Central Planning and the Green Economy

By Nathan Descheemaeker, 11/1/22

Using the coercive powers of government to force whole of government, and whole of economy transitions towards net-zero emissions objectives and targets set by an international body without Article II ratification from the senate is troubling, to say the least. If the Climate Policy agenda was legitimate and wholesome in its objectives, why the need to resort to unconstitutional heavy-handed measures to accomplish it? As Justice Felix Frankfurter once observed, “the assertion of dangerous power does not come in a day. It does come, however slowly, from the generative force of unchecked disregard of the restrictions” imposed by the constitution.

Henry Ford did not lobby the government to develop a policy framework to eradicate the horse drawn carriage, while simultaneously subsidizing his own preferred industry to replace it once the deed was done. No, he followed the path of entrepreneurs and individual business men who took risks which no council, committee, or group of planners could or would have taken to bring a new innovation into the market. The determiner of success in a free market is that of the affordability, reliability, and usefulness of the commodity made available to the individual persons in that market order. It is evident that the individual, can, in his local situation, judge much better what species of domestic industry which his capital can employ, and which produce is likely to be of the greatest value than any statesman, lawgiver, or special interest group can do for him.

“The statesman who should attempt to direct private people in what manner they ought to employ their capitals, would not only load himself with a most unnecessary attention, but assume an authority which could safely be trusted to no council and Senate whatever, and which would nowhere be so dangerous as in the hands of a man who had folly and presumption enough to fancy himself fit to exercise it” (Adam Smith).

Government, under the US Constitution is supposed to refrain from interfering “with that natural liberty, which it is the proper business of law not to infringe.” In free societies the economic system as well as the social order are spontaneous and self-regulating systems. And as Justice Story wrote “Every change discomposes for a while the whole Arrangements of the system. What is safe is not always expedient; what is new often pregnant with unforeseen evils, and imaginary good.”

 The root of our troubles lies the fallacy that the best way of ordering economic affairs is to place the responsibility for all crucial decisions in the hands of the state. This error driven to its logical conclusion, as it is now being driven by those who have been put into power, can bring upon us untold miseries and humiliations of which the past two years have given us a foretaste. As Lenin said “We knew when we took power into our hands that there were no ready forms of concrete reorganization of the capitalist system into a socialist one.” The central planners of our day found and apparently to some extent are succeeding where Lenin failed by identifying Climate Change as the mechanism to get the free economies of the west to sell their birth right for a pot of stew.

The speed and fury of this green transition agenda in the West is alarming. The significant point made by wiser men is that once the planners have set the plan, then the Supreme Planners tend to fall into the frame of mind in which they are prepared to make any “sacrifice”, or more exactly force any “sacrifice” on others, in order to achieve the plan. So that a plan laid out for promoting the interests of the consumers often leads to the deliberate and implacable sacrifice of those interests. How does it come about that so many intelligent, sincere and well-meaning people have been brought to accept, for the attainment of their aims, methods which are worse than useless for the purpose? How then have they been fooled or brought to fool themselves?

As the Nobel Prize winning economist Fredrich Hayek aptly stated over 30 years ago: “The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.”

Nathan and his family raise registered feeder calves in Montana, and he is a Senior Research Specialist and Policy Analyst specializing in federal and local government administrative procedures, land and natural resource policy-making, and local governmental relations.

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