Jonah Goldberg
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The simple truth is that hostility to freedom (i.e., economic liberty and political democracy) and fondness for non-democratic statism suffuses much of the environmental movement. I will confess to having a minor obsession with the New York Times' Thomas Friedman, who consistently writes of his confessed envy for China's authoritarian regime. But I am trying to wean myself off Friedman-bashing lest he get a restraining order.

So consider instead Diane Francis, a ballyhooed Canadian pundit. In a recent Financial Post column, Francis wrote that the "'inconvenient truth' overhanging the UN's Copenhagen conference is not that the climate is warming or cooling, but that humans are overpopulating the world." She insists that "the only way to reverse the disastrous global birthrate" is to implement a "planetary law, such as China's one-child policy."

Population control has always been at the heart of the progressive project, so it's no surprise that it's in fashion once again.

But Francis' proposal is particularly disgusting, not least because Francis has two children. I think the hypocrisy charge is overused in political debate these days, but when you tout a totalitarian police state's population policy of, among other things, forced abortions, you might try harder to practice what you preach. Think globally, act locally and all that.

But Francis' argument is also stunningly stupid, as are virtually all of the complaints about capitalism being the root of the problem.

The historical record is clear: Democratic free-market nations are better at protecting their environments than statist regimes for the simple reason that they can afford to. West Germany's environment was far cleaner than East Germany's. I'd much sooner drink the tap water in South Korea than North Korea.

Mugabe rails against capitalism as if he has a better idea of how to run things. That's almost funny given that Mugabe has destroyed what was once a great cause for hope in Africa, in large part by abandoning capitalism and democracy. Zimbabwe now has the highest inflation rate in the world and one of the lowest life expectancies. Let's hope nobody was taking notes when he was giving out advice.

Moreover, capitalism, and the wealth it creates, is the best means of bending down the population curve. Don't take my word for it. The UN's Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change acknowledges that "affluence is correlated with long life and small families" and that growing prosperity will cause world population to decline even further.

Want to know the best way to heal the planet? Create more rich countries. Want to know the best way to hurt the planet? Throw a wet blanket on economic growth.

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Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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