Socialism and the Environment

Don’t you find it interesting that the current administration in the USA is pushing both an environment and socialist agenda, as if these two agendas are inherently compatible?

Folks on the left are often advocating tearing down capitalism and replacing it with eco-socialism. How often have you heard that climate change is a crisis of capitalism? Many perceive the Green New Deal as a call for large scale nationalization for the sake of saving the planet. Look at any rally in support of the environment, and advocates of Socialism are in attendance in large numbers.

In reality my experience has been quite the opposite. Fly into Shanghai even 25 years ago, and the smog is overwhelming in comparison to any major city in the West.

The Soviets lived in air polluted environments 3 to 4 times that allowable in Western countries. The indiscriminate use of pesticides, water pollution and deforestation policies were rampant in comparison to Western States.

The evidence appears to challenge the established “conventional wisdom.”

I know the response from the left will be that Venezuela, East Germany and former USSR Socialist states were not true socialism and subject to corruption. If this had been “done right”, Socialism would have an exemplary environmental record.

I contend that this is all BS. Socialism is inherently more damaging to the environment.

The first reason for this is that socialist economies are inherently less efficient. There is little incentive to minimize waste and conserve resources.

Secondly State-owned land suffers from the “tragedy of the commons”. In the absence of private property rights, who pushes back against irreparable property damage, and who sues for compensation to arrest the decay?

Every lived in or near a commune? Who takes care of the grounds and ensures that the place is kept tidy? A visit to a frat house in comparison to a privately owned dwelling will illustrate the concept of the “tragedy of the commons” very graphically for you.

Of course, unregulated capitalism can also lead to massive environment exploitation and requires strict legislation and there is ample history to support that claim. I’m all for the government setting the rules for playing the game through legislation, I’m just not as keen to then see them being the ones actually running onto the field.

Bottom line of course is that more prosperous economies with increased per capita wealth can afford the luxury of taking greater care of the environment.

If we truly care about the environment, I suggest we need to be very selective in the company we keep.

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Every self-declared socialist I know lives a life of wealth and privilege that would make most right-wing Christian Republicans blush.

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My own assessment as well. I often quote the misfortune of the Aral Sea, and this wasn’t an isolated incident. Plus, it makes sense from a logical standpoint. Whilst it is the ‘greedy’ capitalist who pollutes, government is sure to regulate to the point of spite. But when the pollution is done for ‘the good of the people’, then the polluter quite literally is the government, which will brook no criticism.

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Slightly off-topic from the Eco-agenda, but following on from your comment about apologists for socialism and communism always finding excuses to explain away why it has never worked anywhere it has been tried…

I tried playing Devil’s Advocate on this (quite a few years ago) with some students who were convinced “genuine” Communism would solve all the ills of the world - if we could just gloss over its failure every time it has been attempted.

I took the deliberately provocative position of, ‘if only we could try real Fascism, and get it right this time, that would solve society’s problems too’. Naturally they hit back with “… but Hitler…” and " … but the holocaust…" arguments, as they were absolutely right to do. Yet couldn’t see that if those examples negated any possible justification for Fascism then “… but Stalin…” and “… but the Gulags …” should do the same for Communism.

Frankly, wearing a Che T-shirt or a Hammer & Sickle badge in public should receive the same horrified response as sporting a swastika or SS symbol would.

But, as ever, the Left manages to absolve their ideology of its sins without ever noticing the contradiction and double-standard in their thinking.

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OK, I’ll rise to the provocation at the risk of taking us further off my own topic. Let me be even more provocative and suggest that we do have a very successful Fascism example right in front of our noses right now - China.

We don’t take the trouble to define what Fascism is, we label it as “what Mussolini and Hitler did” - Nationalistic and Racist. You challenged me to read up on it a bit which brought me to the fundamental definition as envisaged by Mussolini.

  1. An economy based on Capitalism, Mussolini detested Socialism for inefficiencies that it incorporated.
  2. It rejects democracy and the essential elements of the enlightenment, preferring strong central leadership.
  3. It believes in military expansionism.

Many commentators are suggesting that China fits this definition, suggesting that military expansionism would be the natural next step. The model worked particularly well for Germany post the first world war, until they were stopped militarily. Perhaps a whole lot of messages and lessons to be learnt there in relation to where China could end up?

Back to the Socialist model, “if we just did it right.” To me it is fundamentally flawed due to that descriptive phrase “tragedy of the commons”. Collectives just don’t look after and nurture things. It is not in our nature. Select individuals will allocate resources to investment in innovation. If one takes this wealth and redistributes it more broadly, it ends up in consumption. In the first case the society advances and creates increasing wealth, but in the second it consumes itself and collapses.

Hitler and China that started off as socialists recognized this, and turned to Fascism instead.

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Mussolini - who knew a wee bit about fascism, himself - defined the term thusly: “Fascism should more properly be called corporatism, since it is the merger of state and corporate power.”

Looking around the world is there any other country or organisation that rather neatly matches that description?

Whisper it, but yes …… it’s the EU.

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