One of the reasons I abhor communitarianism (and tend to see my political philosophy as the opposite of that) is because it vests communitarian thinkers with the self appointed power to tell me (and others) what to do. Provided, of course, that they come up with a claim to do so in the name of what they call “the common good.” “For the good of all.” It’s utilitarianism on stilts.
That’s part of Eric Scheie’s introduction to his assessment of Global Warming as religion:
The source of today’s soon-to-be-ascendant total communitarianism (would that be “communitarian totalitarianism”?) can be summed up in two words:
It is the best thing to hit communitarian thinking since theocracy.
Depending on how you look at it, Global Warming Theory might even be a form of theocracy, and I don’t mean because it’s a form of earth worship, but because it shares something in common with all religions.
Actually, I have compared it to a theocratic regime before:
Few things annoy me more than the modern Lysenkoism of Anthropogenic Global WarmingTM and its rapturous congregation who viciously condemn any who dare challenge their scriptures. Each day it seems that we are bombarded with yet more bald-faced propaganda designed to scare us (and especially our children) into submission to the will of the environmental elite. These mullahs of climate change brook no dissension amongst their ranks, and harbor no compunction against destroying their enemies, by whatever means necessary. The Grand Imam himself jets around the world, in seeming hypocrisy, to deliver the message that the planet is doomed at the hands of evil capitalist oppressors unless we submit to the daily regimen prescribed for us at the site of his own personal Night Flight, and embodied in the Kyoto Protocol.
Well, I was obviously taking some poetic license there.
Still, leaving aside whether or not “communitarianism” is the proper moniker for the philosophy supporting AGW adherents, I think Eric summarizes the issue nicely with his lead in: “I don’t like other people telling me what to do.”
Anyone who values him or herself as an individual immediately comprehends that sentiment, and why it’s important. We all begin to part ways somewhere along the line towards being part of a community, in that we have varying degrees of tolerance for what we’ll put up with from others, but “leave me alone” is a fairly common sentiment amongst us all. This is especially so when we see no harm being done to anyone else by our behavior, thoughts, feelings, etc.
Again, that invisible line between “leave me along” and “hey, you stop that!” is different for each of us, but I would argue that we all start from a position of individual autonomy, and then agree to join larger and larger communities based on the amount of complete freedom we are willing to give up. A good indication of where that line resides generally for all people occurs when the hands of “others” reach too far into the individual sphere, such that more and more people start screaming “leave me alone!”
I think that is basically what happened with the Kelo case, which garnered broad support from Americans of all political stripes. The state taking one’s home in order to give it to another promising more benefits to the state elicited a visceral reaction from a large number of us, who instinctively found the state’s incursion to be have grossly transgressed that invisible line. “Leave me alone!” we shouted, and the individual states responded.
Perhaps AGW is beginning to have the same effect? If not, Eric points out the single most important reason why it should (my emphasis):
What I do not like (and what to me is theocracy) is when any individual or group posits that a particular theory or explanation of the unknown gives it an exclusive right to rule. Thus, I find the idea of Christian theocracy repellent, as I do Sharia, or state-enforced atheism.
I’ve lived more than half a century, and I have yet to see any system of control based on a theory of the unknown which promises to be as all-encompassing as the theory of Global Warming. That’s because we are creatures of carbon, both producers and consumers of it.
Any theory declaring carbon to be a poison declares all of us to be poison, and all of our activities to be poisonous. By doing this, Global Warming Theory is the ulimate trump card. It will reach out and touch every one of us, in every and any way imaginable and in ways none of us ever imagined.
This is really the same as the libertarian argument against universal health care: once the state has the right to intrude into the basic and fundamental areas of our individual lives, there is no stopping it, and it will soon control our entire being. Both AGW and universal health care rely on the concept of negative externalities to justify their intrusions. Both claim that individual decisions need to be checked by the state for the common good. Both rely upon the state to decide what the consequences of each individual action will be, who other than the individual will be affected and by how much, and what consequences should be used to curb such behaviors. Ultimately, both supplant the will of the individual with the will of the state as expressed by our betters, euphemistically deemed “experts.” In reality, they would be nothing more than slave-masters.
I would posit that the purveyors of AGW doom understand the invisible line quite well, and try to subvert it by painting ever more fantastic scenarios of death and destruction, scenarios which are specifically designed to overwhelm the individualist reflex we all feel when the invisible line has been crossed for us. Thus the outlandish claims put forth in propaganda pieces like An Inconvenient Truth are tolerated by those who know better, because they all want to see the end result where the common good (as defined by these same experts) abrogates the decisions of individuals.
Why would they want to do that? Well, in the end, everybody is a control freak, and we all think that the world would be a much better, saner, safer and happier place if everyone would just play by our rules. In fact, nearly every conflict of every sort has, at its root, this sentiment in one form or another — i.e. who’s in charge? The difference between individualists and “communitarians” (as Eric puts it) is that individualists eschew force in favor of reason in their pursuit of philosophical world domination, while communitarians consider force the primary means of exacting compliance since guilt only goes so far.
So where does that leave us then? Eric sums it up this way:
If mass regulation of human activity is required to save man from himself, the proper way to do that in this country is by constitutional amendment giving the government the vast and sweeping new powers it would need.
Good luck getting it through.
I hope I never live to see it.
Amen, brother. Amen.
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