One of the things about a pandemic, of which I hope you are taking advantage (as I am) is the ‘free time’ to read. Without our long commutes, with workloads somewhat reduced (so much of my job is meetings and trips, which have been cut down and cancelled, respectively) and with much, much less time “on the town” – I’ve found myself with more time to read. I catalogue my reading here, at Goodreads mostly which includes a reading challenge that helps keep up the peer pressure. This year, aside from finding great literature (I’ll get to that in another post), I found three books which will change the way you think about things you thought you were convinced about. They are a must read for winter and would make great Christmas presents. Without further ado:
The Human Rights “agenda” is suffering from a period of what might be called “Rights Inflation”. People have learned, if you want to advance a component of your agenda, couch it in the narrative of “Human Rights” and you will find yourself virtually unopposed. For this reason, our rights discussion has degenerated to a laundry-wish list of opinions and preferences including the right to housing and right to health care and right to culture and right to live a life un-offended and a right to do virtually whatever it is that each of us thinks is right in our own eyes. True human rights have consisted of only three, and have never changed: life, liberty and property. Everything else are negotiations within a ‘social contract’ of the role of the state in society. This is because all rights place duties upon a state, duties which must be paid for and therefore place corresponding duties upon citizens. Because the state does not have its own money – and everything it does it must pay for by stealing, borrowing or printing. “The Debasement of Human Rights” is about this, about how we should return to an orthodox discussion of Human Rights, if our agenda to better human life is to have any meaning at all.
Prevailing “wisdom” is that the world is in the midst of a population crisis, that we are headed for a Malthusian breaking point due to overpopulation and our plant will not be able to cope. The truth of the matter is that population growth maxed out a few decades ago in terms of percentages, and in real numbers will max out in the next decades. The truth is that the planet is experiencing a moment of tremendous aging. Median ages are going towards 40 years old. Many countries (Russia, Japan, South Korea, Italy) are already undergoing significant population declines, and the rest of the developed world is close behind. China, our latest “red scare” country will reduce its size by half in the next years; it is not a global hegemon, but instead a gerontocracy which very soon will have to put the tremendous totalitarian power of the state at the service of bed-pans and Hometown Buffet lines. The only developed world countries growing – US, Canada, Australia, UK – is due to immigration (one reason Asia is in real trouble is that they suffer no immigrants). This decline is existential for our capitalist economic model, predicated as it is on constant growth. With fewer people, and those who exist getting older and casting aside the purchase of the newest I-Phone and a larger house, instead downsizing and spending more money on health care and food than on the latest gadget, our entire economic model will change. Look no further than Japan today, and you will see what our world will look like in the coming decades. We maxed out. We did not destroy the planet, we did not run out of food. 21st century is the discovery of tremendous change and solutions to address those changes – we’ve already started with COVID, and it will continue. “Empty Planet” is about this:
Back to Malthus – the “prevailing wisdom” says that we are destroying our world, and its due to greenhouse gas emissions. Renewables is the only answer to the catastrophe. The realities are that in many ways the environmental degradation brought about by our rapid industrialization was brought to an end a few decades ago. Slowly, we’ve made our productivity cleaner and our energy more efficient. Trees are being replanted and – as our populations urbanize and decline (see previous book) – the Neo-Malthusians predicting environmental apocalypse were wrong. Now, we certainly need to focus on stopping the rampant overfishing, find a solution to eliminate plastics in a safe way (though plastics themselves have been the greatest savior of the animals, and to a degree responsible for our tremendous prosperity), protect the amazing biodiversity of the planet and begin to reseed the world. There is no sixth great extinction. As our world gets smaller and older, all this will get easier. As our economic model changes to less consumerism due to aging, this also will help. The real problem is assuring economic growth for those still suffering (read Africa) – because wealth is more environmentally friendly. “Poverty is the greatest polluter,” as Indira Gandhi once said. Yes Africa is indeed in a rough way. But it can only be saved by provision of steady, cheap power – and this cannot be by using “renewables”. There is no leapfrogging over the energy dense materials we used to power our own growth. Barring any major scientific breakthroughs (cold fusion anyone?) we know that coal is better than wood, LNG is better than coal, and nuclear is better than all of the above. A tremendous source of steady safe energy for which all the waste can be literally dumped into a cement tube and – if we want – fired into space. Apocalyptic Environmentalism is, like communism 100 years ago, a utopian death cult which must be replaced with reason based, science based solutions motivated by love for ourselves and our amazing planet. And “Climate Change” as an “agenda”? – a bait and switch, for politicians to scare you and steal your money. “Apocalypse Never” is about all this: