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John Holdren: White House Malthusian

If there is one quotation by Obama’s new science advisor that every American should hear, it is this:

“A massive campaign must be launched to restore a high-quality environment in North America and to de-develop the United States. . . . Resources and energy must be diverted from frivolous and wasteful uses in overdeveloped countries to filling the genuine needs of underdeveloped countries. This effort must be largely political” (italics added).

- John Holdren, Anne Ehrlich, and Paul Ehrlich, Human Ecology: Problems and Solutions (San Francisco; W.H. Freeman and Company, 1973), p. 279.

Holdren’s deep-seated belief of the human “predicament” as a zero-sum game–America must lose for other countries to win–was also stated by him two years before:

“Only one rational path is open to us—simultaneous de-development of the [overdeveloped countries] and semi-development of the underdeveloped countries (UDC’s), in order to approach a decent and ecologically sustainable standard of living for all in between. By de-development we mean lower per-capita energy consumption, fewer gadgets, and the abolition of planned obsolescence.”

- John Holdren and Paul Ehrlich, “Introduction,” in Holdren and Ehrlich, eds., Global Ecology, 1971, p. 3.

Holdren and the Ehrlichs paid homage to the gloomy worldview of Thomas Robert Malthus, who saw “misery or vice” as the necessary equalizer between growing population and the means of subsistence in An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798): 

“We find ourselves firmly in the neo-Malthusian camp. We hold this view not because we believe the world to be running out of materials in an absolute sense, but rather because the barriers to continued material growth, in the form of problems of economics, logistics, management, and environmental impact, are so formidable.”

- Paul Ehrlich, Anne Ehrlich, and John Holdren, Ecoscience: Population, Resources, and Environment (San Francisco: W. H. Freeman and Company, 1977), p. 954.

Holdren and Paul Ehrlich put their anti-growth philosophy into a mathematical equation, I=PAT, where a negative environmental impact was linked to any combination of population growth, increasing affluence, and improving technology. This “gloomy prognosis” required, according to the three:

“organized evasive action: population control, limitation of material consumption, redistribution of wealth, transitions to technologies that are environmentally and socially less disruptive than today’s, and movement toward some kind of world government” (1977: p. 5).

Does Dr. Doom still believe all this? He has repeatedly been challenged with some of his past quotations and he has held fast to his exaggerations. Mid-course correction not.

15 comments

1 Ed Reid { 03.03.11 at 6:52 pm }

I have commented here previously about the “three-legged stool” of AGW/AGCC/GCD.

Leg 1: zero global carbon emissions;
Leg 2: global veganism (methane reduction, you know);
Leg 3: population controls (exhalation control): and,
Seat: global governance (probably by the same folks who brought us the Iraq “Oil for Palaces, Payloads and Payoffs” program.

I contend that this would arguably be the ugliest piece of “furniture” ever designed by man. Also, the most expensive.

Holdren was (and I believe is still) a “three-legged stool” kind of guy. Apparently so is his master.

Is it any wonder that the AGW believers are so reluctant to lay out the entire plan? Better to rely on the “slippery slope”.

The obvious end condition of income and wealth redistribution is communism (initially with a small “c”). There is a generally accepted name for those who advocate communism, though its use is now extremely politically incorrect. Too bad; so sad.

2 Richard Haydn { 03.04.11 at 2:59 pm }

Thankfully we have a nice messy political system that all but insures the 3 legs of this stool will never be put in place. Going back to a simpler time, voluntarily or through government imposed mandates, is simply not politically achievable. It would take a truly shocking event to make such moves politically viable – on the order of those predicted by the true believers in global warming (I mean climate change) .

A more likely scenario includes greater effeciency in energy and other natural resource usage spurred by market conditions and delivered by technology.

Most likely we will see a movement in these areas. As countries become more affluent, birth rates tend to fall. As countries become more or less democratic/free market we will see an increase in international cooperation. Witness the change in China/US relations in the last 30 years. The two countries are now so financially intertwined that a split would be too costly for either. And the major technological advances in communication are too much for any authoritarian regime to overcome, in the long run.

That being said, we should guard against a drastic increase in wage earners falling from the middle class. I do believe that without some redistribution of wealth, in the form of progressive taxing schemes and the like, we could kill the goose. A strong middle class is necessary to support a strong economy and a healthy democracy. As Henry Ford said, I pay my workers so they can buy my cars.

3 Ed Reid { 03.04.11 at 4:53 pm }

Richard Haydn { 03.04.11 at 2:59 pm }

According to the Tax Foundation, for 2008 FIT, the following income groups paid the following percent of total FIT:
Top 1% – 38%
Top 5% – 59%
Top 10% – 70%
Top 25% – 86%
Top 50% – 97%
Bottom 50% – <3%

How much more progressive do you believe the tax structure needs to be?

Realize that once the majority of income earners pay no income taxes, the majority has no reason to resist income tax increases.

4 Richard Haydn { 03.04.11 at 9:57 pm }

Ed,
I did not say the tax structure needs to be “more” progressive. It is quite progressive as your figures show and I am only voicing my opinion for the status quo. I probably did not make that clear in my post. Not that a flat tax would ever come to be since there are too many tax accountants and attorneys with a vested interest (rightly so) in the current complex system. Personally I would like to see only a consumtion tax but that will never happen either.

Since you are up on the tax stats I guess you would also know the statistics regarding increased wealth at the top end and decreasing real standards of living in the middle. When my ultra conservative friends gasp at the president saying “when is enough a enough” I have to chuckle. Like Dick Grasso at the SEC leaving the “non-profit” and suing for the 40 or 50 million he claims they owe him. At least he worked his way up from a floor trader.

As a solid middle income person living in an urban area I see and hear on a daily basis some of the problems with our current system. One of the most common phrases I hear is “waiting on my settlement” as in slip/fall, workers comp., etc. I also hear many hard working guys adding up the figures. Let’s see, by the time I pay for health insurance, dental, eye, housing, etc – I might be better off going on the dole. COMPLETE free medical, reduced housing cost, reduced utility cost, college tuition, etc. There are whole towns in the mid-west where the bar parking lots are loaded with pickup trucks mid-day, owned by those on disability. We “got rid of” welfare and now everyone is just disabled.

On the other hand we have “successful” guys like George Bush, whom, without taxpayer support of the Texas Rangers, would never have made a dime on the team.

In summary, pure free market capitalism doesn’t work. Pure communism (which I don’t believe has ever really existed as in the “government will wither away) doesn’t work.

Why doesn’t pure free market capitalism work? You need only review the history of the coal miners’ strikes and the tradgedy of Matawan: unorganized, unskilled/semi-skilled labor is far to weak to take on big business. I don’t think we want generation after generation living in company housing, buying life’s necesseties with script at the company store. And let’s review the films of good old pro-Hitler Henry Ford as his goons open up on women and children with machine guns.

As to communism, it’s a great system. We can all sit around and chant “I’m poor, you’re poor, we’re all poor!” The patriotic incentive wears thin rather quickly and the perks and cash flows to the government insiders. Not to mention the death toll we saw last century thanks to Unlce Joe and his ilk.

So how do we balance total re-distribution of wealth vs. total concentration of wealth? It’s a good old messy democracy. In the current political climate one either hangs on every word of Rush or Keith. I assume both sides feel they must push to the extreme to get noticed. The result is truly comical and often ridiculous.

The fact is, most people in this country are slightly right of center. Yet the center is boring and certainly doesn’t garner the headlines.

Robert Bradley, based on his bio, seems to believe that the worst state of affairs is a corrupt market. A market corrupted by crooks in industry collaborating with crooks in government. In one word – Enron. Unfortunately, a free political market dictates that each side ponies up as much money and as many votes as they can and they go at it. That is our system – now enshrined by the highest court in the land. So don’t get mad at the unions for supporting the Dems. Don’t be alarmed when the dems own the house and push a “tansparency in political advertising” bill that excludes unions. Don’t be surprised when the Republicans want to cut off NPR. This is the way the game is played.

My only point: When one side or the other is too powerful the system fails or at a minimum does not work as well as it could. Since both sides reward their camp with “goodies” we are potentially in for a very rude century. There is no more room at the trough. In my opinion (and based on stats you can review) the middle class is losing ground rapidly. And by all accounts, from the Maestro Alan Greenspan to the current head of CBO, we have mortgadged our future to such an extent that unless we simply go bankrupt as a country, the standard of living is sure to plummet. True, 911 was not an inside job, the “peak” in peak oil may not come for another 100 years, and I don’t think aliens are still hanging out in area 41. But welfare payments to oil companies, big agriculture, the ignorant, drunkards and druggies is coming home to roost.

5 Ed Reid { 03.05.11 at 8:23 am }

Richard,

You missed the big three “albatross” which are coming home to roost, two now and the third sometime after 2014.

I refer, of course, to the “Ponzi schemes” which are the signature achievements of St. Franklin and St. Lyndon; and, to the new Ponzi scheme which is the “brainchild” of the “dynamic trio” (Barack, Harry and Nancy). Poor Charles Ponzi is undoubtedly “rolling in his grave”, realizing what a small time piker he was. Bernie Madoff mad(e)off with more, but is still a piker by comparison.

As I think about SS and Medicare and then contemplate Obamacare, I am reminded of the definition of insanity typically attributed to Albert Einstein: “Insanity: Continuing to do the same things and expecting different results.’

My father used to tell me: “We live in hope and die in despair.” That is even more tragic when the cause of death is suicide.

6 Richard Haydn { 03.05.11 at 3:47 pm }

Ed,
I hope we can avert national suicide but I cannot see how. I come to this site to get well reasoned arguments concerning the energy markets, and am not disappointed. Unfortunately, I have not heard many encouraging plans concerning our political marketplace. You can only have large tax increases, large cuts in entitlements, or simply default. I sincerely hope I am missing something. None of the options appear to be politically viable.

I fear I am getting too political or trying to come off as an expert on the economy. I am neither an expert on economics nor an expert on the political system.

However, since the price of energy directly affects our economy and political system, I would appreciate very much if one of the free market experts on this site would help to educate the readership as to how we, as a mixed market society, can overcome our looming deficit.

I see the political system as a free market in which the goal is not profits but power, in short, being elected. If this entails pushing aside hard choices and more hand-outs to garner votes, we are not on a correct course.

7 Ed_B { 03.07.11 at 6:55 am }

Hey Ed Reid, how about showing some balance in your post on taxes?

Add in all state, local, hidden taxes, and come up with a new set of numbers. I’ll bet the percentage paid by the bottom 50% dramatically changes. How about this study:

http://www.ctj.org/html/whopays.htm

The bottom 50% pay out over 10% of their income on taxes. For arguments sake, lets use an average of 25K times say 75 million taxpayers, and you get 1.9 TRILLION.

Thats a big number, a long way from the next to nothing impression you give above.

8 Ed Reid { 03.07.11 at 7:25 pm }

Ed_B

Nice try. The bottom 50% do not have an average income of $250k, but closer to $25k. Therefore, 10% (actually ~12$) of their income would be $2.5k. That tax, times the ~67 million taxpayers, results in collections of ~$168 billion, not $1.9 trillion. While that is certainly not “next to nothing”, it is not $1.9 trillion either.

If you can figure out how much government, at all levels, collects in taxes of all types each year, you are a better man than I. However, watch those zeros.

9 Cooler Heads Digest 4 March 2011 { 03.29.11 at 8:55 am }

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