In her new book, “This Changes Everything,” climate change activist and long time, passionate critic of capitalism, Naomi Klein, says the Right Wing in America has a better understanding than the Left of what the Liberal Agenda implies for capitalism. Her first chapter is titled, “The Right is Right,” by which she means that, yes, dealing with climate change implies an end to capitalism as we know it, just like Fox News and the Right Wing think tanks have been saying all along.
Klein makes no bones about that! Her book is already being touted as the climate companion to Thomas Picketty’s “Capital In the 21st Century,” which deals with capitalism’s tendency to produce severe wealth inequalities, as he sees it. Klein’s related point is that capitalism tends to produce catastrophic global warming. Just replace “severe and inevitable inequalities” in Picketty’s work with “severe and inevitable desecration of the planet,” and you pretty much have the gist of Klein’s book. (Here is a left view and a right view of Klein’s work).
Klein was recently interviewed about her new book on MSNBC. Chris Hayes offered this teaser to the MSNBC audience before breaking for a commercial:
HAYES: “Now, in a very provocative and I might say excellent new book, one of the left`s most celebrated and influential authors across the world, Naomi Klein says, ‘Yes, that is right, conservative fears about what climate change means for the global economy are well founded’”
Some of Hayes’ few Right Wing viewers must have switched the channel at that point, having captured all the material they needed for the next blog. They took Hayes’ provocative, “boost the ratings and sell the book” intro, as admission that climate change is a hoax concocted by the Left to sink free markets and to take over what remains, after Obamacare is through exacting its pound of flesh from capitalism (as the Right sees it).
Of course, Klein didn’t mean it exactly this way. Hayes of course knew that. Here, in her words, is what she actually meant — and eventually said — in the MSNBC segment:
KLEIN: “Yes. I mean, it is not true that it is some sort of conspiracy designed to smuggle in, you know, socialism and just using, you know, climate change as a cover. The fact is if we are going to respond to this crisis, we need to break a whole bunch of the free market rules that these guys hold very dear. We need to regulate. We need to get in the way of the fossil fuel companies, who have made it clear that they are willing to dig up five times more carbon than our atmosphere can absorb and still stay below catastrophic warming. We need to invest heavily in the public sphere. But, I can understand why from a hard core free market conservative perspective, if you live at the Cato Institute and the American Enterprise Institute, this would feel like the end of the world. It is not the end of the world. It is the end of their world.” Here is the full interview from the MSNBC program.
Another way to convey what Klein is saying is with a title I first considered, but soon abandoned, for this blog post: “If the global warming crisis is a socialist conspiracy to sink capitalism, then so was World War II.” (Blog titles are supposed to be attention grabbing). What could I have possibly meant by that? World War II was not only the mother of all economic stimulus packages (which is of course not to say it was fought for that reason), but it also regulated the heck out of capitalism (which was necessary to fight the war), and ushered in thirty more years of activist government on the domestic side.
What Klein is saying is that if you believe man made global warming is as big a threat as the Axis Powers in the 1930s, there is no choice but to mobilize, aggressively regulate, and spend heavily in the public sphere, as we had to in WW II; i.e., wage war against climate change. We also accumulated debt in that era which makes our current sovereign debt problem seem manageable.
Of course, the Right would think comparing global warming to Hitler and Hirohito is absurd. But Klein thinks the threat to civilization is about as great; and that even “Green Capitalists,” like Virgin Airlines’ Richard Branson and former New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg, are so blinded by the imperatives of growth and profit, that they miss the point. She laments that it’s unrealistic to rely on business to find solutions to climate change.
One big point Klein misses is that developing industrial societies like China, though perhaps not worshiping profits, aren’t ready to compromise on Growth, the other part of the capitalist imperative. The Chinese government doesn’t seem ready to adopt Klein’s solutions to curbing carbon emissions. They think (wish?) they can pollute their way to growth, but clean it up as they go along, with Geo-engineering and fantastic weather changing technology. Klein regards that thinking as subversive.