Norway’s governmental incentive policy to force the populace to buy emission-free vehicles has recently been exposed as a “fraud” and a form of taking taxpayers’ money away from them in order to bribe them into proper behavior with it. This, much like California’s plastic straw ban is a form of environmental technocracy driven by the irrational fears of trendy individuals with too much time on their hands and a position in power. The absurdity of making incremental bans and incentives to somehow lead to a grand scale change in the environment should not shock us as our political system does not provide any other option.

For most or possibly all of our lives (depending on our age) we have been fed the unflinching narrative that humans are bad, we consume too much, there are too many of us and we are destroying the planet. In X number of years due to Global Warming or Climate Change or something else we are all going to die if we don’t change our bad behavior. This has been repeated so many times that it is now an unquestionable fact. If you ask most politicians in the West if they agree with this narrative they will passionately say “yes, we must save the environment” or something of the like while belching out platitudes to the audience. But what do they actually do to save it? They make tiny haphazard incremental changes.

If the Norwegian authorities were so sure that the internal combustion engine will be the death of us all, why did they choose to create an incentive based program (that has ultimately failed, as the incentives lead many Norwegians to buy two cars, one gas and one electric) to gently push the population towards buying electric vehicles for perks with things like free access to toll roads, free use of ferries, free parking etc.? Because there is no Norwegian Emperor (besides the music group) to make all encompassing edicts, nor is there a Norwegian Communist Party to create a 5 year plan for the state economy that excludes petrol vehicles. There is ultimately no means by which to make a massive sweeping plan that could make radical change that could and surely would trounce on certain rights of the populace.

Liberalism (Western-Style Democracy) by its nature is supposed to be bureaucratic and slow. When the Colonies won the American Revolution, they saw their condition as good and built a system where no king or kaiser could change the rules of the game at a whim or create rules that supersede individual rights. Furthermore the principle of “absolute power, corrupts absolutely” divided the government into branches and filled Congress with a mind boggling number of bureaucrats in a big hall to make laws. The inability for governments to make sweeping reforms is rooted in the fact that the system does not allow for it and this is by design.

Norway could not simply ban the internal combustion engine, because they could never get all parties involved to agree, it could restrict some people’s rights to move about freely, some major industries like oil could protest and buy votes to stop it etc. There is no force that can say “rights and feelings be damned we are going to have only electric cards in five years time, the markets will adjust and so will the populace whether they like it or not”. This old timey reasoning and methodology does not work in Liberal Democracy.

So there is a massive trendy push for environmentalism, but the system does not allow for the sweeping changes that some wants, this contradiction leads to what I refer to as the “Technocratic Approach”.

The Technocratic Approach is when lawmakers attempt to set up a system of carrots and sticks in order to force the population to change behavior towards a desired result.

But it is also willing to radically change at a moment’s notice realigning the carrots and sticks for the next phase. All the benefits given to those who bought electric cars in Norway will surely be immediately stripped once X% of electric car are on the road. Technocracy changes quickly and rarely in the interests of the masses, all those electric car benefits will surely be stripped but the taxation to fund them will somehow quietly remain on the books long after the goal has been achieved.

The California Straw Ban is another perfect example of the Technocratic Approach, banning one single-use plastic product of little value in order to establish a “beachhead” to push further down the line to force the public to be more environmentally friendly. Banning single-use plastic is impossible but slowly with carrots and sticks contained with in dozens or possibly a thousand laws this goal can sort of be achieved.

If we go away from environmentalism we can see anti-alcohol legislation in Russia doing the same thing. Alcohol is forbidden from being purchased at night in most of Russia. This has partially lead to the decreasing alcohol consumption in the nation that nearly drank itself to death in the 90s. However, by what right can the government ban adults from drinking alcohol? Why is alcohol suddenly illegal at certain times of day? If alcohol is so awful why is it legal at all? The technocrat sees no need in addressing any of this logic, alcohol is bad, banning it at night reduces drinking, there for what is legal at 10:59 is illegal at 11:00.

This Technocratic Approach eliminates any form of reason or discussion, it is just simply done to harshly make change on a microscale be it alcohol, electric cars or plastic straws. It is scary to think about it but this nit-picky small-minded approach to making change in society is becoming the norm. A Technocracy sees people simply as numbers or statistics that needs to be shifted by carrots and sticks and nothing more. Although the Technocratic Method does work (electric car sales did increase in Norway, there is slightly less plastic garbage in California, and Russians are drinking less every year) its attitude towards to population as mindless cattle is certainly felt and creates mountains of contempt. This is a mechanical spiritless way of thinking that does not work us humans.

The intellectually insulting Technocratic Approach is a key part of our Liberalism, which combined with its many other negatives makes one think that we need a new approach, and one that is far more human, one that gives a reason not to drink, or rallies us to buy a different type of car not under the whip of bureaucracy and fines but free will.

In short don’t expect anyone to make sweeping environmental changes because it is simply impossible systemically.

Author: Tim Kirby

Originally published in Strategic Culture online journal – The views of individual contributors do not necessarily represent those of the Strategic Culture Foundation.

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