The devil in a red tie

Posted: Dec 27, 2009 12:00 AM

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez received enthusiastic applause (and some nervous laughter) at the Copenhagen climate conference. On the podium, he referenced the fact that the president of the United States had spoken there before, and that the area smelled “of sulfur” . . . a reference to the devil.

But, Mr. Chavez, we’ve a saying here in America: He who smelt it dealt it.

Now, at a time when the word “avatar” is on many a lip, it may not seem implausible that the devil would make a personal appearance on the world stage. And, like George W. Bush before him, Barack Obama unfortunately gives too much cause for his enemies to interpret just such an inglorious incarnation.

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Or maybe not. A few months earlier, Chavez had proclaimed the UN sulfur-free, and Obama’s own odor to be a wholesome one of hope. (I actually can’t imagine what hope might smell like.) Since then Hugo’s changed his mind. Apparently, it now makes sense for him to malign Obama as well as the U.S., at least when it comes to fighting the alleged human-caused warming trends of the planet. Why the flip-flop? Perhaps it’s to distract the world from his own country’s bizarre policies regarding that dear fuel, petroleum.

Or the reality that, if anyone’s the devil, it’s Hugo.

And if the folk in Copenhagen still applaud this monster, that should be enough for Norte Americanos to choose sides. No Kyoto (which Hugo Chavez encouraged us all to “respect” and “empower”). No “climate change” deal of any kind. There are some sulfuric agencies we need not mix with.

From the beginning, many of us caught more than a whiff of socialism and anti-industrialism about the whole “global warming” scare. Now, after multiple frauds in evidence have risen to besmirch the reputations of the world’s “greatest” climate warming specialists, perhaps we should simply call a spade a spade and use that handy implement to bury this indecent revival of the ultimate indecency: Tyrannical socialism.

Hugo being Hugo, though, doesn’t see in various proposals of a massive new blanket of smothering regulation — to save the planet, of course — anything like tyranny. Instead, he sees the actual, current process of policy-making regarding climate control as an instance of devilish design by capitalists. The backroom dealings on climate change policy, exhibited at the conference, Hugo imputes not to socialism but to capitalism.

I suppose the truth is a bit more mundane. The unfair and undemocratic aspects of the climate control debate are nothing other than government-as-usual. To ascribe it to capitalism is absurd. To ascribe it to socialism is also probably unjust. It’s just government. Big bad government.

But it is the kind of bad government that socialists (and too many environmentalists) habitually prop up, with their constant calls for “something to be done” and their incessant attacks on non-governmental organization.

To some people, the vibrant changes in markets and civilization is a problem to be solved. Period. They don’t like change, they certainly don’t like the dynamic patterns of adjustment inherent in capitalism. Creative destruction? Destructive creation? Whatever we call it, some people will always oppose it. The same attitude has crept into environmentalism. The changes in climates — which have been ongoing since the beginnings of the planet — are now seen by many as a problem to be solved, not a fact of life to be accommodated.

And yes, Virginia, climates change. It’s been cooler than now. It’s been warmer. Maybe it’ll get much warmer. We’ll survive (after all, there are some advantages to a warmer world). But attacking industry and (especially) economic growth in the Third World is no way to save mankind . . . or the planet.

And sure, climates of opinion — they change, too. Within my lifetime it was once thought that socialism would lead the world to progress. Now, the truth is widely known: Socialism is the recipe for the end of progress. It’s the case in medicine. It’s the case in industrial output. And the causes aren’t secret: Disparate and tacit knowledge, perverse incentives, enforced (rather than free) community, grinding bureuacracy — alone these factors ensure that the more government you have, the less progress you get. Together, these factors make the end product of socialism (at best) stasis or (at worst) catastrophic regression.

And it so happens that killing progress is the main focus of too many “progressives,” the folks who ideologically embrace the apocalyptic notion that human civilization is a “cancer on the planet.” Rather than see civilization as a great efflorescence of wealth and freedom, and the best hope for rescuing nature from the sullying power of pollution, they see it as pollution and imbalance incarnate. They demonize the wrong thing.

So it is no wonder, amidst such perverse inversions, that the Copenhagen delegates applauded a self-declared socialist and obvious tyrant, Hugo Chavez. Rather than laugh him out of the room for corkers like labeling capitalism “the road to hell” and charging markets (not government and goons) as the enduring contributor to poverty, they treated him with far more respect than he deserves.

In doing so, they merely flew their true colors.

Their flag isn’t green, though. Or red, like Chavez’s power tie.

It’s yellow. Like sulfur. Brimstone.