the television-news airwaves and social media as September 2019 was coming to an end: the decision of the Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives to go forward with an impeachment investigation over President Donald Trump’s July 2019 telephone conversations with the president of Ukraine; and the public utterances of Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish poster girl for the global-warming hysteria, on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly.
Both of them reflect what is wrong with national and world politics.
Since the Democratic Party leadership and the mainstream mass media went into apoplectic disbelief that Trump won the presidential election in November 2016, they have been in a deep state of denial and determination.
Their denial is because they still cannot believe that someone like Trump could have been elected president of the United States. And they have been determined to reverse the outcome of the election, since “really” he was not the winner; after all, Hillary Clinton had more of the popular vote, while Trump “only” had won the electoral college majority. Besides, if not for those hacking Russian meddlers, the minds of American voters would not have been twisted in the wrong direction. History has to be undone in the name of “social justice” and democracy.
Mueller’s Failure Overcome by a Whistleblower’s Claim
The Mueller Report failed to provide the legal leverage to move forward with impeachment. There had not been demonstrable collusion between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin’s government to influence the 2016 presidential election; and the Russian hacking and attempted social media manipulation could not be shown to have affected the outcome of the election. The Democrats had pinned so much hope on Robert Mueller, and, damn it, he let them down.
But, now, a whistleblower’s accusations seemed to give them the smoking gun the Democrats had been hoping for in their political dreams. Oh no! An American president attempted to influence a foreign government to investigate possible political corruption connecting the son of Trump’s leading potential Democratic Party rival for the presidency in the 2020 election. Hunter Biden may have been earning $50,000 a month as a board member of a Ukrainian energy company due to the influence of his father, Joe, while his father was vice president of the United States.
Plus, Trump seemed to use congressionally funded military aid to Ukraine as a “carrot” to get the Ukrainian government to dig up and provide the dirt to bolster “The Donald’s” chances for re-election in November 2020. Oh, the horror! Donald Trump may have used the office of the presidency to influence a foreign government with taxpayers’ money to gain a political advantage for himself.
The Nature of Politics: Power, Plunder, and Privilege for Some
Let us remember the nature of politics: it is the use of government power for plunder and privilege so some may gain at the expense of others in society through regulation or redistribution. It does not matter whether an absolute monarch, a totalitarian state, or a functioning democracy does this. It is the reason why those who are concerned with liberty and prosperity have insisted that governments always must be restrained and restricted to a limited and narrow set of functions and responsibilities for the protection of individual freedom, without becoming its destroyer.
If Donald Trump has one redeeming quality, it is his refreshing honesty. He rarely hides behind the rarified rhetoric of altruist promise-making typically heard in political discourse. He tells you who he is and what he wants. He knows where American businesses should invest to make what he considers “America great again,” and they better or there will be consequences. He knows which are the “bad” nations and trading partners, and he is going to teach them a lesson through either trade sanctions or import tariffs to get them to give Trump what he wants. And he will punish other countries that don’t go along with his executive ordering dictates and demands, because America comes first and he knows what America both needs and wants.
Like many other successful demagogues of the past, Donald Trump knows how to play to an audience. The words, the phrases, the short and repeated slogans and name callings that stick in the minds of those enticed by his assurances that all their problems will go away, if only he is in charge to set it all right. Anyone who does not agree with and fawn over his every word and deed is an enemy — an enemy of him and therefore to America. (See my article “The U.S. Revives the Personal State.”)
Modern Democratic Politics Is Trading Votes for Favors
But what has Donald Trump done — even if it is found to be technically against the law — that has not been done by politicians of both major political parties over the decades in both domestic policy and foreign affairs? Which politician does not offer a quid pro quo to voters that if they will only cast their ballot for him come Election Day, he will use taxpayers’ money to give them an unending stream of government-funded programs, subsidies, protections, and privileges?
That is the nature of the political arena of exchange in modern democratic society. Government is not primarily a protector of people’s individual rights; it is a huge and intricate tax-funded pumping machine that transfers wealth and income from certain groups and sectors of the society to others through a complex and interconnected network of federal, state, and municipal bureaucracies. Any freedoms preserved or any freedoms extended are the secondary effects of a political system operating with purposes in mind having little or nothing to do, per se, with human liberty anymore.
In foreign affairs, every U.S. administration in modern times, from Franklin Roosevelt’s to Donald Trump’s, has used political, military, and financial promises and pressures to get foreign governments to do what the president of that time wanted and considered “good for America” and the world. Whether or not some previous occupant of the Oval Office was as transparent as President Trump in making plain how self-serving it is, it was always considered good for the political future of that earlier chief executive, either for winning reelection into the Oval Office or influencing what would be his hoped-for legacy and “place in history.” (See my article “A Call for ‘Do-Nothing’ Presidents Without Legacies.”)
U.S. tax dollars have been used to support or overthrow foreign governments; tax-funded dollars have been used to arm dictators considered “friendly” to America, who often used that military aid to brutalize their own people; those tax dollars have been applied to influence elections and public opinion in other lands considered to be part of America’s “national interest.”
Mafia Bosses and Politicians Both Try to Eliminate Opposition
It often seems as if politicians think and act like a mafia boss. The godfather rarely says directly, “Get rid of ‘Vito the Knife’ tonight.” He says things more indirectly, like, “You know, life would be so much easier if only Vito stopped bothering me.” And his mafia lieutenants know exactly what he wants, just in case the FBI is bugging his office. Trump basically just says to the Ukrainian president, “Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, seem to have been part of Ukraine’s corruption problems. Why don’t you look into it and share any information you get with some representatives of mine? By the way, the U.S. has been a really good diplomatic and financial friend of the Ukraine compared to those misguided and financially stingy Europeans.”
Trump has simply personalized it more than most other former presidents before him, who tended to couch it in the rhetoric of the “common good,” the “general welfare,” and the “safety of the free world.” It is an inevitable part of any American foreign interventionist policy, just as its counterpart in domestic interventionist policies. Interventionism is the politics of regulation and redistribution. Virtually nothing that government touches in a world of interventionism fails to benefit some at others’ expense, given that all interventions inescapably divert the course of social and economic events from the patterns they would have followed if left free from government interference.
You want to eliminate Trump-like actions and policies? There is, ultimately, only one means and method to do so: End the interventionist-welfare state. Restore and relegate government to the limited and narrow protection of each individual’s right to his life, liberty, and honestly acquired property. Then there is nothing for government to sell and supply to Peter at Paul’s expense. But that is not the politics that either Democrats or Republicans want, as reflected in their campaign promises and policy deeds. Thus, the political circus will continue, regardless of who wins the White House or the congressional elections in 2020.
Suffer the Little Child to Warn of Global Doom
Those concerned with the dangers of global warming were enraptured by the anger and indignation of Greta Thunberg during the September United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York City. Here was an articulate teenager from the other side of the Atlantic, speaking very good English, condemning and challenging the older generations of the world for failing to save the planet for those of her age. Her life has been ruined, her future has been stolen from her, and millions are being left to suffer and die, she insisted, because people just talk instead of doing, and care more about money than mankind.
How dare you, she declared with emotional self-righteousness. And many in the media swooned in awe and with embarrassment. The environmental “sins” of the parents are falling on their innocent daughters and sons. Something must be done, and now! The clock is ticking on the fate of the world.
The villain in this drama about the declared worsening condition of Mother Earth is the profit-pursuing greed of private businessmen, who care little or nothing about the increasing temperatures and rising seas that threaten the habitableness of the planet for all life forms. “Man” is the criminal, due to his addiction to fossil fuels and obsession with mindless material growth. How dare you!
The Delusion and Danger of Global Planning to Save the Planet
Practically every one of the proposals being made to deal with the claimed problem of global warming sees salvation in the caring and tender arms of those in governmental authority. From carbon taxes to the Green New Deal, politicians, bureaucrats, and self-selected “experts” are to regulate and centrally plan the environmental redemption of the world. The master planners within nations and in international, intergovernmental planning agencies are to decide the fate of mankind, that is, by those who arrogantly claim to possess the knowledge, wisdom, and ability to set the planet right, and all of them with asserted unbiased and selfless motivations and intentions. (See my articles “The Nightmare Fairyland of the Green New Deal” and “The Case for a Coercive Green New Deal?”)
Nearly nothing is to be out of their purview and power: where and how we shall be permitted to live and make a living; the foods we are to be allowed to eat, the clothes we will wear, and the means of transportation by which we get around. Our standards of living will be dictated and determined by the climate planners of the world, lest we do anything, at any time, in any way, and with anyone, that is deemed to be dangerous to preserving the natural state of the Earth in the forms and patterns that the environmental social engineers consider good, right, just, and necessary, and for all time.
What happens if humanity does nothing? It will be the end of the world as we know it. The Day of Judgment will have arrived. We will live one of those great special-effects disaster movies in which all life ends on the planet. Be sure to bring your jumbo popcorn and mega soda drink; we will all be in the front row.
False Fears About Climate Change Worst-Case Scenarios
Earlier this year, Ronald Bailey at Reason magazine summarized, based on the UN’s own environmental report in 2018, what the worst-case scenario might look like if nothing was done to reduce carbon emissions into the atmosphere over the remaining decades of the 21st century:
If humanity does nothing whatsoever to abate greenhouse gas emissions, the worst-case scenario is that global GDP in 2100 would be 8.2 percent lower than it would otherwise be.
Let’s make those GDP percentages concrete. Assuming no climate change and a global real growth rate of 3 percent per year for the next 81 years, today’s $80 trillion economy would grow to just under $880 trillion by 2100. World population is likely to peak at around 9 billion, so divvying up that GDP suggests that global average income would come to about $98,000 per person. Under the worst-case scenario, global GDP would only be $810 trillion and average income would only be $90,000 per person.
This would be the global effect. What about the impact on the United States if nothing were to be done to diminish the possibility of global warming? Over at the Heartland Institute in Chicago, Illinois, one of its climate scholars, Stan Liebowitz, examined a widely touted 2018 U.S. government report, The Fourth National Climate Assessment, in terms of the long-term consequences of climate change on the U.S., which were asserted to be dire.
However, when Liebowitz looked at the data and the tables in the report, and did the math using the numbers provided in the text, he discovered the following:
[The report] estimates the damage the nation will experience from climate change in the year 2090…. Scenario RCP8.5 (8.5) … assumes the United States and the world keep increasing carbon dioxide emissions through the end of the century, approximately tripling their current yearly level….
[The report] estimates the dollar value (in 2015 dollars) of twenty-two different categories of potential damage in the United States from global warming in the year 2090…. The 22 categories include damages due to rising oceans, mortality due to excessive heat or poor air quality, damage from additional diseases such as West Nile Virus, and repair costs for roads and bridges damaged by floods or erosion….
Surprisingly, the total cost of the 22 rows of estimated harms is never summed up so as to show the total dollar value of climate-induced damage. Nor are those damages ever compared to the 2090 GDP predicted by [the report] ….
When the rows are summed, the total damages are shown to be $507.6 billion…. The simplest way to put the number in perspective is to compare this predicted 2090 loss with the predicted 2090 GDP, [and when done so] predicted climate change damages in 2090 represent slightly more than 0.7 percent of  U.S. GDP.
Thus the damage from climate change in NCA4’s worst-case scenario, according to our “best scientists and experts,” is less than 1 percent of U.S. GDP in 2090. The ratio would be even lower if any of the advanced technologies certain to be created in the next 70 years were used to help reduce carbon emissions.
Accordingly, the findings of the report are clear: Under even the worst-case scenario, the harms from climate change in 2090, assuming 70 years of increasing carbon dioxide emissions, are fairly trivial.
Yet, here we are with a hyped-up hysteria supercharged by the impassioned declarations of a 16-year-old placed front and center on the world stage as if she is a learned expert on climate science pointing an accusatory finger on her shaking hand about how the world is about to become uninhabitable in the way we have known life up till now on this planet. And … how dare you!
Here we see another representation of politics in the 21st century, this time on the global stage. We see the constantly repeated naïve and arrogant turning to and presumption of ability by “government” to solve the problems of humanity, and in this case, a “problem” that is dubious about being a problem as serious as the proponents of global warming run around warning about.
Must we, again, learn the lesson that government regulators and planners have neither the knowledge nor the ability to successfully socially engineer the patterns of human existence? And that every time such planning has been tried, its consequences have been disastrous for both human liberty and prosperity?
Do we need another demonstration that politics is the problem and not the solution to human affairs? That unrestrained democratic politics, no less than other forms of government, is a play for coercive control and command over others, so some may have what they cannot acquire through the peaceful and voluntary interactions of the free marketplace and the institutions of civil society?
The events of September 2019, both in the domestic politics of Trump’s America and on the international stage with a teenager’s verbal panic attack about global warming, show how very far we are and continue to slide from an understanding of and an appreciation for liberty, prosperity, and the power of free markets to find solutions to humanity’s problems.
This article was originally published at The American Institute for Economic Research.