A couple of days ago I listened to Joe Rogan’s podcast with Bernie Sanders. The thing with Sanders is he’s actually pretty good at identifying genuine problems. In 2016, what he was saying about blue collar America wasn’t much different from Trump’s message, which is partly why so many of the Bernie Bros couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Hillary. However, Sanders’ solutions to the problems he identifies are terrible, consisting of top-down authoritarianism presiding over a command-and-control economy, much like what he saw in the Soviet Union on his honeymoon. Take for example his proposals for tackling climate change around the hour mark of the podcast:
Sanders has bought wholesale into the nonsense that we have 12 years left to save the planet, but his solutions are even more daft. His proposal is to “tell the fossil fuel industry that their short term profits are not more important than the future of the planet”. He then goes on to say “you cannot keep producing a product which is destroying the planet.” Rogan asks him whether this means he will tell the fossil fuel companies to stop selling their products, and Sanders replies that yes, “this is the bottom line”.
It’s hard to know where to begin with such stupidity. The only major oil and gas companies the US government would have some degree of control over should it issue such an order are ExxonMobil and Chevron. While most international oil companies work overtime not to fall foul of the US government in ordinary circumstances, faced with what amounts to closure orders from a President Sanders they’d cease all cooperation immediately. Sanders talks about the need to work with Russia and others but it’s hard to imagine Gazprom and Rosneft shutting down production because a septuagenarian multi-millionaire from Vermont deems it necessary. Although if Theresa May were still British Prime Minister you could well imagine her closing down BP in order to seal her “legacy”.
But the impossibility of implementing the policy isn’t even the most stupid part. Sanders speaks as though the fossil fuel companies sell products with no utility, as if they don’t underpin the entire way of modern life. He seems to think they’re luxury products we can do without if only the right leadership is shown. I see this with a lot of people: they think cars should be electric, and electricity generated by solar, wind, and hydro power and therefore we don’t need fossil fuels any more. What staggers me is the ignorance among the general public about what fossil fuel products are actually used for. Even making the ludicrous assumption we could switch our cars to electric and generate all electricity from renewables, how do we power planes, ships, and tractors without fossil fuels? Even my erstwhile environmental engineer friend didn’t seem to understand that a demand for fossil fuels will likely remain until the very end of human existence. She didn’t seem to consider the economics of her preferred policies at all, let alone the effects at the margins (i.e on the poor), which puts her in good company with Bernie Sanders and most of the public who subscribe to swivel-eyed environmentalism. One minute Sanders is bemoaning the difficulties low-paid workers face in America, the next he’s saying we should make basic energy products as expensive as diamonds.
As I’ve said before, I have a theory that when a certain number of generations have taken the bottom two levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for granted, the society starts to self-destruct. A critical mass of people simply lose connection with the foundations which prop up their society, start meddling with them, and eventually call for their destruction. I’ve tried to think of a similar instance from history, and the closest I can find is China’s decision in the 15th century to destroy their ships in an effort to isolate themselves from the perils of free trade. And even that doesn’t come close to ordering a halt on fossil fuel production. What’s that saying that whom the Gods would destroy they first make mad? We’re here, folks.