When President Obama killed the oil pipeline, he curried favor with the rich. The environmentalists are big-money people. William Tucker explains. “The movie stars and Sierra Club contributors were getting restless and had drawn the line in the sand.”
In turning down Keystone, however, the President has uncovered an ugly little secret that has always lurked beneath the surface of environmentalism. Its basic appeal is to the affluent. Despite all the professions of being “liberal” and “against big business,” environmentalism’s main appeal is that it promises to slow the progress of industrial progress. People who are already comfortable with the present state of affairs — who are established in the environment, so to speak — are happy to go along with this. It is not that they have any greater insight into the mysteries and workings of nature. They are happier with the way things are. In fact, environmentalism works to their advantage. The main danger to the affluent is not that they will be denied from improving their estate but that too many other people will achieve what they already have. As the Forest Service used to say, the person who built his mountain cabin last year is an environmentalist. The person who wants to build one this year is a developer.
Environmentalism has spent three decades trying to hide this simple truth. How can environmentalists be motivated by self-interest when they are anti-business? Doesn’t that align them with the working classes? Well, not quite. You can be anti-business as a union member trying to claim higher wages but you can also be anti-business as a member of the aristocracy who believes “trade” and “commercialism” are crass and not attuned to the higher things in life. Environmentalism is born from the latter, not the former. It has spent decades trying to pretend it has common cause with the working people. With the defeat of the Keystone Pipeline, this is no longer possible. Too many blue-collar and middle-class jobs have been sacrificed on the altar of carbon emissions and global warming.
This has been going on ever since Rockefeller and other elitists donated property on the elites’ Shangri-La, Mt. Desert Island in Maine. They kept the choice properties. They gave the surrounding properties to the Park Service. That way, the common people can’t buy property. This began around 1900. It has continued ever since.
Tucker goes on.
What finally focused my attention on the aristocratic roots of environmentalism, however, was a chapter in Thorstein Veblen’s Theory of the Leisure Class. Although the book is justly famous for coining “conspicuous consumption” and “conspicuous waste,” there is a lesser-known chapter entitled “Industrial Exemption” that perfectly describes the environmental zeitgeist. Veblen posed the question, why is it that people who are the greatest beneficiaries of industrial society are often the most passionate in condemning it? He provided a simple answer. People in the leisure class have become so accustomed affluence as the natural state of things that they no longer feel compelled to embrace any further industrial progress.
Everyone weighs the balance of economic gain against a respect for nature. It is only the truly affluent, however, who can be concerned about the environment to the exclusion of everything else. Most people see the benefits of pipelines and power plants and admit they have to be built somewhere. Only in the highest echelons do we hear people say, “We don’t need to build any pipelines. We’ve already got enough energy. We can all sit around awaiting the day we live off wind and sunshine.”
Environmentalists have spent decades trying to disguise these aristocratic roots, even from themselves. They work desperately to form alliances with labor unions and cast themselves as purveyors of “green jobs.” But the Keystone Pipeline has brought all this into focus. As Joel Kotkin writes in Forbes, Keystone is the dividing line of the “two Americas,” the knowledge-based elites of the East and West Coasts in their media, non-profit and academic homelands (where Obama learned his environmentalism) and the blue-collar workers of the Great In- Between laboring in agriculture, mining, manufacturing, power production and the exigencies of material life.
Let’s hope the next President decides to reverse Obama’s decision.