Yes, Warning. Václav Klaus is president (now in his second term) and former prime minister of the Czech Republic. Born in 1941, he grew up under communist totalitarianism, and well knows the methods used to curtail liberty and freedom of speech. He has written over 20 books, including one on the dangers of ‘environmentalism’, Blue Planet in Green Shackles.
In this long post we let Klaus speak for himself with extracts from the speeches he has given, including at climate change conferences, where he sounds the warning about environmentalism, the new eco-religion. Klaus is one of the few heads of state courageous enough to blow the whistle openly on the environmentalist ideology. He says
I am frustrated by the fact that many people, including some leading politicians who privately express similar views to my own, are publicly silent.
As an economist, he knows the huge danger that this ideology will bring to our economies. It is interesting to note that until a few years ago, whenever the G7 or G8 heads of state met there were huge protests by anarchists, Marxists, and anti-capitalists, who wanted the destruction of our society. Now that mainstream politicians have adopted their agenda, there is no need any more for the protests, because environmentalism will achieve their objectives of wrecking our economies.
Environmentalism as a metaphysical ideology and as a worldview has absolutely nothing to do with natural sciences or the climate itself. Unfortunately, it has nothing to do with social sciences either.
Environmentalism, not preservation of nature (and of environment), is a leftist ideology…Environmentalism is indeed a vehicle for bringing us socialist government at the global level. Again, my life in communism makes me oversensitive in this respect.
Environmentalism is a movement that intends to change the world radically regardless of the consequences (at the cost of human lives and severe restrictions on individual freedom). It intends to change humankind, human behavior, the structure of society, the system of values — simply everything.
Environmentalism has become a quasi-religion…It is an ideology that shares much in common with Marxism. Climate change is the new recruiting strategy for the anti-capitalist, socialist, communist army. They are both monolithic belief systems designed to suppress human freedom…Propaganda on the false impact of global warming is now being taught by so-called environmentalists to high school students — just as virtues and correct thinking was taught under communism decades ago.
They invoke the image of apocalyptic imminent danger in order to trigger the need in others to have a saviour — a messiah…The constraints of political correctness are tougher than ever. They are being enforced and only one permitted truth is — yet again — imposed on us. Everything else is being denounced.
The following remarks were delivered at the 2008 International Conference on Climate Change, New York, March 4, 2008:
Each one of us has his or her experiences, prejudices and preferences. The ones that I have are — quite inevitably — connected with the fact that I have spent most of my life under the communist regime. A week ago, I gave a speech at an official gathering at the Prague Castle commemorating the 60th anniversary of the 1948 communist putsch in the former Czechoslovakia. One of the arguments of my speech there, quoted in all the leading newspapers in the country the next morning, went as follows: “Future dangers will not come from the same source. The ideology will be different. Its essence will, nevertheless, be identical — the attractive, pathetic, at first sight noble idea that transcends the individual in the name of the common good, and the enormous self-confidence on the side of its proponents about their right to sacrifice the man and his freedom in order to make this idea reality.” What I had in mind was, of course, environmentalism and its currently strongest version, climate alarmism.
The insurmountable problem as I see it lies in the political populism of its exponents and in their unwillingness to listen to arguments. They — in spite of their public roles — maximize their own private utility function where utility is not any public good but their own private good — power, prestige, carrier, income, etc.
I am afraid there are people who want to stop the economic growth, the rise in the standard of living (though not their own) and the ability of man to use the expanding wealth, science and technology for solving the actual pressing problems of mankind, especially of the developing countries.
I am also afraid that the same people, imprisoned in the Malthusian tenets and in their own megalomaniac ambitions, want to regulate and constrain the demographic development, which is something only the totalitarian regimes have until now dared to think about or experiment with. Without resisting it we would find ourselves on the slippery “road to serfdom.” The freedom to have children without regulation and control is one of the undisputable human rights and we have to say very loudly that we do respect it and will do so in the future as well.
What I see in Europe (and in the U.S. and other countries as well) is a powerful combination of irresponsibility, of wishful thinking, of implicit believing in some form of Malthusianism, of cynical approach of those who themselves are sufficiently well-off, together with the strong belief in the possibility of changing the economic nature of things through a radical political project.
This brings me to politics. As a politician who personally experienced communist central planning of all kinds of human activities, I feel obliged to bring back the already almost forgotten arguments used in the famous plan-versus-market debate in the 1930s in economic theory (between Mises and Hayek on the one side and Lange and Lerner on the other), the arguments we had been using for decades — till the moment of the fall of communism. Then they were quickly forgotten. The innocence with which climate alarmists and their fellow-travelers in politics and media now present and justify their ambitions to mastermind human society belongs to the same “fatal conceit.” To my great despair, this is not sufficiently challenged neither in the field of social sciences, nor in the field of climatology. Especially the social sciences are suspiciously silent.
UN Climate Change Conference, United Nations, New York, September 24, 2007:
Let me raise several points to bring the issue into its proper context:
1. Contrary to the artificially and unjustifiably created world-wide perception, the increase in global temperatures has been – in the last years, decades and centuries – very small in historical comparisons and practically negligible in its actual impact upon human beings and their activities.
2. The hypothetical threat connected with future global warming depends exclusively upon very speculative forecasts, not upon undeniable past experience and its eventual trends and tendencies. These forecasts are based on relatively short time series of relevant variables and on forecasting models that have not been proved very reliable when attempting to explain past developments.
3. Contrary to many self-assured and self-serving proclamations, there is no scientific consensus about the causes of recent climate changes. An impartial observer must accept the fact that both sides of the dispute – the believers in man’s dominant role in recent climate changes, as well as the supporters of the hypothesis about their mostly natural origin – offer arguments strong enough to be listened to carefully by the non-scientific community. To prematurely proclaim the victory of one group over another would be a tragic mistake and I am afraid we are making it.
4. As a result of this scientific dispute, there are those who call for an imminent action and those who warn against it. Rational behavior depends – as always – on the size and probability of the risk and on the magnitude of the costs of its avoidance. As a responsible politician, as an economist, as an author of a book about the economics of climate change, with all available data and arguments in mind, I have to conclude that the risk is too small, the costs of eliminating it too high and the application of a fundamentalistically interpreted “precautionary principle” a wrong strategy.
5. The politicians – and I am not among them – who believe in the existence of a significant global warming and especially those who believe in its anthropogenic origin remain divided: some of them are in favor of mitigation, which means of controlling global climate changes (and are ready to put enormous amounts of resources into it), while others rely on adaptation to it, on modernization and technical progress, and especially on favorable impact of the future increase in wealth and welfare (and prefer spending public money there). The second option is less ambitious and promises much more than the first one.
6. The whole problem does not only have its time dimension, but a more than important spatial (or regional) aspect as well. This is highly relevant especially here, in the UN. Different levels of development, income and wealth in different places of the world make world-wide, overall, universal solutions costly, unfair and to a great extent discriminatory. The already developed countries do not have the right to impose any additional burden on the less developed countries. Dictating ambitious and for them entirely inappropriate environmental standards is wrong and should be excluded from the menu of recommended policy measures.
The Competitive Enterprise Institute, May 28, 2008, Washington D.C.
Klaus discusses a theory of Josef Schumpeter (1883-1950), an economist, who was born in what is now the Czech Republic. Schumpeter’s theory is that capitalism will collapse and be replaced by socialism, but not by way of revolution as taught by Marx. He believed that that the very success of capitalism would lead to a fostering of values hostile to capitalism, suffocating the intellectual and social climate necessary for entrepreneurship to thrive. Capitalism would give ground to forms of socialism by trends in parliaments to elect social democratic parties of one stripe or another. He argued that capitalism’s collapse will ensue as democratic majorities vote for the creation of a welfare state, and place restrictions upon entrepreneurship that will burden and destroy the capitalist structure. Schumpeter disputed the idea that the electorate could really identify the common good. He argued that people’s ignorance and superficiality meant that they were largely manipulated by politicians, who set the agenda.
It should be made clear that we used Schumpeter’s theory of the end of capitalism as an argument in our discussions with the exponents of Marxist political economy and Communist ideology. For that specific purpose – and I am sorry to say that – we did not have the ambition to subject it to any serious criticism. We had, nevertheless, some doubts about it already at that time.
Nowadays, we should pay attention to other factors and processes, by means of which capitalism could be brought to an end, such as the traditional, but in the current “brave new world” of postdemocracy enormously expanding and growing disbelief in the ingenuity of man and in the advantages of the market process. It is, of course, not new because there have always been radical attacks on the market system, but I see a difference now. In the past, the market was attacked mostly by means of the socialist arguments and with the slogan about “the immiseration of the masses”. Now, it’s been replaced by a more dangerous slogan: the immiseration (or perhaps destruction) of the Planet.
It has many similarities but one important thing is different. The evidence that the people are better and better off (not worse off) could have been amassed in a shorter time, in a time – to turn the famous Keynes’s dictum upside down – when we all are not yet dead. Now, it will take centuries to come up with a convincing proof that the Planet has not been destroyed or does not find itself on the brink of destruction.
The free riding this new horse is therefore much easier. The ambitious politicians who try to mastermind the world and their fellow-citizens have been dreaming for decades to find such a marvelous, from reality immunized doctrine. Years or decades of cold weather will not disprove it – to my great regret. It is almost religious. My certainty that this ideology becomes the main vehicle for the destruction of the free market was the main reason for writing the book which was introduced here yesterday.
Schumpeter was, hopefully, wrong in his predictions. And, in addition to it, he has been dead now for almost six decades. Al Gore is, however, very much alive.
Hilton Hotel, Portland, Oregon, September 30, 2008:
During my visits in the U.S. in the last 19 years, I made speeches on a wide range of topics. There has, however, always been a connection between them. They were all about freedom and about threats endangering it. My today’s speech will not be different. I will try to argue and to convince you that even the global warming issue is about freedom. It is not about temperature or CO2. It is, therefore, not necessary to discuss either climatology, or any other related natural science but the implications of the global warming panic upon us, upon our freedom, our prosperity, our institutions and our legislation. It is part of a bigger story.
To be correctly understood, I am not against my country’s EU membership (by the way, it was me who handed in the formal application to enter the EU in 1996 when I was prime minister of the Czech Republic), because regretfully there is no other way to go in Europe these days. The recent developments in the EU are, however, very problematic: we see and feel less freedom, less democracy, less sovereignty, more of regulation, and more of extensive government intervention than we had expected when communism collapsed.
As if this wasn’t enough, in the recent years we came to witness yet another major attack on freedom and free markets, an attack based on environmentalism and – in particular – its global warming variant. The explicitly stated intentions of global warming activists are frightening. They want to change us, to change the whole mankind, to change human behavior, to change the structure and functioning of society, to change the whole system of values which has been gradually established during centuries. These intentions are dangerous and their consequences far-reaching. These people want to restrict our freedom. It is our duty to say NO.
I know that its propagandists have been using all possible obstructions to avoid exposure to rational arguments and I know that the substance of their arguments is not science. It represents, on the contrary, an abuse of science by a non-liberal, extremely authoritarian, freedom and prosperity endangering ideology of environmentalism.
It is important to demonstrate that the global warming story is not an issue belonging to the field of natural sciences only or mostly, even though Al Gore and his fellow-travelers pretend it is the case. It is again, as always in the past, the old, for many of us well-known debate: freedom and free markets vs. dirigism, political control and expansive and unstoppable government regulation of human behavior. In the past, the market was undermined mostly by means of socialist arguments with slogans like: “stop the immiseration of the masses”. Now, the attack is led under the slogan: stop the immiseration (or perhaps destruction) of the Planet.
This shift seems to me dangerous. The new ambitions look more noble, more attractive and more appealing. They are also very shrewdly shifted towards the future and thus practically “immunized” from reality, from existing evidence, from available observations, and from standard testing of scientific hypotheses. That is the reason why they are loved by the politicians, the media and all their friends among public intellectuals. For the same reason I consider environmentalism to be the most effective and, therefore, the most dangerous vehicle for advocating large scale government intervention and unprecedented suppression of human freedom at this very moment.
The global warming alarmists succeeded also in creating incentives which led to the rise of a very powerful rent-seeking group. These rent-seekers profit
– from trading the licenses to emit carbon dioxide;
– from constructing unproductive wind, sun and other equipments able to produce only highly subsidized electric energy;
– from growing non-food crops which produce non-carbon fuels at the expense of producing food (with well-known side effects);
– from doing research, writing and speaking about global warming.
These people represent a strong voice in the global warming debate. They are not interested in CO2, freedom or markets, they are interested in their businesses and their profits – “produced” with the help of politicians.
As I said many times before: the current world-wide dispute is not about environment, it is about freedom. And I would add “about prosperity and living conditions of billions of people.” To avoid a disaster, “we should trust in the rationality of man and in the outcome of spontaneous evolution of human society, not in the virtues of political activism.”
Climate Forum, Kongresshotel Seepark, Thun, Switzerland, October 9, 2008:
Current priorities do not fall from the sky. They reflect our way of looking at things, “die Weltanschauung”, which characterizes our era. Its formation started decades ago. I see it in the culture, philosophy and ideology of the 1960s and 1970s which in many respects opposed the traditional way of looking around and which brought to the fore – among many other things – the idea that the world is a single entity, one gigantic global system which deserves to be globally governed. This “system-engineering” viewpoint was, more or less, generally accepted. Everyone suddenly discovered interdependencies, interconnections, externalities, interdisciplinarity, general systems theory, metasciences, etc. It became politically correct, progressive, for me only progressivistic, to think in terms of global issues, global governance, and global solutions. It was – not surprisingly – also the birth of environmentalism. The man as a free and dominant individual entity disappeared. The world, the earth, and the planet replaced him as the relevant frame of reference. That led to a radical switch of priorities.
It became the excellent starting point for those who wanted to mastermind the whole world and all of us. Their approaches – based on the one hand on the misunderstanding (and misinterpretation) of interdependence and globalization and on the other on the outdated belief in government’s omnipotence –are conceptually wrong, unavoidably undemocratic and discriminatory, and – above all – condemned to fail.
[An] example is the ambition to combat the so called global warming. This ambition is also based on the pretence of understanding global issues and on the belief in the possibility to control them centrally. It is not necessary to repeat the already well-known more or less technical and scientific counter-arguments here this morning. They are available to anyone who wants to listen to them. The problem is that the propagandists of the global warming alarmism do not listen and that the majority of rational people does not pay attention.
The current global warming debate is not a scientific dispute inside climatology. As the famous British historian Paul Johnson put it recently, “global warming, as Marxism, is a political theory of actions demanding compliance with its rules.” We should not mix it with science. Science is O.K. We have sufficient evidence that a normal, serious, healthy and productive discourse among scientists, believers in the greenhouse hypothesis and those who disagree with it goes on and will be going on. The science is definitely not settled.
The global warming debate is about something else. It is not about temperature or CO2 levels. It is about the people, their behavior, their values, their habits, their life. It is a clash between environmentalists, non-liberal politicians, international bureaucrats, irresponsible journalists, some economists and other scientists who attempt to change us (not climate) and those who believe in freedom, markets, human ingenuity and technical progress.
Warsaw School of Economics, Warsaw, Poland, October 13, 2008. Klaus was commenting on the translation into Polish of his book Blue Planet in Green Shackles, which is subtitled ‘What is Endangered: Climate or Freedom?’:
What is Endangered: Climate or Freedom? My answer to this question is very clear and straightforward: “Endangered is freedom. Climate is O.K.”
After spending several years studying this issue I came to the conclusion that we were deceived. The Great Global Warming Debate is not about temperature or CO2 levels. It is not a scientific dispute inside climatology. It is a dispute about us, about people, about human society, about our values, our habits, our life. It is a clash between those who want to change us (not climate) and those who believe in freedom, markets, human ingenuity, and technical progress.
Global warming doctrine – as a part of environmentalism – is an ideology which uses (or better to say misuses) some elements of scientific enquiry to a totally non-scientific goals and aims. Its goal is to mastermind the world and all of us.