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Colliding with freedom

Posted By Henry Lamb On 02/01/1999 @ 1:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled

“Sustainable Development” is on a collision course with Sustainable
Freedom. When the two ideas collide, revolution is the result. Should
sustainable development prevail, freedom will be a fond memory. Should
freedom prevail, sustainable development will join the ranks of
socialism, communism, fascism and all the other failed “isms” that
litter the road toward human progress.

Freedom shall prevail. It could, however, take decades or even
centuries, before freedom emerges from the rubble of still another
version of government by central command-and-control.
To be sure, the proponents of sustainable development sincerely believe
their concept will cure the world’s ills and make life better for all
people. It is a worthy goal, but the methods chosen to achieve it are
destined to failure.

Putting emotionalism aside, there are two recent historic examples of

the inevitable rise and fall of the government by command-and-control
philosophy. The Soviet Union, of course, began with the vision of
correcting the abuses of the czar. The “means” (slaughter of the Czar
and those close to him) was justified by the “end” (gaining power to
dictate public policy), which would, supposedly, make life better for

The more recent example began as a wildly popular scheme to make life

better for all Germans. Surely, if the state owned the land, it could
distribute its use fairly among the people. If the state owned or
controlled industry, it could ensure that all people had a job, and
received “fair” wages. If the state controlled police power, it could
quiet any dissent, and ensure an “orderly” society. If the state
controlled the schools, it could see that all children grew up with a
proper appreciation for the benefits provided by the state. If the
state controlled the press, it could make sure the people never learned
about events or ideas that might upset them, or make them envious. Yes,
it would be a perfect world in Germany, if only the state controlled how

people lived and behaved.

Hitler’s brilliant oratory and sweeping promises were amazingly
at the beginning. He presented his vision for the last half of the 20th
century, not as command and control, but as protecting the land from
unwise use and abuses such as “urban sprawl.” His ideas were accepted
because he promised every citizen health care, a good education, decent
housing. … Is the picture coming into focus?

The revolution (the politically-correct term is transformation)
by pointing to perceived problems: urban sprawl; ecosystem degradation;
brown fields; traffic jams; species extinction; global warming,
scores on school tests; or whatever else may be needed to amplify a
problem the state can cure. The perceived problems need not be problems
at all. They need only to be perceived as problems. This procedure is
called the “Precautionary Principle,” which means, literally, that if
“threat” of a problem can be made believable, scientific evidence is not

necessary to justify policy action. In practice, it means “scare the
hell out of them, and they’ll accept whatever we do.”

In the president’s State of the Union speech, he said flatly that
year was the hottest year on record. He didn’t lie; he just didn’t say
“according to selected surface thermometers.” He didn’t say that
satellite measurements for nearly 20 years reveal a slight decrease
in global temperatures. He then implied that the weather-related
disasters of this year are the result of your driving a car, and using
electricity, thereby causing global warming. He didn’t say that not one
single scientist has confirmed a cause-effect relationship, either
between human activity and global warming, or human activity and
weather-related disasters. “The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but
the truth …” appears to be a concept yet to penetrate this White
House. Nevertheless, if enough people believe a problem exists — urban
sprawl, species loss, biodiversity degradation, global warming — they
will not object to the government’s proposed solution.

There are two fatal flaws with the government command-and-control
philosophy. First, the only resources the government has to deal with
any problem, comes from the people in the form of taxes. The more the
government does “for the people,” the less money the people have to do
for themselves. The more the government does “for the people,” the less
reason there is for people to do for themselves, and the more they will
expect from government. When the Berlin Wall fell, the people had
become so dependent upon government, they had no idea how to provide for


The final fatal flaw is insufficient wisdom. No king, politbureau,
commission, committee, administration, nor political party has
sufficient wisdom to know what’s best for 250 million individuals. The
wisdom required to manage a society resides in the life of each
individual, who must be free to make his own choices about how to pursue

life, liberty and happiness, where to live, how to travel, what to
learn, how to use his own natural resources, and ultimately, how to

History has demonstrated, again and again, that when government gains

command-and-control power, the power is inevitably used to force people
to do the will of government. Inevitably, the people who produce for
the government have less and less while those who administer government
have more and more. Forced behavior replaces free behavior.
Eventually, force becomes violence, in the form of either economic
deprivation, or physical assault, or both. Look squarely at the
experience of the Soviet Union, and then at the experience of Germany.
Focus on the promises at the beginning, and then on the disaster at the

Sustainable Development is at the beginning of its cycle, full of
promises and visions of a 21st century utopia. The sustainable
development paradigm is now at about the same stage that Hitler’s
National Social Democrats were, in the early 1930s, or where the
Russian Marxists were in the early 1920s. We’re at the beginning of a
new era in America, an era of government command-and-control, regardless

of the high-sounding names by which it is described. If the paradigm is
allowed to unfold according to the agenda already published, there can
be but one, inevitable end — disaster for the once-free America.

Henry Lamb is executive vice president of the Environmental
Conservation Organization and chairman of Sovereignty International.

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