A Conservative Ecofascist

The left-leaning Guardian introduces us to someone who claims to be a conservative environmentalist, Sir Roger Scruton, author of How to Think Seriously about the Planet: The Case for Environmental Conservatism. Scruton worries that the global economy is not sustainable because so many things are heavily subsidized. At the same time, he recognizes that environmentalism today has “became a wholly owned subsidiary of the statist left,” becoming an “ism” as bad as socialism and Marxism.

“They come with massive, worldwide plans for a new form of government that will control our souls and will replace the old, inadequate ways of compromise,” Scruton argues. “It’s essentially the same mindset as imposed communism on the Russians and the Eastern Europeans and the Chinese. To me, that involves a complete misunderstanding of what our relation to the natural world really is and should be, because it’s a desire to control rather than to adapt.”

So far so good. However, he also rejects libertarianism, saying conservatives should not “advocate economic freedom at all costs, but recognize the costs of economic freedom.” In particular, he fears suburban sprawl, corporate farming, and global trade.

Scruton’s views are colored by the fact that he happens to own about 100 acres of farmland in rural England. On one hand, this leads him to worry that small farmers including his neighbors aren’t able to compete with corporate farmers. On the other hand, he worries that cities are going to pave over all the farms.

To support these worries, he engages in the same rhetoric used by left-wing environmentalists. “The suburbanization around the cities has led to the complete collapse of the center of many American cities,” he claims. To the Antiplanner, the only center to have collapsed is Detroit, and it did so for reasons other than suburbanization.

To Scruton, “collapse” means something different: he clings to the old view that downtowns should be preeminent over entire urban areas, so what he is really decrying is the decentralization of jobs. But that decentralization took place because of changing technologies (moving-assembly-line manufacturing required more land that could be found in downtown areas) and the nature of work (service jobs are naturally more decentralized than manufacturing jobs). Based on his obsolete view of what cities should look like, he endorses New Urbanism as “a movement to bring back people into the city.”

It is somewhat ironic that Scruton lives in England, which has been doing what he advocates since 1947. Most rural landowners–probably including Scruton–get paid by the government something more than $100 per acre per year to support their farming–in effect, to compensate them for not developing their land. Meanwhile, the urban residents who must pay those subsidies are hemmed in by greenbelts, making English housing some of the most expensive and least affordable in the world. This combination of subsidies to ruralites and declining housing affordability to urbanites is truly unsustainable, yet it perfectly follows Scruton’s ideas.

These ideas work only by using highly coercive tools and subsidies, such as laws or regulations preventing rural landowners from developing their lands, mandates for high-density developments in the cities, and subsidies for such developments. There’s an “ism” that applies to the idea of state control of private property and commerce, and isn’t Marxism or socialism but fascism.

If this is what it means to be a “conservative,” then I am glad I am a libertarian who believes in economic freedom, not as an end in itself “at all costs” but because it usually produces positive outcomes for almost everyone. However, I hope there are many conservatives who may not identify with libertarians and yet who also don’t believe that the government should have complete control over all private land and enterprises, for that is no more sustainable than socialism.


6 thoughts on “A Conservative Ecofascist

  1. CapitalistRoader

    The link goes to a Weekly Standard article on Scruton. An excerpt:

    The global economy packages everything, and as we know, most of the packaging ends up in the Pacific. So it’s completely unsustainable. Something will have to be done.

    The hyperbole reminds me of an undergraduate’s PolySci term paper. And it’s not the western countries dumping trash into the Pacific: Just 10 river systems are responsible for 90 percent of the plastic flowing into the oceans. Eight are in Asia and two are in Africa. Ranked from the highest amount of plastic waste to the lowest, they are: the Yangtze River, Indus River, Yellow River, Hai He River, Nile River, Ganges River, Pearl River, Amur River, Niger River, and the Mekong River.

    UK citizens have never been shy about supporting either Marxism or fascism. Both are inherently statist ideologies and are as far from classical liberalism as can be.

  2. prk166

    The global economy packages everything, and as we know, most of the packaging ends up in the Pacific. So it’s completely unsustainable.

    It wasn’t that long ago that it was common for people in the US to dump trash anywhere and everywhere. Talk to any of the baby boomers, especially those that grew up in more rural settings. Almost all of them knew of some place that was the Smith dump or the Ruckster dump. Some local name for that spot along the road or that old farm yard where people would drive into and dump their old mufflers, old furniture, TVs, et al.

    Now that generation is bending over backward to recycle and make sure it goes into a proper landfill. Maybe , JUST MAYBE instead of throwing the baby out with the bathwater we could help the rest of the world adhere to our new standard. The packaging isn’t the issue, it’s what people do with it.

    And that doesn’t even get into the insane implication of all of that. What are we going to do? Invade Cambodia if they don’t stop dumping trashing in the Mekong? Occupy Bangladesh and Pakistan if they keep using products with packaging? Invade Germany and red China to get them to stop exporting things that are in packages?!?!??

  3. Frank

    “It wasn’t that long ago that it was common for people in the US to dump trash anywhere and everywhere.”

    And that’s awesome! I’ve found many valuable beer cans and other bottles in rural dumps. Fun stuff! In another 100 years it will just be inactive glass and iron oxide.

    Plastic, however, will probably not have much value in the future and probably won’t naturally degrade.

    Plastic recycling is a big joke btw.

  4. LazyReader

    The Hypocrisy over environmental issues among the political left is astounding. The word conservative implies “Conserve” as in use less. All the technologies leftist environmentalists support depend solely on the availability of scarce and politically cordoned rare earth metal resources.
    Let’s see global energy consumption is about 567 Exajoules or a power demand of about 18 terawatts. The third world where most of the worlds rainforests are located account for 60% of that. So the Third World needs to replace 340 Exajoules or 10 Terawatts of energy with renewable energy, currently 90% of the third worlds energy is met with wood or biomass. Never the less, 10 terawatts of wind power that’s 10 million 1 Megawatt wind mills then take into consideration the Betz limit that the maximum energy performance of a turbine is about 59% running efficiency which it often never runs at that level of performance, the average wind turbine efficiency is 30-35% , that’s less than a third so you need three times as many turbines to make up the difference; that’s 30 MILLION turbines then you have to build even more turbines cause the wind distribution is not universal all over the world so you have to send electricity from one site to another when the wind is stagnant which may require twice as many turbines so that’s 60 MILLION turbines. Then you have to install them so that’s 60 million acres of forest that has to go since it takes a acre of treeless land (as tall trees interfere with the wind pattern splaying against the turbines). it takes about a ton of of neodymium and other rare earth metal per turbine so that’s 60 million tons of rare earth metal. China whom consolidates 90% of the global supply, only produces 100,000 tons a year so it would take 600 years to mine it all assuming that much even exists. That’s a lot of Strip mining, probably that needs to be done in the rainforest regions of the world. And that’s just the third world, never mind the industrialized worlds energy demands. Don’t get me started where all the copper wire is gonna come from or all the Lithium to store it. Given the environmentalist uproar over mining…..anything.

    Solar and wind only provide electricity, while essential, industrial processes are not solely electrically based. The hydrogen-carbon bond is the greatest discovery in human history. There is no fossil fuel free society, what you’re amounting too is Hydro-carbon free, which is virtually impossible since were made of the stuff. Convert all non electric energy consumption to electric. And billions more for high voltage transmission to send it to where it’s needed. Fossil fuel free, here’s a few things you will have to give up to meet that goal:
    1. Food – no more synthetic fertilizers, fungicides, pesticides and herbicides. Back to using manure. Expect crop losses of 40-80%. And E-Coli and food borne pathogen infections to return to pre-industrial levels.
    2. Plastics – gone. Cant manufacture long chained hydro-carbons without their pre-cursor short chain hydro-carbon. NO PLASTIC, what will IKEA makes it’s furniture from.
    3. Modern Medicine. About 85% of modern pharmaceutical drugs use Benzene as a pre-cursor. We all know Scandinavians take shit loads of anti-depressants
    4. Lubricants – both machine and and personal hope you like it raw, without long lasting high efficiency lubricants nothing runs. Not trains, planes or automobiles or any moving machinery.
    5. Steel and all other metal alloys. They require petroleum or coke.
    6. Synthetic materials, nylon, spandex, polyester, kevlar, dacron, Mylar, Orlon, Tyvek, Nomex, Qiana, Corfam, and Corian, Polyethylene Terephthalate,Polyethylene, Polypropylene, Polystyrene, Vinyl and rubber. No more LuLu Lemons or running shoes for you and no more bike tires, we all know how Europeans love to bike.
    7. About 20% of all construction materials contain or use petroleum products. Without glues, sealants, epoxies, insulation and flame retardants, your house would be a falling apart, leaky, cold, fiery deathtrap. There goes your house. And without oxygen fuel welding or steel mentioned above, nothing above three stories can be built unless it’s stone or brick…….which you cant do since brick has to be FIRED and no stone unless you live near a quarry or pay to have tons and tons of it shipped to you.
    8. Flying and shipping. Yeah, lets go back to wooden sailing ships that took weeks to cross oceans.
    9: Refrigerants. Yeah, hydrocarbons being used to keep food with short shelf life fresh, without preservatives organic goodies rot in 2-3 days.
    10: You can also stop promoting your city as a tourist destination. Think of all the fuel saved by people not going there.

  5. prk166

    Plastic, however, will probably not have much value in the future
    ” ~Frank

    Well, if there ever is such a thing as peak hydrocarbons ( aka peak oil ) then there’ll be a lot of value in it. 🙂

  6. CapitalistRoader

    Well, if there ever is such a thing as peak hydrocarbons ( aka peak oil )…

    Not in any of our lifetimes: Oil Reserves, Their Categories, and the World’s Largest :

    There are 1.665 trillion barrels of oil in the world as of January 2016. That’s enough to last another 50 years since the world uses 90.5 million barrels per day. Only proven reserves are counted in the total world reserves. Therefore, this number changes slightly every year, thanks to changes in oil reserves.

    The United States has 3 trillion barrels trapped in the Green River shale oil formation in Colorado.

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