Gore's book may put election in the balance

By Sean Hackbarth
web posted October 2, 2000

During this presidential race, G. W. Bush and Al Gore have appeared to be running toward each other on a policy collision course. Both have called for a prescription drug benefit for people in the Medicare program. Both have also called for some kind of Social Security reform. However, last week, the candidates displayed a day-night difference in one policy area: oil prices.

Gore received help from President Clinton when he announced that the government would release some oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to lower prices and prevent a home fuel oil shortage this winter. While the SPR web site states that the reserve is only intended as a "first line of defense against an interruption in petroleum supplies" (and has only been tapped in times of war) Gore supported the decision.

To counter Gore's move, Bush laid out a plan to open part of the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration. This proposal provoked an immediate response from Gore by saying Bush wanted to destroy the environment, and the drilling in Alaska would only "reap just a few months of increased oil supply." Gore's shaky analysis of the refuge's oil supply is based on a static analysis disregarding future technological improvements that could squeeze more oil out of the area. Nevertheless, Gore came out swinging.

Gore then offered his favorite remedy to any problem: target tax cuts. His social engineering through the tax code would offer tax breaks for buying more energy-efficient vehicles, building equipment, and homes.

Bush didn't stop at expanding domestic drilling. He also went after Gore for a lack of any energy policy in the past eight years. "My opponent believes the consumption of energy is the problem and must be discouraged by taxes and regulation. It helps explain why he has never made energy production a priority. It is the reason he views American oil producers as adversaries and the automobile as a threat."

Earth in the BalanceBush's attack goes right to Al Gore's biggest weakness, something the Bush campaign hasn't taken full advantage of: Gore's book Earth in the Balance. In it, Gore predicts an upcoming global catastrophe of global warming, ozone depletion, and massive species extinction. "Our ecological system is crumpling as it suffers a powerful collision with the hard surfaces of a civilization speeding toward it out of control," Gore writes. Man will be bombarded by stronger storms, longer droughts, flooding, famines, insect infestations, and the spread of illness. Man would alter his own course of history according to Gore's climatic determinism theory of history.

Gore puts part of the blame for being on this path to environmental disaster on Rene Descartes and Francis Bacon whose philosophies created a breach between the individual and his environment. Descartes' and Bacon's development of a systematic approach to examining the world-the scientific method--has lead Western Civilization to tremendous improvements in life spans and quality of life. But for Gore, these improvements are just "technological hubris [that] tempts us to lose sight of our place in the natural order." For Gore, Man isn't a superior species, just a cog in the "natural order."

Gore even tries to link our present environmental state to male dominance by tossing in some feminist eco-theory. Instead of a "distinctly male way of relating to the world," he desires a "better balance between the sexes, leavening the dominant male perspective with at healthier respect for female ways of experiencing the world."

Gore also blames Man's own nature. He writes that our bodies have "bilateral symmetry." One part "consolidates" objects, while the other "manipulates" them. The problem is that our manipulative part has allowed Man to "manipulate nature far beyond the extent to which it has thus far magnified our abilities to conserve and protect nature." It's easy to tie some of these strands together to see the manipulative part of our bodies as being "male" while the part that consolidates is "female." Thus Gore comes to the conclusion that the earth is threatened by the scientific method developed by evil white males bound and determined to manipulate the earth. The earth would be better off if Man was based in matriarchal tribes using stone tools to eke out an existence.

Based on Gore's analysis, his solution is wide-ranging. He doesn't propose a few new laws or regulations. He doesn't advocate better defined private property rights to take advantage of market mechanisms to provide better incentives for polluters to stop polluting. No, Gore calls for making "the rescue of the environment the central organizing principle for civilization." This means "to use, in short, every means to halt the destruction of the environment and to preserve and nurture our ecological system." One method in his plan of environmental totalitarianism is a Global Marshall Plan which would provide aid and technology to developing nations to develop in a more environmentally friendly way. Gore's central planning through financial and technological aid would be supplemented with government agencies filled with "experts" who would help developing nations use environmentally friendly technologies. Then there's Gore most famous proposal from Earth in the Balance: eliminating the internal combustion engine.

Remember, Al Gore has not renounced anything in his book. In a recent statement regarding the internal combustion engine, he said that instead of eliminating it in 25 years, he wanted to eliminate it in 10 years.

At the first debate next week, oil will be a topic. Bush must not just lay out his energy plan. He must also go after Gore for his attacks on Western Civilization and the technological world we all benefit from (including the Internet he helped "invent"). Gore must be pushed into the radical environmental corner he placed himself in when writing his book.

Once Bush has Gore on the ropes, he could then lay out an innovative approach to environmental protection: free market environmentalism. This approach laid out by Terry Anderson, Donald Leal, and scholars at the Political Economy Research Center involves accepting the fact that people will protect the environment if they have a reason to do so. Polluters will continue to pollute if they don't pay the costs for the damage they do. Government officials have little incentive to find the cheapest and best environmental solutions because they don't bear any of the costs. Through innovative definitions of property (including privatizing public lands and water rights), free markets, and an efficient judicial system, free market environmentalism offers the possibility of better environmental protection at lower costs.

Gore would be terrified by such an approach because instead of empowering government officials and "experts," it would empower private individuals. Power would flow away from entrenched bureaucracies. Gore could no longer try to buy votes from concerned voters through government-based solutions.

Then if Bush was really smart, he would extend the differences between Gore's government-centered environmentalism and his own individual-centered environmentalism to other issues like taxes and Social Security. Gore would then be shown to be the pro-government central planning technocrat that he is. Bush would make Al regret he ever wrote that book.

Sean Hackbarth publishes the web log The American Mind.

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