Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Of Degrees and Inequities

Vaclav Klaus, president of the Czech Republic, will never be invited to deliver a commencement address at Harvard University, or to address any American university's graduation class. He is likely one of the few living politicians who is not a fool, a huckster, or a "control freak." He believes in man, in man's place and happiness on earth, and in his freedom to live on it unobstructed by fools, hucksters, and those who want to control, guide, or "manage" his existence.

In his June 13th commentary in the Financial Times of London, under the heading, "Freedom, not climate, is at risk," he remarked:

"As someone who lived under communism for most of his life, I feel obliged to say that I see the biggest threat to freedom, democracy, the market economy and prosperity now in ambitious environmentalism, not in communism. This ideology wants to replace the free and spontaneous evolution of mankind by a sort of central (now global) planning.

"Does it make any sense to speak about warming the Earth when we see it in the context of the evolution of our planet over hundreds of millions of years? Every child is taught at school about temperature variations, about the ice ages, about the much warmer climate of the Middle Ages. All of us have noticed that even during our life-time temperature changes occur (in both directions).

"Due to advances in technology, increases in disposable wealth, the rationality of institutions and the ability of countries to organize themselves, the adaptability of human society has been radically increased. It will continue to increase and will solve any potential consequences of mild climate changes."

George Mason University Prof. Walter Williams, another voice lost in a wilderness of "the sky is falling" warnings about global warming, wrote in his column, "Fighting Climate Change, Gun Control and Income Tax Laws" on Capitalism Magazine on May 15th:

"About 65 million years ago, the Earth experienced one of the most rapid and extreme global climate changes recorded in geological history. The period has been named the 'Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum.' The ocean was 18 to 27 degrees hotter than it is today. Antarctica, which is today's coldest place on Earth, was home to temperate forests, beech trees and ferns. The Earth had no permanent ice caps.....In the past 65 million years, the Earth's temperature has increased and decreased with no help from mankind....."

What is affrighting the Chicken Littles of environmentalism? An average global temperature rise of a few tenths of one degree Celsius. Cause? Undetermined, but probably related to the natural cycle of earth's atmosphere, which had been going through these cycles long before dinosaurs flourished and long after they all perished, and which will continue to.

But, facts, or their absence, have never stopped power-lusters from concocting a multitude of ways of imposing power. They could more credibly blame the sun or the billions of tons of ash and gases spewed into the atmosphere by volcanoes, but these entities are beyond their control and do not respond well to legislation.

There is a purported "inequity" in the average mean global temperature. Whatever average that might be is open to dispute, but largely up for grabs by the power-lusters who hog the headlines and who are abetted in their fraud by an uncritical news media. Rational, non-politically correct climatologists claim that it is an invalid concept, as invalid and pointless a datum as the average daily calorie intake of an entire population.

That fraction of a degree is allegedly caused by man living on earth, and Al Gore, the European Union, and environmental protection agencies, bureaucracies and ministries around the globe want to put on the brakes now. President Klaus is right that environmentalism has replaced communism as the new totalitarian ideology.

There are other fallacious concepts floating around that center on "inequities." For example, Gary Olson, chair of the political science department at Moravian College in Pennsylvania, on May 17th in the Bethlehem Morning Call under the headline, "Wealthiest Americans owe nation a dividend," denied that private wealth is actually "private." Billionaires such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffet benefited from an undefined "social capital," somehow extracting that "social capital" from everyone to turn it into privately-held wealth. He sneers at private philanthropy.

"Some of these plutocrats utter the phrase, 'I just wanted to give something back.' My reaction: Why not give it all back? Or to be fair and just, give back everything over and above any personal effort expended."

Give back to whom? And how much? How would Dr. Olson propose to calculate the value of the "personal effort expended" once a rich person has been relieved of his wealth? What incentives would he devise to encourage anyone to pursue or accumulate wealth, if ambitious, creative men know that extortion and theft are their ultimate rewards?

Well, that would certainly justify the creation of another government agency, such as the Bureau of Social Capital Reimbursement, to oversee the return of that "social capital" and decide how much anyone gets. But, enough of Dr. Olson, chair of Marxist political science. Thomas Sowell or Walter Williams would mop the floor with him in a fair debate and then wring out the remains of him into the janitor's bucket.

That brings us to Bill Gates, who is doing penance by pouring his wealth into the ever-deepening sinkholes of disease, poverty and ignorance around the world. He could serve as an exemplar of Gary Olson's "giving it all back." On June 7th he gave the commencement address to the graduating class of Harvard University. Although he dropped out of Harvard to begin his career as an innovator, Gates was given an honorary degree by the school. After some jocular remarks about having dropped out and unwittingly denigrating the value of a college education, he moved on to the central theme of his address: "the awful inequities in the world, the appalling disparities of health, and wealth, and opportunity that condemn millions of people to lives of despair."

Gates remarked, "I learned a lot here at Harvard about new ideas in economics and politics." Whatever ideas he learned in economics and politics must not have had much to do with capitalism and limited government, and they could not have been new, but the old chestnuts of watered-down Marxism and collectivized rights.

"But humanity's greatest advances are not in its discoveries, but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity. Whether through democracy, strong public education, quality health care, or broad economic opportunity, reducing inequity is the highest human achievement."

Which means: The development of a vaccine to eradicate cancer, tuberculosis, or malaria is not a great advance, but rather it is great in how, in the purest altruistic sense, it can reduce Gates's conception of "inequities."

What are the causes of those "inequities"? As Ayn Rand would put it: Blank out. Is it government controls? Tribal or religious warfare? Tyranny? Statist control of a country's economy? The answers to these questions do not concern Gates, because he has been trained to be oblivious to the questions.

"I left campus knowing little about the millions of young people cheated out of educational opportunities here in this country. And I knew nothing about the millions of people living in unspeakable poverty and disease in developing countries....It took me decades to find out."

Which means that Gates left Harvard before his mind was completely corrupted by the collectivist doctrines being taught there. And it took decades for the culture to succeed in completely corrupting it. The nail in his coffin was his conflict with the federal government over Microsoft's alleged monopoly of the software market. It was only after that was settled that Gates acquired a "social conscience."

One might possibly call it the Scrooge effect, from Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," when the "ghosts" of government power threatened to destroy him and scared the hell out of him, causing him to become a paragon of altruism and "giving back." (Although the seeds of selflessness lay dormant in him all his life, planted there by his parents and the culture at large.)

Gates appeals to the faculty and students of Harvard:

"Should our best minds be dedicated to solving our biggest problems? Should Harvard encourage its faculty to take on the world's worst inequities? Should Harvard students learn about the depth of global poverty, the prevalence of world hunger, the scarcity of clean water, the girls kept out of school, the children who die from diseases we can cure?

"Should the world's most privileged people learn about the lives of the word's least privileged?"

He did not realize it, but Gates was preaching to the choir. Harvard and other major universities have been churning out professional altruists and collectivists for generations. How else to account for all the graduates who enter government, politics, and "public service"?

Gates approvingly quotes a maxim of his mother's - "From those to whom much is given, much is expected" - in preparation for his concluding remarks:

"I want to exhort each of the graduates here to take on an issue, a complex problem, a deep inequity, and become a specialist in it....Don't let complexity stop you. Be activists. Take on the big inequities. It will be one of the great experiences of your lives."

But, here is his warning to those who claim that they own their own lives and know that nothing was given to them:

"You have an awareness of global inequity....And with that awareness, you likely also have an informed conscience that will torment you if you abandon these people whose lives you could change with very little effort...."

Thus Gates ends his address with a plea to the graduates to become guilt-ridden, duty-strapped, "caring" storm troopers of selflessness - just like him.

If fascism ever comes to the U.S., Bill Gates, and Harvard, and all those students who are shamed into heeding his advice, will be partly responsible.


Mel McGuire said...


OT: Re: "Wicked, Hurtful Words" May 23.

I've posted a new comment about the response I received to my email (I live in Berkeley) to the Berkeley "Peace and Justice Commission" I've concluded that the more immediate target for the curtailment of freedom of speech is a member of the commission (another government official) who sent the Condell video link. Ominous!

Re: Gates.
I didn't know he held views so saturated with altruism; I'm really disappointed. I've also noted several appallingly altruistic excerpts from commencement speechs that I've seen on TV recently.

Bill K. said...

The foibles of the very rich have been in the news lately. The less said about the wastrel Paris Hilton the better. She will aways be a zero and can be dismissed out of hand.

Bill Gates is another matter. In his own way is as much a wastrel as Hilton. He is burning through his billions in one altruist scheme after another that in the end will not amount to much more than one of Hilton's binges.

I doubt Gates has done any original thinking in his field in years. When he ventures into philanthropy he doesn't think at all but repeats the bromides he's heard all his life. I wouldn't be suprised if he gets religion in the near future.

Mel McGuire said...



RE: : "Wicked, Hurtful Words" May 23, again.

Note: The use of "...more immediate target..." in my comment above implies that I've formed the conclusion that Cohen has an intention of supporting (or would support) a general curtailment of freedom of speech via "hate speech" laws; in fact, I've not formed such a conclusion. I don't know what he'd do.

Another response from Cohen: I've posted another comment under "Wicked, Hurtful Words." The comment concerns another reply from Cohen which contained an outrageous paragraph about his usage of "racism." It's extremely revealing; I don't recall seeing anyone admit to something like this. So, I thought it was worth another "OT" here.