I Wish I Could Like Activists

I sure wish I could like activists like Al Gore.  Last night, at the Oscars, he was charming and passionate.  He has something he cares deeply about and flies around the world speaking about.    It's terribly compelling, which you could see in the reaction Al got last night from an adoring audience and various fawning actors.

And if Mr. Gore were there last night to convince the audience to get out of their stretch limos and G-V's and drive Prius's and use compact fluorescent bulbs, I'd be fine.  Sure I might laugh that it was all pointless and the movie Inconvenient Truth was terribly overblown, but its a free society and Mr. Gore would be welcome to make his call to other individuals that they change their lifestyle. 

Unfortunately, Mr. Gore's only goal last night was not just to rally the TV audience to change its lifestyle.  The more important goal was to increase the likelihood that government will compel Americans to do what Mr. Gore wants.  And this is what makes me cringe nowadays when I hear the term "activist."  I don't want to cringe, because passionately advocating for you cause, even if I disagree with it, should be part of the rich fabric of a free society.  Unfortunately, though, at the heart of nearly every modern activist's agenda is compulsion -- the desire to use the coercive power of the government to force you to do something you would not otherwise choose to do.  It is the very unusual activist today who is not trying, whether they admit it or not, to chisel away at individual freedom for some "higher cause."

By the way, speaking of higher cause, did anyone else note the religious parallels in the green-speak last night at the Oscars?  You had Al Gore in the role of Bill Graham, with several people talking about how Al had helped them "see the light."  Even more amazing to me was the parallel with a confessional at Catholic Church.  I have been lucky enough in the past to attend the Academy Awards, and I can tell you from experience what was sitting right outside:  The largest collection of stretch limousines you can ever imagine -- I am talking about enough limos to create a traffic tie-up four lanes wide and extending back for miles, all running their engines for six hours waiting to whisk stars to late-night parties and private jets.  I am fairly certain that no other small group in America generated more CO2 yesterday through their private use than the audience at the Oscars.  Yet by declaring the Oscars to be "green", voting for an Inconvenient Truth, and cheering Al Gore, the audience was in effect saying 10 hail mary's in the confessional, washing away all sin. 

Update:  How I can be sure Al Gore's activism is about government control and not individual action:

Drudge reports  that Al Gore's Nashville mansion consumes more than 20 times the average amount of power for an American household.

Since
Gore's whole deal is that civilization-saving absolutely and vitally
requires an action on everyone's part that he seems to refuse to do
himself, it leads one to wonder about how this whole global warming
thing is going to play out with the public and with the government.
(Unless Gore's house is powered completely or partially off a
conventional coal-burning grid, which doesn't seem to be true based on
Drudge's piece.)

Does Gore's seeming inability to curb his
power consumption--which has apparently grown since the release of his
Oscar-winning flick--mean it isn't true that we really do all
have to scrupulously use less carbon-burning energy or doom the planet?
No. But it does make it a little hard to believe that he really
believes it--or that if even the biggest believer in global warming of
all can't control himself in this regard, that a serious planetwide
reduction in the short or medium term short of draconian outside
controls has much hope.

  • Tim

    I agree with the connection to religious zelotry but I liken the Green's attitude to something more like McCarthism. Come to think of it, Religious zelotry and McCarthyism are awfully similar. Both leverage fear, both ask you to hand over your individuality to someone else, in one case the church, in the other the government. In the case of the Greens, having their roots in socialism they are not just asking you to behave correctly (like the church does now) they are commanding you to behave correctly or the government will crush you (Much like the Spanish inquisition).

    Wow. I think there are a lot of parallels here...

  • Mike

    In general I agree with you; certainly I don't want Gore, et. al., to run the country and tell me how to live "for my own good." But what about the activists who use government to coerce behavior in what most of us would consider the "right" way? I'm thinking of William Wilberforce & Co., who used the force of government to outlaw slave trade (and eventually slavery) in the British Empire. See the just-released-film Amazing Grace.

    I know, I know: Eliminating slavery is in-line with libertarian principles. But why do I have the nagging feeling at times that this is ad-hoc, post facto rationalization?

  • Tim

    Mike, a libertarian would say that upholding the individual freedoms of life, liberty and property are the only legitimate uses of government coercion. That is why ending slavery with government coercion is not anti-libertarian. The Greens claim global warming is about protecting life but the concept of liberty is for individuals not groups. To that end, they find that they need to gut (individual) liberty to protect (public)life. Ultimately, that is what most statist arguments boil down to. It is the same argument on the right where we need to give up our individual liberty of search and seizure to protect the public from terrorism. That is why freedoms focused on the individual are so darn important. Because if you lose sight of the fact that freedoms are for individuals not groups you can rationalize almost anything.

  • markm

    Mike: Slavery was also something that could only rarely have been maintained without the force of government. Slavetraders depended on the navies of the "civilized" nations to protect them on their voyages to Africa and back. Slaveowners depended on the police and courts to help retrieve their "property" when it ran away - and even more, they depended on the authorities to deter the slaves from defending themselves, and to forcefully and murderously put down any attempt by a group of slaves to organize a coordinated self-defense effort (aka a "slave revolt".)

  • JoshK

    The religion comment is on the money. Notice the zealous rage with with "global warming deniers" are decried. I once saw Al Gore being interviewed and was asked, "What about the skeptics"; he replied, "The science is settled - there is no debate".

  • Mesa EconoGuy

    Sorry, no amount of booze or other chemicals can alter the fact that these people, and Al Gore foremost among them, are vacuous dolts.

    The minute you have dangerously uninformed, mentally unstable (Gore looks like he’s into the anti-depressants, big-time) fruitcakes and wackos, most of whom are unqualified to wash my car, telling us “The debate is over,” it’s time to either start cleaning house, or pack up and leave.

    The amount of hot air expelled by them is probably a major driver of what little “global warming” there is…..

  • Anonymous

    oh look, it's the non believers, the americans. the world should put you all in a barrel and start shooting. but, since you all are so damn fat, you make good carbon sinks. there is not one PEER REVIEWED science study that disproves the link between human caused CO2 emissions and global climate change. not one. maybe you can come up with a few "studies" funded by the heritage foundation or you can probably find something from your favorite drudge type website. facts are facts but bs is still bs. and you bastards are producing 25% of the global CO2 for the entire planet. ignorant bastards is what you are and your children and grandchildren will have to pay for it, along with ours.

    even if you think global warming via fossil fuel burning is somehow a hoax (those thousands of reseachers from 100+ countries got together just to screw you!), you'd think you would want to STOP supporting countries like venezuela, saudi arabia (the ones who attacked you on 911), iran and others by buying their oil. but, no, you keep on buring and ignore the fact that you directly support the countries you so despise with every paycheck you receive. keep on burning until you can't afford to, and then the grown ups will take over after you have trashed the planet and try to clean up.

    and by clean-up, i don't mean attacking countries that never attacked you, blowing the place to bits and pieces, meanwhile killing hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians plus the 3100+ US troops (and 30k injured) and counting. you'll go broke just like russia did fighting osama in afghanistan. stoopid americans.