In an article appearing in UC Berkeley’s Daily Californian, Andrew Glidden describes the scope of the absurdity of our nation’s current environmental regulatory system, from its recent prohibition of Kevin Costner’s oil salvaging machines, to the pending regulation of all carbon dioxide as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. After suggesting that the cost of carbon regulation will be economically crippling, he goes on to make a deeper moral point against the attitude of today’s environmentalist regulators:
But this is really not about BP, carbon dioxide, or any other environmental issue. It is about a political culture that not only authorizes, but encourages, ambitious “do-good” bureaucrats to take control of the lives of everyone else. In the name of “the environment” or the ever-vacuous “public welfare,” they propose to dictate to citizens what we can and cannot produce, what we can and cannot consume, what we can and cannot do.
It’s time to take a look at more than just the particulars of a policy. We should be thinking about the moral principles that formed the foundation of our society. They include, first and foremost, freedom: the freedom to live as we choose, to work as we choose, to think as we choose. And that requires a repudiation of any policy or person that presumes to manage our lives in any manner whatsoever.
We agree with Glidden 100%. But we’ll go further. The individual’s moral right to be free to live and think and produce—freedom that is hindered by environmental regulations—is also essential to solving what genuine environmental problems (those that threaten human welfare) there may actually be. As Ryan Puzycki wrote on TU’s blog back in 2008:
If global warming really is a problem, throwing our modern civilization and rights on a sacrificial pyre to Al Gore won’t solve it. Instead of drastically transforming the fundamental nature of our civilization, we should investigate the facts underlying the problems Gore claims fossil fuels cause and then leave individuals free—financially and politically—to solve them as required. Coercive taxation only has the power to destroy, and no matter how much Gore stands to gain in the short-term, his plan will certainly leave a path of destruction where a vibrant, fossil-fueled economy once flourished.
Read Ryan’s whole article. We need not only the freedom of thought and action to make possible the innovation needed to solve environmental problems, but also the freedom of production to maintain the prosperity that makes such solutions possible. Freedom is not merely a moral dogma that hangs from the clouds. It is a profoundly practical value that we need to live on Earth.
The Undercurrent is a magazine distributed at college campuses and communities across the country. We release a print edition once per semester, and in the interim, regularly post additional articles, blog entries, and campus media responses reports to our website.
The Undercurrent's cultural commentary is based on Ayn Rand's philosophy, Objectivism. Objectivism, which animates Ayn Rand's fiction, is a systematic philosophy of life. It holds that the universe is orderly and comprehensible, that man survives by reason, that his life and happiness comprise his highest moral purpose, and that he flourishes only in a society that protects his individual rights.
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