Klaus: Why Doing Nothing Will Save the Environment

by David Bier on January 10, 2012

in Blog

Former President of the Czech Republic Vaclav Klaus’s conclusion to his book Blue Planet in Green Shackles at first doesn’t seem like it directly pertains to environmental or energy issues at all, but most profoundly does. His argument strikes at the heart of environmentalist arguments for energy regulation, rationing, public planning, and other environmentalist agendas. While he doesn’t deny that environmental problems exist, he answers the question “What to do?” much differently than an environmentalist would.

Blue Planet in Green Shackles was published by CEI in 2008

What to do? The first, and in fact, the only reasonable answer to the question is “nothing,” or rather “nothing special.” It is necessary to let the spontaneity of human activity—unrestrained by any missionaries of absolute truths—take its course, or else everything will get worse. The aggregate outcome of independent actions of millions of informed and rational individuals—unorganized by any genius or dictator—is infinitely better than any deliberate attempt to design the development of human society.

Communism demonstrated that megalomaniac human ambitions, immodesty, and lack of humility always have a bad end. Although the system of human society is to some extent robust, although it has its natural defense mechanisms and can bear a lot (just as nature itself can), every attempt to command the wind and the rain has so far always turned out to be very costly and ineffective in the long term and to have devastating effects on freedom. The attempts of environmentalists cannot lead to different ends. In any complex system (such as human society, economy, language, legal system, nature, or climate), every such attempt is doomed to failure. Humankind has already had this experience and—together with the various “revolts of the masses”—again and again has tried to forget it.

Socialists and environmentalists have usually believed that the more complex a system, the less it can be left to itself and the more it has to be masterminded, regulated, planned, and designed. That belief is not true. Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich A. Hayek, and the whole Austrian school of economics have—for some, perhaps a bit counterintuitively—demonstrated that just the opposite is the case. It is possible to control and design only simple systems, no complex ones.

A complex system cannot be effectively organized through any deliberate human plan (or “human design,” to use Misesian terminology). The only way to build it properly, without tragic mistakes, is through truly free “human action” (the title of von Mises’s most important book)—that is, through aggregation of the behavior of millions or billions of individuals. This basic conceptual guideline also applies to environmental issues, including global warming.

I mentioned “free human action,” that is, freedom. This is not just an empty phrase or an obligatory declaration of faith on my part. I have repeatedly stressed that it is all about freedom, not about nature (or climate). There are deliberate attempts to shut down debate about this. Environmentalists constantly keep imposing the term “environment,” yet nobody speaks about human freedom. A few years ago, I suggested discussing the “environment for life” instead, which would—at least to a certain extent—shift this issues from the exclusive focus on nature toward a focus on society and its organization. I more than agree with William Dennis from the Liberty Fun, who argued that “the best environment for man is the environment of liberty.” I insist it is the only true standard against which all environmental concepts and categorical requests should be measured. Today’s debate about global warming is therefore essentially a debate about freedom. The environmentalists would like to mastermind each and every possible (and impossible) aspect of our lives.…

It is not necessary to forcefully limit or prohibit everything from above or—seemingly more liberally—to raise prices prohibitively. It is plain wrong to slow down economic growth, because only economic growth can deal with emerging ecological problems, and in the long run solve them. Through technological progress and possibilities resulting from treating nature more considerately leads to the shift in demand from subsistence goods to luxury goods, among which environmental protection ranks at the top of the list….

So what to do? Instead of striving for the environment, let us strive for freedom. Let us not put climate change before fundamental questions of freedom, democracy, and human wellbeing. Instead of organizing people from above, let us allow everyone to live his or her own life. Let us not succumb to fashionable trends. Let us not allow the politicization of science and let us not accept the illusion of “scientific consensus,” which is always achieved by a loud minority, never by a silent majority.

Let us be sensitive and attentive toward nature, and demand the same from those who speak about the environment most loudly. Let us be humble but confident in the spontaneous evolution of human society. Let us trust in its implicit rationality, and let us not make efforts to slow it down or divert it in any direction. Let us not scare ourselves with catastrophic forecasts or use them to defend and promote irrational interventions into human lives.

(Excerpted from pages 83-91)

mp January 10, 2012 at 6:22 pm

Vaclav Klaus HAS BEEN the President of the Czech Republic from 2003. Let’s call him the “former Czech President” from March 2013 when his (second) term finishes… 😉

Daniel Davis January 11, 2012 at 12:16 pm

Spoken by a man that knew the true price of communism and the difference freedom makes. Natural law makes no mistakes, man’s laws are nothing but mistakes. Every generation seems to forget the past 100 years before them – because no one teaches them. If George Washington with 3 years of schooling could become a surveyor, land manager, trail finder, general, and President, maybe we need a little less indoctrination by government schools and a little more focused study by their parents following the example of George and Thomas and Ben.

Vaclav Bem January 12, 2012 at 6:52 am

Klaus is a Neo-Soviet. To write the book has only two purposes:
1. for his sponsors Russia and Lukoil as Russia will benefit from more energy consumption and global warming .
2. Its common in the Czech Republic to write some book that than will be virtually sold thousand of times to louder money.

pesadia January 12, 2012 at 1:03 pm

Vavlav Bem

Get a life

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