Saturday, 18 December 2010

Kevin Williamson’s whitewash of Australia

For a long time this year I assumed that the Politically Incorrect Guide series would end after The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Vietnam War, which was originally supposed to be published in June 2009 but was delayed by something like nine months in the effort to produce three Politically Incorrect Guides that were apparently intended as a response to the election of the conservatives’ archenemy Barack Obama as President. Once the reasonable Politically Incorrect Guide to the Great Depression and the New Deal, the Politically Incorrect Guide to the Founding Fathers, and the disappointing Politically Incorrect Guide to the Sixties were published, Regnery took a further half-year to finally publish The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Vietnam War.

Even when it finally appeared, I guessed that The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Vietnam War would be the last-ever Politically Incorrect Guide. No evidence appeared on any site or on Regnery itself that any more Politically Incorrect Guides were in the works for a very long nine months. The result was that I asked on whether The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Vietnam War would be the last Politically Incorrect Guide?

In October, however, I found that Regnery were in fact writing a new Politically Incorrect Guide titled “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism”. The amazing thing about it was how prototype copies had exactly the same “did you knows” as the Politically Incorrect Guide to the Founding Fathers, so I did not know what to expect as I thought about the series beginning again (if you will). My basic thought was that Regnery had already made most of the arguments it had to about socialism (well, people like Murray Newton Rothbard had done so before PIGs existed).

However, once The Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism became fully finalised, portions of it became available on, and I decided I should have a look. Most of the chapters as I could see them were fairly familiar from such authors as Thomas Woods and Arthur Brooks, but there was some interesting arguments about the contrasting histories of India and Hong Kong. Given Hong Kong’s loss of traditions and its lowest-low fertility, I definitely feel conservatives should be far more wary of praising it as an example of how the free market works in small city, small island or high mountain states. India, in fact, has retained rather more of the traditions conservatives ought to be concerned about than Hong Kong.

In fact, Hong Kong really is quite similar to Sweden: both are resource-free nations (even pre-industrially neither was that resource-rich) where high technology and energy efficiency are economic necessities because ordinary sources are scarce and expensive.

The really interesting - and ultimately terrifying - thing about what I could read of Williamson’s book is how it looks at the way socialism effects the environment. It makes familiar arguments about:
  1. how socialism caused immense pollution and destroyed the Aral Sea through the Qaraqum canal.
  2. how the Left today is “watermelon” - green inside but socialist at its core
However, when he looks at the environmental record of socialism, author Kevin Williamson makes a big omission. In his effort to show how socialism effects the environment adversely, Williamson looks at nationalised oil companies and aims to show that they have been much worse than private ones because of the absence of property rights. Nonetheless, as Williamson points out in the texts coloured red, in energy-resource-rich nations, it is likely that the energy companies will “seize the government”. The problem is that the majority of readers will not realise there is a genuine whitewash in what Williamson is saying - analogous only to Christopher Horner in previous Politically Incorrect Guides. This whitewash is Williamson’s failure to note the observations made in the 2006 documentary “The Greenhouse Mafia” that constitutes by far the worst example of energy companies taking over a country’s political system.

Ecological science, as documented by Tim Flannery and Tom McMahon, shows that Australia’s terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems are much less productive and much more fragile than those of all other present-day continents. Flannery in The Future Eaters shows this leads Australian native fauna to have much lower metabolic rates than those of other continents except sub-Zambezian Africa.

If we apply this to human ecology, one would necessarily conclude that because of the known climatic sensitivity of Australia vis-Ă -vis other present-day continents that Australian per capita CO2, CH4 and N2O emissions should have to be no more than one twenty-fifth to one hundredth those of European, Asian or North American nations. In reality, as anyone who has read this blog or heard the news will know, Australia’s per capita greenhouse emissions are four times those of Sweden, Denmark or Switzerland, and the difference is growing. Given the evidence of permanent climate change globally this southern winter and a refutation of key argument of greenhouse sceptics concerning high snowfalls in hotter years, the culpability of Australia’s “greenhouse mafia” and the state of which they - as Guy Pearse has shown - are an integral part must not be denied.

If Williamson wanted to avoid this problem, he would at least show that big business taking over government is as bad - or given Australia’s dreadful greenhouse gas emissions - worse than government taking over big business. That big business can be destructive to liberty, family and the environment is a point noted well by “distributist” factions of the Right in books like Crunchy Cons, but one neglected by “Austrian” ones. Nonetheless, dealing with this fact is an absolute necessity for any conservative faction. Indeed, those who are critical of “bigness” could see much to criticise in the very character of Australia, a fact Jared Diamond ignores in Collapse. Australia’s geographic “connectedness” is in fact much greater than that of China which Diamond does quote. This connectedness means:
  1. political debates are very weak and the wealthy energy companies can control the whole continent without opposition
  2. with the resources available, Australia has
  3. little incentive to innovate
  4. much incentive to be extremely conservative with respect to such issues as energy consumption.
The results in Australia’s greenhouse emissions speak for themselves, and the world ignores this at its peril.


Kevin D. Williamson said...

Thanks for the note. Agree completely that the Big Government/Big Business nexus is noxious regardless of which party has the upper hand. Australian C02 levels not exactly the main focus of the book, though!

Kevin D. Williamson

jpbenney said...


I find is a really telling point how big businesses can actually be far from traditional in their social views - contrary to what I was taught by hardcore student socialists at Melbourne University in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Indeed, with the exception (perhaps) of Hugh Morgan it is hard to find any Australian businessmen who were really socially conservative.