The Anti-Industrial Coup


Mr. Tracinski at had a very interesting commentary on the recent decision to treat carbon dioxide as a pollutant but not water vapor.  While I think that his end conclusion that this could be the beginning of the end of a representative government are likely overblown, his logic and discussion is worth reading and considering.

I originally found this article at RealClearPolitics so please click over there if you want to read every sentence.  Here are the highlights that I found interesting.

We all expect that there will be a contest in Congress this year over global warming and a “cap-and-trade” bill limiting carbon dioxide emissions. After all, the government cannot impose sweeping new controls on our lives without extensive public debate and a vote in Congress that must gain the support of a clear majority of the representatives of the people.

…the EPA issued a “finding” that carbon dioxide is a pollutant that threatens human health and can thus be regulated under the 1990 Clean Air Act.

This is a scientific farce. How can a basic constituent of the atmosphere that all humans constantly exhale be designated a “pollutant”? Moreover, water vapor is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, yet the EPA has not yet declared dihydrogen monoxide gas to be a threat to mankind.

This is also an assault on the entire structure of representative government. Controls on emissions of carbon dioxide will reach into every nook and cranny of the economy, creating a fine network of restrictions on economic activity that will make the recent regime of bailouts, salary caps, and business seizures look like laissez-faire by comparison. …

Ayn Rand warned that the environmentalist movement constitutes an “Anti-Industrial Revolution,” but the term “revolution” implies a broad base of popular support. Instead, this is an anti-industrial coup, a seizure of power by a small elite who seek to bypass the institutions and procedures of legitimate government.

The contribution from the courts is the 2007 Supreme Court ruling requiring the EPA to regard carbon dioxide as a potential “airborne pollutant” under the 1990 Clean Air Act–a law passed by Congress almost two decades ago with no intention of regulating carbon dioxide.

The executive branch’s response was a document released last year that stopped short of declaring carbon dioxide a pollutant. But it did establish the legal foundation for the next administration to plan out and implement a comprehensive scheme for regulating carbon dioxide emissions, coordinating the actions of dozens of regulatory agencies.

The title of that regulatory proposal was revealing: it was called the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Regulating Greenhouse Gas Emissions under the Clean Air Act. The important word here is “rulemaking.” In a proper system of representative government, the word for “rulemaking” is “legislation,” and only Congress can do it. But Congress long ago ceded a large part of its legislative power to the executive branch by passing laws like the Clean Air Act …

[Jason] Grumet…said if Congress hasn’t acted in 18 months, about the time it would take to draft [EPA] rules, the president should…. “The EPA is obligated to move forward in the absence of Congressional action,” Grumet said.

Under what system of government does the chief executive say to the legislature, in effect, “write the legislation I want, or else I will simply enact it by decree”? The answer: not under a system of representative government and the separation of powers. Barack Obama is proposing to govern, not in the manner of an American president, but in the manner traditionally sought by leftist strongmen like Hugo Chavez.

When global warming regulations are imposed–and given the legal framework of Monday’s “finding,” they are now inevitable–their ultimate cause will be decades of dishonest cultural propaganda condemning industrial civilization as a scourge to be eliminated. But the immediate cause for this massive new extension of government power is the structure of existing executive-branch power: the all-encompassing reach of the regulatory agencies, and the vast power already surrendered to them by Congress.

This is the shape of the current danger to liberty: our economic freedom is being taken away by regulatory decree, with public debate and congressional votes declared irrelevant ahead of time. It proves the adage that freedom is indivisible–that attempts to take away our economic freedom always begin and end with an attack on our political freedom.

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