I am not a historian or a statistician. Nonetheless I had been skimming Climate Audit for a couple of years and knew enough to write, in January 2009, “Michael Mann should be in prison.” I continue to enthusiastically endorse this view. I also do know a bit about the past.
And the past has sent me its report on Climategate. It is a short message—quite pithy—full of punch. I transcribed it this week from my favorite Ouija board. At the planchette: me and my 2-year-old daughter, Sibyl.
After data corrections, the text reads:
Your entire system of government is incurably insane.
I realize that to many UR readers, this case is already clear. However, the folder is fat. What’s neat about the CRU emails is that they provide a much shorter path to the same conclusion. Today’s post is light climbing for lazy hikers.
To achieve reactionary enlightenment in a single, burning leap, we’ll demonstrate that this spirit message from the ancestors, despite its incredibly dubious provenance, is correct in every word. First, we’re going to explain insane; then, we’re going to explain incurably; then, we’re going to explain your entire system of government. Also, do you have a beer in the fridge? You might need it.
First, let’s focus on the word insane. The American Heritage Dictionary gives us, as 3rd meaning:
very foolish; absurd.
took insane risks behind the wheel.
The Urban Dictionary gives us, as 2nd definition:
another term for cool and crazy. someone that does something really cool and crazy is insane but in a good way. also something that u are unlikely to do urself.
I cant believe u jumped off the roof of that two story building, it was insane.
We’ll assume the ancestors are speaking both to my level-headed driving, and Sibyl’s fearless youth. When they say “insane,” they intend an Empsonian ambiguity of the second type: both definitions at once. Their condemnation, sober and penetrating, is not unmixed with awe.
So we know what it means for a person to be insane. But what does it mean for a government to be insane? Like a person, a government is insane when it makes spectacularly bad decisions—the governmental equivalent of jumping off two-story buildings. To be more precise, an insane government or person is seen to exercise spectacularly bad judgment.
Judgment is a universal faculty: the process of decision. Every time it decides to do X or not do Y, every person real or fictive exercises judgment. Thus we can ask whether fictive persons, such as your government, exercise good or bad judgment, by asking whether they make good or bad decisions. Even if this decision process is opaque, its result can be defined in terms of actions. By definition, whatever it does must be what it decided to do.
Are these decisions generally good, or generally bad? Are the actions generally effective, or generally ineffective? Is your person or institution marching from success to success, or careening from disaster to disaster? If the latter, it is either insane or unlucky; if the former, either sane or lucky. As Bismarck put it: “fools, drunks, and the United States.”
As we see, the difference can be difficult to determine. In general, judgment is conserved: to know judgment, takes judgment. If decisions could be assessed automatically, they could be taken automatically. More on this later.
Many people sense intuitively that Washington’s judgment is quite poor these days. But, in general, they do not and cannot know (a) why it does the things it does, (b) what else it could have done, or (c) what would have been the result of (b). The opaque problem is really quite hard. And Washington is really quite opaque.
Except for these little security breaches! In this one small department, we know how the sausage is made. A field day for the student of present history, as saints everywhere stand up for openness and transparency. (It’s funny how often we are reminded that CRU was, in fact, legally obliged to release this information—yes, even the emails—under UK FOIA. The first rule of Freedom of Information Act is: you do not talk about Freedom of Information Act.)
The emails are certainly not the entire process of judgment that produced the anti-carbon movement. But there is no reason to think they are not a representative sample of that decision process. We don’t see the entire IPCC community; just a slice of it. We only see the sausage being made; not prepared, served and eaten. But we know that birds of a feather flock together, and we know that what goes into the skin is what ends up on our plates.
It is certainly a long way from Science magazine to Federal Register. But not as far as many think. Think of this leg of the decision process—from hockey stick to cap-n-trade—as a slow, arduous, but essentially automatic mechanism, like colonic peristalsis. The various political glands in the pipeline, including Public Opinion Itself, can exert resistance, but not insert independent input. They are brakes, but not motors. They can stall the process, but not stop it, and certainly not turn the wheel and do something else instead. More on this later.
But first: the insanity. Let’s get a tight handle on this question of insanity. Remember: a diagnosis of insanity only requires one insane act, so long as the act is sufficiently insane. Clearly, it’s the ancestors’ judgment that anti-carbonism is in this category. As we will see later, the problem is general. But first, let us pretend it is specific.
You can go to work every day of your life. You can be a good husband and a loving father. If you strip naked except for a chicken mask and climb the Golden Gate Bridge, you need counseling. Whether or not you jump. USG has not quite jumped yet, but it still seems likely.
For a diagnosis of insanity, we need two things. We need insane reasoning on an insane scale. Foibles are not manias. Otherwise, the diagnosis is inflated. True insanity, as in your naked chicken-mask adventure, can only be conferred by the stakes of the decision—which, if not spectacular, would disappoint at least the Urban Dictionary.
So let’s look at the stakes of the carbon decision. As the Times helpfully informs us:
So what is all this going to cost? The short answer is trillions of dollars over the next few decades. It is a significant sum but a relatively small fraction of the world’s total economic output.
A relatively small fraction! A relatively small fraction. Of course, consider the alternative:
“People often ask about the costs,” said Kevin Parker, the global head of Deutsche Bank Asset Management, who tracks climate policy for the bank. “But the figures people tend to cite don’t take into account conservation and efficiency measures that are easily available. And they don’t look at the cost of inaction, which is the extinction of the human race. Period.”
(And let’s not forget “easily available.” Kevin, honey, my own dear mother was a budget and policy analyst at EERE in the Hazel O’Leary years. She worked for Joe Romm. And she could tell you a thing or two about “conservation and efficiency.” Perhaps, with your 37-million-dollar bonus this year, you could take off some time and come to my condo, install O-rings on all the doors and windows, and fill the walls with hemp fiber, so that I can legally sell it after 2016. Or better yet, I could just securitize it right now and get you to take it off my hands. Yes—when in doubt on any subject, I always turn to that pillar of farsighted judgment, Wall Street.)
But I digress. Surely we could be content with this analysis, because surely any decision which pits “trillions of dollars” against “the extinction of the human race” is a big one. Let us measure the stakes, however, only in terms of the cost of action. As compared to the cost of inaction, it is relatively undisputed. Of course, acting incurs its cost whether the problem is real or not.
In reality, there’s no way a cost like the cost of carbon action can be measured in mere money. Consider one mainstream proposal of today, endorsed by President Obama and many other world leaders: reducing carbon emissions to 80% of 1990 levels, by 2050.
Presumably a proposal like this corresponds to said “trillions of dollars”—a completely empty soundbite, of course, but something an innocent person might read as “a few trillion dollars.” Say, perhaps, “7.5 trillion dollars.” I’m just guessing here, of course.
Knowing as we now do what goes into the sausage, we feel perfectly entitled to sneer at whatever study, process or press-release could possibly have produced whatever ridiculous non-number lies behind the ridiculous non-number “trillions of dollars.” First, this entire information pipeline is clearly sweating it to produce the smallest possible number in the reader’s mind. Second, it implies a capacity for predictive macroeconomic modeling which does not exist. Third, what on earth will a dollar buy you in 2050, anyway?
In reality, to consider an action of this impact through the lens of antiseptic monetary exponents, churned out by some irreproducible spreadsheet, is to avoid considering it at all. Since the planned carbon action is a significant event on a significant historical scale, it must be considered as history. It must be analyzed with the tools of the narrative historian.
Now, I have an easy way to picture 2050: my daughter, Sibyl, will be 42 in 2050. As a student of history, I also have an easy way to picture an 80% reduction in fossil-fuel use: Germany and Japan in, say, 1944. The little Nips, for instance, had a very active alternative-energy program. I believe turpentine from pine trees was a key component. The primary sources display little fondness for this weird fuel.
An 80% energy cutoff goes beyond any mere economic calculation. It is a punitive measure of military proportions—to which one might subject a defeated enemy nation—for the purpose of collective penal subjugation.
Unfortunately, this concept itself is quite alien to the modern American mind. Which is a little strange, if you don’t mind me saying so. Because it was applied in the lives of those now living—by Americans. Let’s try and refresh our memories here.
Germany in 1945 was a defeated enemy nation. In August 1944, FDR himself commented on a State Department draft plan for the occupation of Germany—a draft much milder than the eventual Morgenthau Plan. (Believe it or not, State under FDR was actually a relative center of conservatism within USG.) Too mild for the happy man with the cigarette holder:
This so-called Handbook is pretty bad. I should like to know how it came to be written and who approved it down the line. If it has not been sent out as approved, all copies should be withdrawn.
It gives me the impression that Germany is to be restored just as much as the Netherlands or Belgium and the people of Germany brought back as quickly as possible to their prewar estate… The fact that they are a defeated nation, collectively and individually, must be so impressed upon them that they will hesitate to start any new war—the whole nation has been engaged in a lawless conspiracy against the decencies of modern civilization.
No problem, Boss! Under JCS 1067, food imports to a food-deficit nation were terminated, and the entire population of Germany put on a 1000-calorie-a-day diet for most of 1946 and 1947. Fortunately, official records reveal only a negligible increase in the death rate, from 11.9 deaths per 1000 per annum prewar, to 12.1 per 1000 under JCS 1067. Obviously, the Germans were simply fat. They needed the Morgenthau diet. Indeed, their present slimness and good health may be a result.
I am not aware of any similar figures for German postwar energy consumption. But 80% sounds about right. (The destruction of coal mines was a major aspect of the “pastoral” treatment.) Then again, one can argue that the Germans both needed and deserved the Morgenthau protocol. After all, it worked, didn’t it? Not just a dietetic therapy—also a psychiatric treatment.
And FDR’s diagnosis is at the very least defensible. At the risk of wandering too far from carbon, however, let’s take a quick look at the decision-making environment from which policies like Morgenthau/1067 emerged. This is perhaps best summarized by an entry in arch-New Dealer Felix Frankfurter’s diary, from January 18, 1943:
We talked a good deal about poor Missy LeHand—Sam Rosenman understanding, as very, very few people do the extraordinary beneficent role that Missy played in the Roosevelt Administration until her illness in 1941 because of the very remarkable judgment, disinterestedness, and pertinacity which she combined. Sam agreed with me that Missy’s enforced withdrawal is a calamity of world dimensions in view of F.D.R.’s responsibility for world affairs.
Sam said he always regarded her as one of the five most important people in the U.S. during the Roosevelt Administration, to which I replied that she seemed to me always to be the best most influential factor in the Administration, the President apart.
One reason for this was, on which Sam and I agreed, that not the least important aspect of Missy’s devotion to the President expressed itself in courageous truth-speaking to him. She was one of the very, very few people who was not a yes-man, who crossed the President in the sense that she told him not what she knew to be his view of what he wanted to hear, but what were, in fact, her true views and convictions.
LeHand, of course, was FDR’s mistress. (And, to be fair, private secretary—a real job). One senses that Frankfurter and Rosenman, in this conversation, are relieving each other of any subconscious qualms that their own relationships with FDR did not display this quality of frank plain speaking.
The point is: the FDR administration was, in reality, a monarchical court. Caesar did not call himself king, either—but he was. FDR had (more or less) the powers of an absolute monarch, the manners of an absolute monarch, and the private life of an absolute monarch. In the lives of those now living, the United States of America was a functioning monarchy which could, and did, punish a defeated enemy nation with intentional collective malnutrition. Fact. This is why I like to study 20th-century history: no one knows the first thing about it.
This is the secret of the New Deal: monarchy, by any other name. Personal government. It would be going too far to describe FDR as one of my favorite personal rulers of all time. But, like his great adversary, he had some very talented and effective people working for him. And in their domains, too, these prefects (most notably, Harry Hopkins) ruled with absolute personal authority. In short: the Führerprinzip. There is nothing like it in Washington today—though personal authority remains the norm, of course, in the private sector.
Frankly, for all their many faults, I would take FDR and his whole weird crew back in an instant. To not improve on a bureaucracy, especially a well-aged bureaucracy, a monarchy has to be a pretty shitty monarchy. FDR was a lousy manager and a shit in general, but he wasn’t that shitty. Alas, the court of FDR can no more be restored than the court of Frederick the Great. (And I’d certainly prefer the court of Frederick the Great.) But we are digressing—though not without point. More later.
Back to carbon. In any case, the mainstream proposals for anti-carbon regulation bear a broad general resemblance to the treatment of a defeated enemy nation. A rather guilty nation, too. FDR, for all his faults, was a good country squire. He would certainly never have inflicted any such cure on his own dear serfs.
But then again, FDR was just a big softy. Are not the Americans a guilty nation, as well? What have we not heard of their crimes, which are both epic and ongoing? Are not they, too, engaged in a lawless conspiracy against the decencies of modern civilization? A Baltic German might say: what comes around, goes around. Surely it is only natural that New Deal Washington, once willing to make total war on the Germans, would eventually grow hard and cynical enough to make total war on the Americans. Evil need not ripen rapidly.
One can also argue, of course, that between 2010 and 2050, exciting new energy technologies will be developed that will entirely cancel, even reverse, this arduous punishment that we must otherwise endure. After all, look at all the exciting new energy technologies invented between 1970 and 2010! My mother could also tell you a thing or two about “alternative energy.” And we note that Hitler, too, had his Wunderwaffen. If he wanted to have a war with the likes of FDR, he probably should have made sure he had them first.
So: this is what I see when I hear “80 by 50.” I see America as Germany Year Zero, minus the B-24 craters. (In fact, last time I looked at Detroit, I could swear I saw one or two of those. Can you even imagine Detroit, 2050? Even without “80 in 50,” it’ll make Mad Max look like Enchanted April.) I see my daughter, Sibyl, as a middle-aged woman, trying to make ends meet in the freezing, flickering fluorescent ruins of a formerly industrial civilization. Indeed, she won’t even have carbon dioxide to keep her warm. She certainly won’t be able to afford any carbon—all of which will be in the hands of Kevin Parker, or his heirs and assigns.
But I digress, again. Frankly, I’m ranting. And I exaggerate—slightly. All of this may be an exaggeration—but how exaggerated does it need to be? I don’t want to be judgmental here. We are only considering the stakes. We have not yet examined the reasoning. Let’s go there.
If a relatively small fraction of global output, or even a relatively large fraction, can save the human race, of course, humanity needs to divert that output and save itself. Anything else would be… insane. There is such a thing as a high-stakes decision. This is clearly one. I don’t want Sibyl stumbling around in the ruins of some American Kaliningrad. I would rather she had a planet to stumble around on at all, though.
Similarly, if the alien sensor is on the second tower of the Golden Gate Bridge, only the aliens can save us from the explosion of Jupiter, alien sensors demand alien input, and an alien looks like a naked man in a chicken mask, it would be insane of you not to scale the bridge and save the planet. Or at least try. Otherwise, when Jupiter explodes, Earth will be destroyed—period.
So we cannot dismiss the decision as insane, merely by examining the insane scale of the solution—no matter how farfetched. If the problem is real and the solution is the only way to solve it, bring on the turpentine. For this mean 2050, Sibyl will just have to grow up mean. I’ll take that space heater out of her room right away.
So let’s get back to the main event: the reasoning.
The reasoning behind the anti-carbon movement rests on three pillars of science. Or rather: Pillars of Science. By historical standards, each Pillar is inconceivably massive—consuming more scientist-hours, say, than all of physics before 1900. Or something like that. In impact alone, they’ve surely earned their majuscules.
The first Pillar of Science (A) is the evidence that global warming is harmful to children and other living things. Note that I say GW, not AGW—any global warming, whether natural or human-caused. Harm cannot be a function of cause. If anthropogenic warming is harmful in any material sense, non-anthropogenic warming must be equally harmful. We’ll return to this delicate philosophical point.
Of course, every media consumer is repeatedly reminded of major results within this impact category. A is by far the thickest Pillar, as there is an almost infinite variety of such impacts. (Consider the complete list of things caused by global warming.)
The second and third Pillars of Science (B and C) together constitute the evidence that anthropogenic carbon dioxide increases (the Keeling curve, of which I have not seen much good skepticism—but ya really never know with these clowns) are causing GW. Pillar B is paleoclimatology: the hockey stick and its cousins. Pillar C is climate modeling—the GCMs. Together, Pillars B and C are the pillars of causality.
We combine A, B and C to support the logic for climate action. The logic: fossil fuel emissions cause increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide. (Sound so far as I know.) Increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide cause increases in global temperature. (Pillars B and C—causality.) Increases in global temperature are harmful to children and other living things. (Pillar A—impact.)
Now, the direct impact of the CRU email leak is on Pillar B—paleoclimatology. Pillar B, in fact, has been pretty much wiped out by this event. As we’ll see, it never had any scientific credibility, but now it has lost something even more precious—its reputation. “Reputation, reputation, reputation! O! I have lost my reputation. I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial.” Indeed. The reputation will be restored in time, for the field if not the individuals. I think. (More on this later.) But for now, it is quite interesting to see AGW standing on A and C alone.
To take a look at the smoking ruins of Pillar B, let’s start with the words of Professor Edward R. Cook, “Dr. Dendro,” Doherty Senior Scholar and Director, Tree-Ring Laboratory, Columbia University:
Without trying to prejudice this work, but also because of what I almost think I know to be the case, the results of this study will show that we can probably say a fair bit about < 100 year extra-tropical NH temperature variability (at least as far as we believe the proxy estimates), but honestly know fuck-all about what the > 100 year variability was like with any certainty (i.e., we know with certainty that we know fuck-all).
“We know with certainty that we know fuck-all.”
But even if we knew more than “fuck-all,” even if genuine paleoclimatology (useful perhaps for other purposes, if not this purpose) delivered all Mann’s goods, Pillar B would remain bogus. Whether the science is good or fraudulent, reliable or irreproducible; whatever the shape of the graph; paleoclimatology cannot come anywhere proving the case for anti-carbon action. What it can do is what it does, which is make nice graphs that look good in a Powerpoint or press release.
Suppose the “hockey stick” were entirely authentic. Across the last millennium, the shaft of the stick, temperature gradually declines, until it begins to ramp upward in its “unprecedented” climb—the blade of the stick, matching the climb in CO2. Beautiful!
But what does it really prove? Jack. It proves that two century-long trends of (very) roughly the same shape occurred simultaneously. Also, there is a plausible physical mechanism to connect them. Does this prove a causal relation between the two graphs? Not in the slightest.
It certainly suggests a causal relation between the two graphs. It is physically plausible that the CO2 caused the blade of the hockey stick. It is also physically plausible that the climate is insensitive to the CO2 forcing, and something else caused the blade. Imagine if you claimed to be able to predict, say, the stock market, on the basis of a vast, rough coincidence like this. A single piece of entirely circumstantial evidence.
If Pillar B was sufficient, Pillar C would not be needed. In fact, just by the fact that B is weak, we can see that C must be no stronger. If C were not weak, its proponents would take all possible pains to differentiate it from the weak B. As it so happens, we have the email for B (the Mann circle, paleoclimatology), but not C (the Hansen circle, climate modeling). The public behavior of the Model Masters is quite similar to that of the Hockey Team, and the two are broadly allied. Therefore, we can safely assume that their Outlook folders smell quite similar.
To anyone with any understanding of engineering, the proposition that Earth’s climate can be modeled with any real predictive power, using the computing technology of 2009, is preposterous. Nor is it that computers need to get ten times as fast. They need to get 10 10 times as fast—at least. Possibly 10 20 or 10 30. With actual, real Earth computers, chemists still have great difficulty in constructing predictive models of individual molecules.
As a friend who teaches statistics and works at a bioinformatics company described it, prescribing any public policy based on the results of GCMs is like prescribing a drug on the basis of the chemical’s behavior in a computational model of a cell. We have models of cells, just as we have models of Earth’s atmosphere. Again, it would be going too far to describe these models as worthless. But no one but a damn fool could regard them as accurate.
Chemists, in fact, seem to be some of the last real old-school scientists out there. If you want a more detailed discussion of GCMs and their limitations, with a very conservative analysis, see chemist Pat Frank’s article in Skeptic Magazine. But basically, the claim that there exists a predictive model of the entire planetary atmosphere is like the claim that there exists a 10,000-mpg carburetor. In science, extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence. Such evidence as exists for GCM forecasting skill barely approaches the ordinary.
Here is what a GCM is: a simulation program that resembles an accurate model of Earth’s atmosphere. That is, when you run it, the resulting planet looks plausible. The simulated Earth does not turn into Pluto or Venus. Although sometimes preventing it from doing so requires arbitrary flux adjustments, i.e., fudge factors.
Newer GCMs have concealed these adjustments, but they still parameterize tens or hundreds of physical processes that they cannot possibly compute. These parameters are, themselves, fudge factors. They cannot be otherwise. As John von Neumann put it: “with four parameters I can fit an elephant, with five I can make him wriggle his trunk.”
Alas, the difference between resembles and predicts is the difference between observing Mars and flying to Mars. Real engineers know how hard it is to verify models of systems that are ten or twenty orders of magnitude simpler than the general circulation. In attempting to build long-term predictive models of Earth’s atmosphere, the climate modelers are simply pretending to try to solve a problem which is, in fact, entirely intractable. In short: sunbeams from cucumbers. Their results are random at best—and at worst, far worse.
Because we know the intellectual climate under which the Hockey Team (their own phrase, btw) operated. It was a climate in which data was openly described as “good” or “bad,” depending on whether or not it fed the ravenous propaganda machine. To be more precise: data with the right shape was considered more likely to be accurate, data with the wrong shape was considered to be incorrect or erroneous. Textbook confirmation bias.
Those authors have always recommend not using the post 1960 part of their reconstruction, and so while ‘hiding’ is probably a poor choice of words (since it is ‘hidden’ in plain sight), not using the data in the plot is completely appropriate, as is further research to understand why this happens.
In other words: this data series, which conflicts with our hypothesis, should not be presented to “policymakers.” Not because we are an evil conspiracy bent on Communist world domination—just because the conflicting data is clearly incorrect.
Obviously, the proxies do not match the temperature post 1960. Obviously, this is because of some added noise signal, perhaps itself anthropogenic in nature, which is affecting the trees, the measurements, or both, and hiding the real temperature signal. Therefore, this data is invalid; it is nonmeaningful; the most accurate picture of reality is presented by discarding it. Therefore, what our data says is that trees tell us nothing about temperature after 1960. Since this is exactly what we believe, we are being completely honest in truncating the graph.
Considering the quality of raw data in paleoclimatology, this is always a reasonable interpretation. Unfortunately, there is an alternative reasonable interpretation: that the data is meaningful, but the hypothesis is incorrect. The post 1960 data is not contaminated by some unusual force. The proxy signal is not only inaccurate post 1960, when it is easily checked against accurate temperature records, but also inaccurate pre 1960, when it is not. The presence of post-1960 divergence suggests the possibility of pre-1960 divergence.
This interpretation is not considered. To the contrary, it is concealed. It needs to be, for the eye—seeing the full curve—lights at once upon it. The eye is pretty good at Occam’s Razor.
If I owned a dog that had done this, I would kick the dog. And as for “plain sight,” all I can say is: “Beware of the Leopard.” Professor Schmidt knows perfectly well that his “policymakers” are in reality policy-rubber-stampers. They do not go looking for arcane technical papers in disused lavatories. They go looking for GIFs they can put in their slides. Or their people do, anyway. More on this later.
Since the paleos are best friends with the modelers in the entire IPCC effort, again, we can expect them to do the same sort of business in the same sort of way. Therefore, we can expect them to treat good data as correct data, and bad data as the product of error. Surely there is no shortage of bugs in the development of a GCM. Therefore, there is no shortage of opportunities for bad data to be quite unconsciously rectified—e.g., through parameter tuning. And since there is no 10,000-mpg carburetor and none of the model results can possibly be valid anyway, it is all bad data. This is not science, but its cruel false parody.
As in paleoclimatology, the combination of coordination bias with random data is effectively no more than a power-transmission belt. It produces perfectly motivated science, reproducing the views of the scientist with great clarity and vigor. For the past 10 or 15 years, paleoclimatology has been more or less what Michael Mann wanted to to be. He is truly our Climate Stalin. Again, it is almost certain that the GCMs have done the same for Hansen. And depending on how well they have convinced themselves, they may not even know it.
So what do Pillars B and C give us? Pillar B is a weak piece of circumstantial evidence which appears to have been fraudulently fabricated. Pillar C is sunbeams from cucumbers. In short: styrofoam. Whatever is supporting the AGW-mitigation movement, it is not Pillars B and C.
However much time, money, and intelligence is invested in Pillars B and C, there is no chance that they will produce any information relevant to any rational decision process in this area. Or at least such is my judgment. Everyone’s judgment, of course, is their own.
We turn to Pillar A—the fat one. Actually, no auditing whatsoever is required to show that Pillar A is, like B and C, meaningless for the purpose of deciding this question. From many small bricks of reason, Pillar A creates unreason. This can be demonstrated entirely by philosophy.
Pillar A asserts: global warming is materially harmful to humanity. Now, I realize that there are some who consider even this a small-minded view—even if global warming was beneficial to humanity, anthropogenic (non-natural) warming could be undesirable in some other metaphysical sense, harmful to some other X, etc., etc.
However, if the problem were entirely metaphysical, presumably it would be difficult to persuade every government on earth to concern itself. Similarly, if there was some tradeoff between X and humanity—policy Q being good for X, but bad for humanity—this too would be hard to defend. Especially in terms of democracy, in which everyone believes. If X does not get a vote, a government that favors its interests of those of humans, which do vote, can only be described as a betrayal of democracy. Hard to argue in these terms.
So it is not typically defended in these terms, whatever its actual believers may actually believe. Since the case for anti-carbon action is almost always stated in terms of material human impact, it can and should be challenged on the same terms.
Therefore, in considering only the material impact of global warming on humanity, we must restrict our logical processes to work exclusively by material rules. For instance, if we say that A is better than B, we must also say that B is worse than A. If we also know that B is better than C, we know that A is better than C. I.e.: general utility is scalar and totally ordered.
From this axiom alone, we can deduce that there is some optimal planetary temperature, as defined by material impact on humanity. Any action (natural or anthropogenic) that moves the planetary temperature away from this optimal point is harmful; any action that moves the planetary temperature toward this optimal point is beneficial. It is very difficult to characterize this optimal point, of course—it requires many subjective value decisions. But whatever the results of those value decisions, some optimal point must exist.
If the present planetary temperature is above the optimal point, incremental warming is harmful. If the present planetary temperature is below the optimal point, incremental warming is beneficial. Again, no evidence is required for these conclusions—they are purely deductive.
Therefore, the material case for AGW mitigation depends existentially on the assertion that the present temperature is near, at, or above the optimal point. Otherwise, AGW is not harmful but benign—even if Pillars B and C were perfectly sound.
Pillar A is a vast collection of observations and projections of purported harm which global warmth appears to have caused, be causing, or risk causing. Again, don’t miss the list. From the standpoint of reasoning about carbon-emissions mitigation, all this work is entirely useless, even though much of it is no doubt good science.
If there was any intent to incorporate Pillar A in a rational decision process, it would be necessary to fund a comparable investment in Pillar A‘—a complete list of the material benefits of warming. For comparison, we would also like to see a Pillar A“, a complete list of the material harms of cooling, and a Pillar A“‘, a complete list of the material benefits of cooling. By examining all these lists, each collected by exactly the same process for maximum comparability, a person or persons with good judgment could compare them and decide whether Earth’s temperature at present is too low, too high, or just right.
Of course, no one is producing Pillars A‘, A“, and A“‘. The process that produces Pillar A pretends to be a process that produces factual materials as an objective background for judgment. Just as Caesar pretended to be just a private citizen, or FDR just a president. In reality, since it is not equally focused on collecting all sides of the question, it cannot possibly be interpreted as a rational attempt to assess the optimal point.
Unfortunately, the very existence of Pillar A makes the problem of assessing the optimal point much more expensive and difficult. Because of the anti-carbon movement, for the foreseeable future there will be more science, far more science, pointing to harmful impacts of warming, than benign impacts of warming, harmful impacts of cooling, or benign impacts of cooling.
But this disparity is not the result of any physical phenomenon—but a political phenomenon, anti-carbonism. Pillar A is therefore an artifact which must be ignored: a burden, not an aid, to judgment.
If I wanted to do research on, shall we say, the squirrels of Sussex, what I would do—and this is any time from 1990 onwards—I would write my grant application saying: “I want to investigate the nut-gathering behaviour of squirrels with special reference to the effects of global warming—and that way I get my money. If I forget to mention global warming, I might not get the money.
Thus again, we see gross irrationality. Pillar A is nonpertinent to any rational decision process, because it is not actually a body of information designed to be used for assessing the optimal temperature point, the only rational process for which it could conceivably be useful. This would require detailed comparison to A‘, a body of work which does not exist and is not being collected.
Note also that even Calder, taking a skeptical position in a skeptic’s documentary, does not bother to speak of harmful effects of global warming on squirrels. Rather, to those involved in the great endeavor of collecting Pillar A, effect means harmful effect—as if it were axiomatically asserted that the optimal temperature is the present temperature. Indeed, from a certain metaphysical perspective, it makes no sense to speak of any change both anthropogenic and benign. Again: insanity. Here not far from the surface.
Nonetheless, it might actually be nice to answer the question. What is the optimal point? Hard question. Easier question: is the present temperature above, below, or at the optimal point?
Still not an easy question, of course. But there is a good practical way to inquire: discard Pillar A. There is an easy way to discard Pillar A: consider the scientific consensus as of not 2010, but, say, 1965. Or any point definitively prior to the fertilizing influence of the anti-carbon movement on the scientific community. For instance, we could ask the founder of the CRU himself, the pioneering climatologist Hubert Lamb.
What we would instantly find is that in the pre-IPCC era, climatologists (such as Professor Lamb) simply took it for granted that the present temperature is well below the optimal point. This can easily be seen in the names they assigned to past periods warmer than the present—such as the Medieval Climate Optimum and the Holocene Climate Optimum. Had they considered this a serious question for debate, it would have been easy to choose a neutral name.
We can easily see the reasoning behind “Optimum” by looking at a more recent historical precursor to the AGW movement: the embarrassing false step of the global-cooling movement. We have always been at war with Eastasia. However, Time magazine has performed the decidedly anti-Orwellian act of making its entire 20th-century archive free, and apparently unexpurgated, on line. So you can click here, and see what Time said when we were at war with Oceania. Pillar A“ makes a small appearance. One of the things you’ll notice is that much, much less effort is required to conjure disasters due to global cooling, than disasters due to global warming. Crop failures and starvation don’t involve a long chain of fanciful inference.
Therefore, it is not just a fallacy to rely on Pillar A to show that GW (anthropogenic or natural) is harmful. Rather, the best way to decide whether GW is harmful or benign is to disregard Pillar A, and consider the consensus judgment of climatologists from the era in which that judgment was of only academic interest. This algorithm tells us that GW is probably on balance benign—at least, to the material interests of humans. Pillar A is not only irrelevant, but probably wrong.
Thus, we see that all three pillars of the AGW syllogism are incapable of providing significant support to any rational argument. Pillar A is irrelevant and probably wrong; Pillar B is feeble at best, fraudulent at worst; Pillar C is irrelevant. Thus, any decision to mitigate AGW on the basis of A, B, and C can only be irrational, i.e., insane.
Does this reasoning tell us that AGW (a) is not a real effect, or (b) is not worth mitigating? No. This reasoning tells us that almost everyone arguing for carbon control, since they are relying on some combination of A, B, and C, is jacked up on crack like Superbunny. Their argument is almost entirely unsupported—a real freeway on styrofoam pillars.
There are thousands of individual scientists working on Pillars A, B, and C. Are all these individuals individually insane? Are they getting naked in chicken masks? Of course not. It is the collective institution, your government, which is insane. And it is only insane in the sense that it is not acting, as it claims to be, rationally in the public interest. Its actions, explained in other terms, make perfect sense. We will shortly dive into the emails and see these terms.
Now, one of these actions does appear to be the active cultivation of delusional thinking—e.g., the logic of the anti-carbon movement. Note that unless your government is somewhere in the serious boonies, it generally believes—collectively and individually—whatever delusions it propagates. Its propaganda is always sincere. Its advocates have already taken the basic precaution of first convincing themselves. Delusion is the normal human condition, not to be confused with insanity.
Abandoning these delusions, thinking again from scratch, we still have the question of carbon. While Pillars A, B, and C do not add up to anything like an argument for this massive program of collective economic punishment, the existence of a delusional argument is not relevant to any independent evaluation.
But the presence, even the ubiquity, of a bad argument is not relevant to independent evaluation. Let me take this test, therefore. What is my best judgment on the carbon question?
According to my judgment, carbon emissions are not worth mitigating. First: we know that sometime during Sibyl’s lifetime, fossil-fuel emissions are likely to double atmospheric CO2. Second: we know that the effect of doubled CO2 is a thermal forcing roughly comparable to an increase in solar intensity of 0.3%. Third: we know that planetary temperature is probably below the optimal point, and probably dominated by negative feedbacks (the last, admittedly, a more speculative guess). Therefore, my guess is that the impact of CO2 forcing will be positive if any, and of little significance on a historical scale. The opportunity cost of freezing or reversing carbon emissions strikes me as quite significant on a historical scale.
Your judgment may differ. That’s the thing about judgment: judgment is always human and personal. There is no procedure which can make decisions without human judgment—at least, no sane procedure. More on this later.
But this essay, frankly, is behind schedule. I have an entire sentence of reconstructed Ouija text to sell. I have only sold the last word—insane. I feel the sale on insane is made. Let’s get cracking on incurably.
To see why the insanity is incurable, we need to dig a little deeper into these awful, awful emails. Who are these people? What exactly are we looking at, here? It’s certainly not the court of FDR—but what is it?
To start, let’s look at another little leak that just slipped out. From Michael Schlesinger, modeling bigwig, to Andy Revkin, Times reporter—and accidentally cced to Steven Hayward, corporate shill—December 5:
Shame on you for this gutter reportage. This is the second time this week I have written you thereon, the first about giving space in your blog to the Pielkes.
The vibe that I am getting from here, there and everywhere is that your reportage is very worrisome to most climate scientists. Of course, your blog is your blog. But, I sense that you are about to experience the ‘Big Cutoff’ from those of us who believe we can no longer trust you, me included.
“The ‘Big Cutoff.’ ”
You see: I am not at all exaggerating when I compare these people to Stalin. If this section of the essay had a title, it might be Michael Mann: Court of the Green Tsar. Or possibly that Carlylean chestnut, Satan’s Invisible World Displayed. What a Satan’s world we have before us!
That’s right: Satan. I think this really sets the correct tone for any serious historical examination of the climate emails. As Ranke put it, the first task of a historian is to see the thing as it really was. Jefferson should not be studied as if he were Tony Soprano, or vice versa. It is perfectly possible to produce a historical work, comprised entirely of absolutely factual facts, in which a Jefferson is portrayed as a gangster (for instance, Frederick Scott Oliver’s Alexander Hamilton (1903) is not far). Or, of course, a gangster as a Jefferson.
Thus, we can see Mann as a Darwin, or as a Stalin. Whichever is the truth, the other is nothing but a lie. Regardless of its absolutely factual facts. Of course, to see Stalin in Mann is to see Satan in both Stalin and Mann; but what is shocking in this? Is it news that Satan walks up and down in the earth? He has to walk up and down somewhere. Why not Penn State?
The historian who refuses to believe in Satan labors at a crippling professional disadvantage, like the cabdriver who refuses to believe in buses. Satan’s footprints are all over history. No region or period is exempt.
As always: if the reality wie es eigentlich gewesen would surprise you, you have been misinformed. Were you surprised by the tone and content of these communications, between these persons? Then you were previously misinformed. There’s no great shame in it. Please consider checking your perceptions for other errors. If Satan is not sly, Satan is not Satan.
Present history has a special frisson: the reality still exists. We can know the thing not as it was, but as it is. We are going out live here at UR. Lubos Motl, far too optimistically, is trying to match the timeline with his own dear Velvet Revolution. Not going to happen. Nonetheless, the truth has a power.
Continuing with the Stalin analogy, let us take a quick look at the IPCC movement today.
First, we have a very definite inner-party schism between the climate Bolsheviks at realclimate, the true Hockey Team, and the climate Mensheviks such as von Storch and Zorita or Curry. Broadly, the Bolshevik position on AGW is that nothing is wrong; the Menshevik position is that personal wrongdoing is apparent. Both believe, or pretend to believe, that future climatology should proceed on an exclusively pure and virginal open-source basis, as I’m sure it will. (Which does not mean it can’t be gamed. As I’m sure it will.)
Both are in an extremely delicate and high-pressure position—Bolsheviks because the weird, unprecedented mass mind of the Internet has turned against them, Mensheviks because they must dance quite adroitly to remain in contact with both reality and their own profession. Between them is the even more delicate position of reporters like Revkin, who are—as they say in the movies—far too close to the story.
My prediction: the Menshevik position will prevail. The Bolshevik leaders will be replaced. Perhaps even punished. And the Bolshevik party will prevail, the Mensheviks being entirely defeated. Within a few years, the field will be rejuvenated by a new generation of young Bolsheviks, the proteges of Jones and Mann, who produce ecocratic confirmation-bias noise using pure, virginal open-source methods with the utmost rigor and professionalism. Menshevik researchers will be gradually defunded and destroyed by bureaucratic infighting; junior Mensheviks will see their careers dead-end, senior ones will atrophy and become isolated. Whereas any Bolshevik who suffers a little now will later be hailed as a martyr.
So the Bolshevik party is really the path of future success, and it is the Bolsheviks we must study. Fortunately, we have their emails! Or at least enough of them. And we note that just as in the Court of the Red Tsar, the most devastating story is found in the internal politics.
What we see, in a regime like Stalin’s, is that everyone around Stalin is terrified of Stalin. Rank does not make your life safer. Rank makes your life uglier.
I have just read this letter—and I think it is crap. I am sick to death of Mann stating his reconstruction represents the tropical area just because it contains a few (poorly temperature representative) tropical series. He is just as capable of regressing these data again any other “target” series, such as the increasing trend of self-opinionated verbiage he has produced over the last few years, and … (better say no more)
“Better say no more.” Cook replies:
Of course, I agree with you. We both know the probable flaws in Mike’s recon, particularly as it relates to the tropical stuff. Your response is also why I chose not to read the published version of his letter. It would be too aggravating. The only way to deal with this whole issue is to show in a detailed study that his estimates are clearly deficient in multi-centennial power, something that you actually did in your Perspectives piece, even if it was not clearly stated because of editorial cuts. It is puzzling to me that a guy as bright as Mike would be so unwilling to evaluate his own work a bit more objectively.
“It would be too aggravating.” And three years earlier, this memorable exchange. First, from Mann:
From: [email protected] Date: Wed, 12 May 1999 13:00:09 -0400 (EDT) To: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected] Cc: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]
Thanks for working so hard to insure a final product that was acceptable to all. I think that Keith and Tim are to be commended on a fine job w/ the final version of the Perspectives piece that appeared, and I thank Julia for her especially difficult editorial task.
I appreciate having had the opportunity to respond to the original draft. I think this opportunity is very important in such cases (i.e., where a particular author/groups work is the focus of a commentary by someone else), and hope that this would be considered standard procedure in the future in such instances.
I think we have some honest disagreements amonst us about some of the underlying issues, but these were fairly treated in the piece and that’s what is important (The choice of wording in the final version was much better too. Wording matters!).
Thanks all for the hard work and a job well done. I like to think that my feedback helped here–so I take some pride here as well.
best regards, mike
Which Bradley quotes in its entirety, and then adds—to Briffa alone -
From: “Raymond S. Bradley” To: [email protected] Subject: vomit Date: Fri, 14 May 1999 07:25:34 -0400
Excuse me while I puke… Ray
Do we even need to know what this is about? I’m afraid this is not at all a happy workplace. Watching this stuff, you develop real sympathy for the likes of Cook and Briffa—as for, say, Bukharin and Zinoviev.
People like this are just ordinary, weak people who happened to be standing around when and where the Adversary chose to appear. They follow him not because they love him, but because they are in his power. Occasionally they pipe up, and he slaps them down—with whatever force he has at his disposal. Stalin sent Molotov’s own wife to Siberia, and kept him in the Politburo.
So, for instance, as the crap starts to hit the fan in 2003, we see Briffa pedal and spin:
I agree with this idea in principle. Whatever scientific differences and fascination with the nuances of techniques we may /may not share, this whole process ie: McIntyre’s initial hockey-stick audit represents the most despicable example of slander and down right deliberate perversion of the scientific process, and bias (unverified) work being used to influence public perception and due political process.
It is, however, essential that you (we) do not get caught up in the frenzy that these people are trying to generate, and that will more than likely lead to error on our part or some premature remarks that we might regret. I do think the statement re Mike’s results needs making, but only after it can be based on repeated work and in full collaboration of us all. I am happy to push Tim to take the lead and collaborate in this—and I feel we could get sanction very quickly from the DEFRA if needed.
BUT this must be done calmly, and in the meantime a restrained statement but out saying we have full confidence in Mike’s objectivity and independence—which we can not say of the sceptics. In fact I am moved tomorrow to contact Nature and urge them to do an editorial on this. The political machinations in Washington should NOT dictate the agenda or scheduling of the work—but some cool statement can be made saying we believe the “prats have really fucked up someway”—and that the premature publication of their paper is reprehensible. Much of the detail in Mike’s response though is not sensible (sorry Mike) and is rising to their bait.
“The prats have really fucked up someway.” I wish I had an audio clip of this.
Again, you feel for Briffa. He knows that Mann is dragging him down to hell. He knows it. To be brutally frank, he knows he is engaged in something that looks a hell of a lot like a criminal enterprise. Yet, he follows. Exactly the position of millions of mid-level officials in the 20th-century totalitarian state. (And also very reminiscent of Carmela Soprano.)
It doesn’t take a whole evil Politburo to be evil. It just takes a Stalin. The people who founded Bolshevism most certainly did not intend to produce the result that was Stalinism. This is why so many of them had to get the “Big Cutoff.” God only knows what these people are thinking, as they read each others’ emails. We have only one Hockey Team email post-leak—the one above. What wouldn’t you give to see what they’re sending each other these days? Alas, I suspect these days you’d have to start tapping the pay phones.
In any context, private or public, the consequence of this “Management Secrets of Lavrentiy Pavlovich Beria” universe is a flood of little aborted non-coups, all of which amount to mere muttering in the hallways. Our final example will be the email we looked at earlier, Cook’s “fuck-all” opus:
From: Edward Cook To: Keith Briffa Subject: An idea to pass by you Date: Wed, 3 Sep 2003 08:32:11 -0400
After the meeting in Norway, where I presented the Esper stuff as described in the extended abstract I sent you, and hearing Bradley’s follow-up talk on how everybody but him has fucked up in reconstructing past NH temperatures over the past 1000 years (this is a bit of an overstatement on my part I must admit, but his air of papal infallibility is really quite nauseating at times), I have come up with an idea that I want you to be involved in. Consider the tentative title:
"Northern Hemisphere Temperatures Over The Past Millennium: Where Are The Greatest Uncertainties?"
“Northern Hemisphere Temperatures Over The Past Millennium: We Know With Certainty That We Know Fuck-All.” (And it’s not that anyone knows fuck-all about the Southern.)
Authors: Cook, Briffa, Esper, Osborn, D’Arrigo, Bradley(?), Jones (??), Mann (infinite?)—I am afraid the Mike and Phil are too personally invested in things now (i.e., the 2003 GRL paper that is probably the worst paper Phil has ever been involved in—Bradley hates it as well), but I am willing to offer to include them if they can contribute without just defending their past work—this is the key to having anyone involved. Be honest. Lay it all out on the table and don’t start by assuming that ANY reconstruction is better than any other.
Now, this is beautiful. Did you see what we just got there? Did you catch that? We got something very like an org chart of the Hockey Team. The rank corresponds to the number of question marks. Cook, Briffa, Esper, Osborn, D’Arrigo: soldiers. Bradley: capo. Jones: underboss. Mann: boss. No surprise, then, that Mann just threw Jones under the bus—or at least tried to. These people are genuinely unbelievable.
Formally, of course, most of these individual are organizationally independent. Yet they appear to be bound together by some informal—one might almost say, invisible—but remarkably cohesive— bond. At least, they appear to despise each other, yet continue working together. This property is normally only found in actual, formal organizations.
In this case, I suspect it has something to do with (a) funding, and/or (b) collective guilt. Certainly everyone in Lenin’s Politburo, not to mention Stalin’s, knew that they had blood on their collective hands. Complicity is always the soul of loyalty.
Speaking of Stalin, this problem of finding the real organization inside the official organization always reminds me of one of the 20th century’s most important primary sources: Sidney and Beatrice Webb’s essay Is Stalin a Dictator?, from their classic Soviet Communism: A New Civilization (1935). Bear in mind—the Webbs, in their Fabian capacity, are two of the most significant intellectual inspirations for the entire New Deal regime.
This piece is just classic. The first paragraph and a half gives it away:
Sometimes it is asserted that, whereas the form may be otherwise, the fact is that, whilst the Communist Party controls the whole administration, the Party itself, and thus indirectly the whole state, is governed by the will of a single person, Josef Stalin.
First let it be noted that, unlike Mussolini, Hitler and other modern dictators, Stalin is not invested by law with any authority over his fellow-citizens, and not even over the members of the Party to which he belongs. He has not even the extensive power which the Congress of the United States has temporarily conferred upon President Roosevelt, or that which the American Constitution entrusts for four years to every successive president. So far as grade or dignity is concerned, Stalin is in no sense the highest official in the USSR, or even in the Communist Party…
“The extensive power which the Congress of the United States has temporarily conferred upon President Roosevelt…” what? History, you see, is full of secrets. Not secrets of fact, generally, but secrets of story. Secrets nonetheless. More later on this.
We finish the forensic part of our discussion, with Cook’s ultimate professional fantasy:
Here are my ideas for the paper in a nutshell (please bear with me):
1) Describe the past work (Mann, Briffa, Jones, Crowley, Esper, yada, yada, yada) and their data over-laps.
2) Use the Briffa&Osborn “Blowing Hot And Cold” annually-resolved recons (plus Crowley?)(boreholes not included) for comparison because they are all scaled identically to the same NH extra-tropics temperatures and the Mann version only includes that part of the NH (we could include Mann’s full NH recon as well, but he would probably go ballistic, and also the new Mann&Jones mess?)
7) Publish, retire, and don’t leave a forwarding address
“Publish, retire, and don’t leave a forwarding address.”
Without trying to prejudice this work, but also because of what I almost think I know to be the case, the results of this study will show that we can probably say a fair bit about < 100 year extra-tropical NH temperature variability (at least as far as we believe the proxy estimates), but honestly know fuck-all about what the > 100 year variability was like with any certainty (i.e., we know with certainty that we know fuck-all). … If you don’t want to do it, just say so and I will drop the whole idea like a hot potato. I honestly don’t want to do it without your participation. If you want to be the lead on it, I am fine with that too.
Needless to say, nothing like this rebellion seems to have happened. Need we read more? Frankly, I feel we know these people. I hope you agree.
Now, let’s get to this incurable bit. The ancestors told us: your entire system of government is incurably insane. Incurably? What can they possibly have meant by that?
We can only return to diligent semantics. To cure this insanity is to heal it, eradicate it, restore this thick knot of black pus to clear pink healthy muscle. The term is always absolute. The ancestors do not speak of palliative or protective measures, which of course are legion. Surely, we can defend ourselves—individually or collectively—from this madness. But we cannot cure it, for it is incurable. Or so the ancestors assert.
Of course, it is not time, or humanity, or America, or any metaphysical concept, which is incurable. It is only your government. This is not a metaphysical organization. It is a physical institution. It is sovereign, which makes it special—but not in this regard. Clearly there is no institutional ill, public or private, which cannot be cured by entirely new management. When in doubt, simply discharge all the old personnel and hire an entirely new staff. At the sovereign level, this is generally described as regime change.
So what the ancestors really mean is: this insanity cannot be cured, by any means short of regime change. You knew this! Of course you knew it. Because you have no idea how anyone could possibly cure it.
I think this fact accounts for much of the disorienting, demoralizing impact of Climategate. The climate loyalist is cognitively uncomfortable because he knows he is wrong. The climate dissident is cognitively uncomfortable because he knows he is right, but he has no idea what could possibly be done about it. There’s a fine reason for this: nothing can possibly be done about it.
Since he has no structural program for change, the climate dissident reverts to folk activism. He helps spread the good news, and leaves it at that. He doesn’t ask: what can be done? This is because nothing can be done. The insanity is incurable. One can erase it from one’s own mind, or help others erase it. One cannot resist it.
That grim, fluorescent future! Coming soon, to a defeated nation near you. Everything older, grayer, cheaper, dirtier. Otherwise, no change. This is history’s message: absolutely ineluctable. Sibyl, time will feed you the bone. To see why, one need only examine the details. Let’s do so.
We posit the contrary: this insanity can be cured. How, in that case, could it be cured? Let us examine some possible, or not-so-possible, cures.
First, Mann and Jones could get the axe. This is clearly a required result for any process claiming to be curative—the pons asinorum of climatology reform. Maximum impact will be achieved if these men actually go to prison, although I’d say there is less than a 5% chance of that. But even a little community service would really send a message.
I think most dissidents expect that Mann and Jones will lose their positions. This would not surprise me at all, though I would not bet on it either. On the other hand, in terms of strict scientific misconduct, the offences of Robert Gallo were much greater, and despite considerable damage he retains a position of respect in the scientific community.
Jones, of course, is more likely to really get it in the neck. It’s always the underboss who takes the fall, willingly or not. And after all, the man admitted to breaking the law in his own email. Frankly, his continued existence no longer serves the needs of the organization.
Suppose Mann and Jones go to prison? Following our contrapositive path, let’s consider this best-case scenario. No doubt most climate dissidents would be wildly enthused by this result. As would I, of course. I’m an old-fashioned sort of gentleman and love to see a scoundrel swing.
But does this constitute a cure? Again, the suggestion is risible. It’s like saying that you’ve performed a successful breast-cancer operation, when you’ve taken a biopsy. That particular fleck of cancerous tissue will certainly trouble the patient no more.
For instance, it is not even clear that Mann is the top of this network. For instance, in one email, he refers to our friends in higher places. Who are these friends, exactly? Ah, for a really aggressive domestic-intelligence program. J. Edgar would know. So would Yezhov or Yagoda.
The idea that removing one or two or three individuals could damage this network, which is informal, widely distributed, and not even clearly hierarchical, is preposterous. It will only create martyrs. Certainly, anyone who does not show proper respect for the martyrs is not with the program—not a team player. There is a Big Cutoff in his future.
As Clive Crook points out, we are simply not looking at contamination within one area of climate science. We are looking at the entire field. There is simply no conceivable procedure for purging a whole department. Many suspicious, grayish-looking lumps are visible. Removing any, even all, of the lumps is not even conceivably therapeutic. It is just a way to injure the patient.
Sure; we can expect the standards of research integrity in climate science to increase. But this is not the patient healing. This is the tumor healing. As we’ve seen, the entire endeavor of climate science, as now constituted, is entirely sinister and without merit. We don’t want the tumor to heal. We want the tumor to die. The entire tumor. Otherwise, we certainly cannot claim a cure!
The personal incompetence, dissembling and manipulation of Mann and Jones is not the cancer. It is a symptom of the cancer. No one could possibly claim that these individuals are exceptional, at least within climatology. The discovery of their crude, Stalinist methods has been helpful in bringing public attention to the condition. We can only hope that it continues as long as possible. It inflames the immune system, which can only benefit the patient.
But suppressing the bad science in Pillar B, and replacing it with good science, is not an effective way to render the collective argument of Pillars A, B, and C rational. It is just a way to make a delusional proposition more superficially attractive. Moreover, repressing a few of the bad scientists is not even an effective way to suppress the bad science. Thus, this is just not a curative path we’re looking at.
Second, public opinion could be turned against the entire anti-carbon movement. As it certainly has been—to some extent. Well! In a democracy, there is always the temptation to define popularity as victory. There is also the temptation to define being proven right as victory.
Any student of history knows better. Dissidents with an interest in actual curative processes should avoid these temptations, which have led many in other times and places to dead ends of unjustified optimism.
Popularity is not victory. Even truth is not victory. Victory is victory. Victory means: the San Francisco Academy of Sciences takes down its two-million-dollar permanent global-warming exhibit. Victory means: all the ordinary people who were part of this movement, who worked for it or even just believed in it, are embarrassed to have been associated with it.
Yes: universal belief in the carbon crisis has not been achieved. It will probably not be achieved, at least not any time soon. So? The entire thrust of Pillars A, B, and C, as we saw, is not to provide factual information for reasonable judgment, but to provide supporting information for a public-awareness campaign. This campaign—visible in eerie, Eurocratic, Orwellian documents like the rules of the game, found in FOIA.zip, by what appears to be the British version of Fenton Communications—has not won. But it has not lost, either. And the fight is yet young! A luta continua!
If these gentlemen can’t educate you, they will educate your children. If they can’t educate your children, they will still be around to give your grandchildren a go. They are patient, and they can afford to be patient. After all, they are in power and you are out of it. They can continue indefinitely with minority support, simply because there is no mechanism (short of regime change) by which any majority can displace them. Popularity is not victory. Truth is not victory. Victory is victory. This is the sad and wicked reality of the world.
Struggling nobly against broad popular ignorance is the normal position of a movement like the anti-carbon movement. Maoist (i.e., New Left) to the core, it is guerrilla to the utmost. Defeated in the valleys, it retreats to the hills. Denied the masses, it seizes the elites. It loves nothing better than this attitude of resistance to popular opinion, in which it hardens and grows stronger. It can operate for indefinite periods of time from this Yenan, without winning or anywhere near. And history suggests that, regardless of the truth, it probably will win. The early abolitionists fought for decades as a tiny, ridiculed minority. Today any deviation from their views is a crime.
For instance, if anti-carbonism can be defeated now—a task of implausible difficulty—what ensures that it will stay defeated? Nothing at all. Once it prevails, however, it will create a structure of interests which is absolutely unassailable. Indeed perhaps as it already has, but nothing as compared to the world in which the US adopts anti-carbon measures like “80 by 50.”
The belief that our entire system of government—including, but not limited to, this particular decision—is self-correcting, or even correctable by unusual effort—is widespread. It is also entirely unfounded. The study of history has left me with few stronger conclusions.
Third, we could abandon present political reality, acknowledge that this tumor is not curable by any conventional means, and apply the study of history to unconventional means. Alas, history does not supply any cures both real and practical. But, by showing us what a real cure looks like, it finishes the task of convincing us that any practical cure is unattainable.
We’re going to look at two historical examples of a purge of the required dimensions, one of which (X) was unsuccessful, and the other of which (Y) was successful. This will give us the general impression that any curative therapy must be stronger than X, but need not be stronger than Y. I think this is a generally accurate impression. It also gives us the impression that any therapy nowhere near as strong as X is of dubious efficacy at best. As a student of history, I would also concur with this judgment.
Unfortunately, most educated people are just as misinformed about the historical nature of the McCarthy period as they are about global warming. What? You thought this was the only distortion in your default reference frame? Oh, my Lord, the innocence.
Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. Those who lie about the past are generally found lying about the present. Surely, if you can come to believe that you were completely misinformed on the subject of climate sensitivity, you can extend that same newborn skepticism to this important and little-known historical era, always forgotten or misrepresented. As always, 20th-century history is the hardest to learn and the most rewarding.
The reality behind “McCarthyism”—a good recent history is that of Stanton Evans—was one in which Americans discovered that their government had been employing, in positions of great responsibility, individuals known as “Communists,” who were often extremely capable and brilliant, but who did not seem to have the best interests of Americans at heart, and seemed capable of misleading them with disturbing facility. There are no more Communists—not in the literal sense of the word. But surely the parallel is clear.
In particular, Americans discovered that their own foreign-policy organs, not to mention their own official press, had been consciously and deliberately misinforming them about the nature of events and regimes in Russia and China. Oceans being oceans, these events had relatively little direct impact on Americans. (Except, of course, in the Korean War, where American soldiers fought a major conflict against the Jeffersonian reformers to whom its diplomats had just delivered a quarter of humanity.) However, their effects on Russians and Chinese were dire. Especially the Chinese.
USG, or at least its foreign-policy organs, or certain networks therein, were seen correctly to bear culpability in this matter. (In modern-day historical works, for instance, you can see the correct history in either Jay Taylor’s life of Chiang Kai-shek or Jung Chang’s Mao. Chang doesn’t give a crap about American politics; Taylor is himself a former Foreign Service officer. If you read either work, or any other reliable source, you will come away with the feeling that “George Marshall” is a perfectly sensible answer to the perfectly sensible question of “who lost China?”.)
The basic problem faced by McCarthyism was that McCarthy’s shop itself, run in practice by the freakish legal child-prodigy Roy Cohn, was a tiny dog that had caught a very large car. There was no substantive way to differentiate between a New Dealer and a Communist. After all, between the German invasion of Russia in 1941, and the Anglo-Soviet split of ’45-’48, the two had been essentially the same movement. The two were also littered with homologous doctrinal doxology—starting, but not ending, with “progressive.”
Therefore, McCarthyism had to operate under an essentially erroneous narrative of foreign subversion. Broadly, in general, his specific charges were accurate. The many sub-rosa connections to the Russian intelligence agencies that he uncovered were real. But the meaning of those connections were completely misinterpreted. As a result, a false picture was presented, both by McCarthy’s allies at the time and by his present conservative defenders.
A man like Harry Dexter White did not see himself as a tool of the KGB. A man like Harry Dexter White saw the KGB as a tool of Harry Dexter White. The KGB could put him down in their files as a tool; I’m sure they did; and perhaps, in the end, they were right. But to White and many others like him, America should have been working with the Soviets as with the British, because the two systems were on a path to convergence. No one then or now would think anything of any contact between British intelligence and anyone in Washington.
This is actually not a reassuring conclusion at all. The problem is that it directs complicity in the other direction. Instead of the crime of workin’ secretly fer furriners, i.e., Stalin, the FDR administration strikes me as more likely to be prosecuted by history for employing Stalin. Who certainly made quite a steely iron fist. It is neither unusual nor unfair, however, for a leader to be prosecuted for the work of his henchmen. The Boss cannot be expected to have executed his victims personally—as if he were, say, Saddam Hussein.
But I digress. The point is not the accuracy of McCarthy’s charges, but the actual effectiveness of his actual purge. There is no doubt that many Communists and other progressives, across a fairly wide cross-section of American institutions, not entirely sparing even the most elite, were purged as a result of McCarthyism. In that sense, the purge succeeded. The tumor regressed.
A little. And not for long. We can see easily that McCarthyism failed. If McCarthyism had succeeded, McCarthy would today be hailed as a hero, and his victims execrated as villains. Since his victims are hailed as martyrs, and he is execrated as a villain, we can see easily that he lost. Any successes were only temporary. The tumor came back—and prevailed. Taste the bone!
Needless to say, I have seen no seriously-proposed response to Climategate that sounds even a hundredth part as toxic as McCarthyism. At most, dissidents demand the heads of Mann and Jones. They don’t demand a thorough, savage purge of the warmists throughout Washington and beyond.
It is the warmists, of course, who talk of McCarthyism. The denialists deny any such intention. Yet McCarthyism itself was quite insufficient to solve a remarkably similar problem. Whatever treatment climate science demands, it is something much stronger than anything Tailgunner Joe had in his medicine cabinet.
No! If we’re going to actually clean up climate science, rather than just make an Alger Hiss of Michael Mann, we’re going to have to take Rutger Hauer’s advice in Split Second, and find ourselves some bigger guns. It was Raoul Duke, in his infamous Police Chief editorial, who pointed out the difference between tear gas and nerve gas. CS just slaps at the problem—a nerve agent solve s it. Clearly, mere McCarthyism is in the tear-gas category.
So we’re going to have to go all the way and look at a purge which actually worked. Fortunately, we have already discussed this period of history: denazification. Get your Persilscheine now! Here at UR we have a practically pathological obsession with the practice of history through primary sources. There is no better primary source on denazification than the original bureaucratic directive under which it was conducted—the notorious JCS 1067.
This should be read in its entirety, noting carefully everything that feels like a euphemism. It generally is. However, today we are only concerned with the means by which JCS 1067 accomplished its primary goal—the permanent eradication from the German mind and government of National Socialism and anything even remotely like it.
I reproduce section 6 of JCS 1067, “Denazification,” in full:
a. A Proclamation dissolving the Nazi Party, its formations, affiliated associations and supervised organizations, and all Nazi public institutions which were set up as instruments of Party domination, and prohibiting their revival in any form, should be promulgated by the Control Council. You will assure the prompt effectuation of that policy in your zone and will make every effort to prevent the reconstitution of any such organization in underground, disguised or secret form. Responsibility for continuing desirable non-political social services of dissolved Party organizations may be transferred by the Control Council to appropriate central agencies and by you to appropriate local agencies.
b. The laws purporting to establish the political structure of National Socialism and the basis of the Hitler regime and all laws, decrees and regulations which establish discriminations on grounds of race, nationality, creed or political opinions should be abrogated by the Control Council. You will render them inoperative in your zone.
c. All members of the Nazi party who have been more than nominal participants in its activities all active supporters of Nazism or militarism and all other persons hostile to Allied purposes will be removed and excluded from public office and from positions of importance in quasi-public and private enterprises such as (1) civic, economic and labor organizations, (2) corporations and other organizations in which the German government or subdivisions have a major financial interest, (3) industry, commerce, agriculture, and finance, (4) education, and (5) the press, publishing houses and other agencies disseminating news and propaganda.
Persons are to be treated as more than nominal participants in Party activities and as active supporters of Nazism or militarism when they have (1) held office or otherwise been active at any level from local to national in the party and its subordinate organizations, or in organizations which further militaristic doctrines, (2) authorized or participated affirmatively in any Nazi crimes, racial persecutions or discriminations, (3) been avowed believers in Nazism or racial and militaristic creeds, or (4) voluntarily given substantial moral or material support or political assistance of any kind to the Nazi Party or Nazi officials and leaders.
No such persons shall be retained in any of the categories of employment listed above because of administrative necessity, convenience or expediency.
d. Property, real and personal, owned or controlled by the Nazi party, its formations, affiliated associations and supervised organizations, and by all persons subject to arrest under the provisions of paragraph 8, and found within your zone, will be taken under your control pending a decision by the Control Council or higher authority as to its eventual disposition.
e. All archives, monuments and museums of Nazi inception, or which are devoted to the perpetuation of German militarism, will be taken under your control and their properties held pending decision as to their disposition by the Control Council.
f. You will make special efforts to preserve from destruction and take under your control records, plans, books, documents, papers, files, and scientific, industrial and other information and data belonging to or controlled by the following:
(1) The Central German Government and its subdivisions, German military organizations, organizations engaged in military research, and such other governmental agencies as may be deemed advisable;
(2) The Nazi Party, its formations, affiliated associations and supervised organizations;
(3) All police organizations, including security and political police;
(4) Important economic organizations and industrial establishments including those controlled by the Nazi Party or its personnel;
(5) Institutes and special bureaus devoting themselves to racial, political, militaristic or similar research or propaganda.
Fuckin’ awesome! (Note how we don’t forget to deal with those damned museum exhibits.)
If you replace “militarist” with “environmentalist,” etc., I think you get a rough but reasonable description of the sort of purge which would be needed to actually cure USG and its many tentacles of the insanity we’ve been looking at. Basically, denazification is so far beyond McCarthyism, it isn’t even slightly fucking funny. It’s the nerve gas—a real, proper cleansing. No, sir, you won’t find any bedbugs when you move back in to this building! Sir, we’ve given it the complete treatment!
And of course it’s also the sort of thing we associate with the Nazis themselves. Mainly because it’s the sort of thing the Nazis did. There’s nothing much wrong with your bog-standard history of the Nazis. No—all surviving distortions concern the other side of the conflict.
However, we again digress. It should be clear that in 2009, a thorough, JCS 1067-style purge of the ecocrats, old school, is nowhere near the realm of the political possible. It’s even farther from reality than mere McCarthyism, which is both ineffective and unachievable. Thus, as students of history, we can be confident in our diagnosis: incurable.
At least, incurable except in the context of regime change. The way to look at the denazification analogy is not to say that nothing like JCS 1067 can ever happen again, ever, in history. History never works this way. The present, which always seems special in the present, always becomes the past. If such a purge was physically possible once, it is physically possible again.
More to the point, once you postulate any such effort, you can only really imagine it in the context of regime change. You simply can’t imagine it under the present political reality. The present reality would have to end; another reality would have to come into existence. At present regime change seems quite unlikely, but history proves that it happens. Thus, again: insanity, incurable except by means of regime change. The ancestors are vindicated again.
Therefore, we continue on to the first, most difficult, and most devastating part of the message: your entire form of government. What can this mean? Whatever it means, it seems calculated to encourage us to take an extremely broad and existential view of the problem. We should certainly not be seeing Climategate as an isolated case.
But could it be? When confronted by questions of this nature, I always fall back on the great Punch cartoon of the curate’s egg. Completely mis-explained by Wikipedia, but at least you can see the actual cartoon.
The point is that the curate, who is both hilariously timid and hilariously polite, takes a bite of a rotten egg. His mouth is immediately filled with sulfur, corruption, filth. But he has no evidence that the rest of the egg is rotten—only the bite he just took. He therefore declares the rest of it excellent. As in theory it may well be. In governments and in eggs.
Thus, our immediate reaction upon discovering this monstrous hoax is to follow the curate’s example. We therefore declare that, to protect the excellent reputation of Science, climatology must be purged. The rotten part of the egg must be removed. Leaving the rest—which is, again, excellent.
I would certainly not regard this as a disaster. (In fact, I think the whole field of climatology should probably just be turned off for ten or fifteen years. Let it lie fallow.) However, local regime change in climatology alone can only be described as an effective solution (though politically unrealistic) if the problem with climatology is unique, exceptional, unprecedented. The rest of the egg being excellent.
I.e.: since the reputation of climatology did not match its reality, it seems reasonable to wonder if the fungus has sent its tendrils anywhere else. Before we start reflexively defending what turns out to be, in fact, indefensible. It seems to me there has been enough of that. Indeed, the general absence of any such broad curiosity, in the early response to Climategate, is so striking that this absence itself can only be seen as an epiphenomenon of collective insanity.
Basically, we have entirely failed to even address a very important question. We have failed to ask why this happened. Until we understand the why of anti-carbonism—not the meteorological why, the historical why—we cannot possibly search for other nests of the infection. According to the ancestors, of course, there is no use; it is everywhere. And they may just be right.
Here is the original cause of the insanity: an failure of judgment. The original sin of Climategate is the belief that good government can be produced without human judgment, by some automatic formula or procedure. Including, though not limited to, the scientific method.
Typically in previous historical eras the process of automatic policy determination was more colorful, and involved some sort of prop. Such as an ox liver. But the urge is the same. If a decision is made by some formal process, however spurious its logic, it is therefore removed from the dangerous realm of personal government. For instance, no one need be personally responsible for it. Obviously this is very appealing to the bureaucratic mind.
Recall my one-paragraph dismissal of AGW as a major problem. This is my own judgment. It may be good judgment or bad judgment. But—in your entire system of government—there is nowhere to insert the judgment. On AGW, USG acts with bad judgment, because it pretends to act without judgment at all. Judgment, nonetheless, is found—and not good judgment.
If you search the CRU emails for the Orwellian term policymakers, for instance, you get 12 hits. This word is chosen from the same school of misleading language under which Stalin becomes a mere administrative assistant. It is absolutely clear that in reality, “policymakers” do not actually make policies. They enact policies. The policies are made in the same forge as the data.
In other words, the ideal “policymakers” in Michael Mann’s world, who are of course also the progressive policymakers, are not in actual fact contributing actual judgment to the process of making policy. They are saying: the scientists tell us we need to do it. They are deferring to Michael Mann’s judgment. They are, in a word, passing the buck. Actually thinking, as in my judgment process, is quite beyond their pay grade. No one is paid to do this.
By using words like “policymaker,” scientists such as Mann disguise the fact that it is actually themselves who are exercising the judgment. Of course, someone has to make the decision. If Michael Mann decides that he doesn’t want to play Climate Stalin anymore, and no one else wants the job, there will be no Climate Stalin. Historically, someone else tends to want the job, although personal authority will generally fragment over time. Bureaucracy, however, remains bureaucracy. Brezhnev is not always an improvement on Stalin.
Why do Mann and his colleagues act and talk like Stalin and his Politburo? Because they are Stalin and his Politburo—at least, within their own narrow field. Mann cannot order anyone actually shot, so he doesn’t. If he could, why assume he wouldn’t? Once again, it’s not like there is a big fence which keeps Satan out of the United States. Within the domain of climate science and climate policy, the IPCC circle is as sovereign as it gets. They may be resisted by rogue (i.e., Republican) “policymakers”—but these dinosaurs are weaker in every generation.
Thus, while it appears formally that human judgment has been eliminated from government, this is not actually the case. The judgment has just been delegated to the climate scientists, who are nominally just providing background information to the “policymakers.” In reality, Stalin was in charge of Russia. In reality, Mann, Jones, Hansen et al are in charge of climate policy.
This is why it’s so difficult to get these guys out of power. They are in power. Nature abhors a vacuum. There is only one way in which a sovereign leaves office: by losing his job to the new sovereign, who takes it up and does it instead. This applies to institutions as well as persons. Since it is sovereign in its department, the IPCC community cannot be displaced by anything short of a coup—and since the Mann group is quite strongly rooted in the general fabric of government, it is at least as plausible to imagine this as a general coup. I.e., regime change.
Here is what the ancestors meant by your entire system of government. They meant that the policy process that produced AGW mitigation is the normal (for the 20th century) process of public policy, which is more or less how your entire system of government makes all its decisions. Because of its newness, the AGW policy process is in fact an unusually regular and ideal case of this structure. It is not an archaic exception, but the latest, greatest thing.
Therefore, the AGW insanity cannot be regarded as an exception or special case. Rather, it is best interpreted as an unusually transparent example of a general or systematic corruption. Most other instances of this corruption are opaque to us, because we do not have their emails. Thus, they are invisible, and we are free to behave as if they did not exist. But they do exist—and if you wonder why everything seems so badly-governed these days, this is more or less it.
Let’s try to summarize this problem and how it arose. We’ll see this at two levels: the philosophical level, and the historical level.
The problem: bad judgment in government. The cause: a philosophy of government which promoted the belief that policy could be formulated mechanically, by delegating it to neutral and objective experts. To conceal this dramatic shift in sovereignty, the old political institutions were retained and in fact continued to function, much like the Roman Senate under the Roman Empire. Under the Caesars, the Senate was no longer a body of governing statesmen. In appearance, however, they remained “policymakers.”
The modern politician, rare exceptions excepted (e.g., Daniel Patrick Moynihan), is not a statesman. He is an actor playing a statesman. This is a full-time job, a specialty, and not an easy one. There is simply no room for this individual to have his own, individual whims, theories and opinions. His handlers may be so good at their jobs that they convince him that he has his own judgment, but in reality he delegates his trust to them completely. He has no other option.
So delegating public policy to the scientists had an obvious effect. It made the scientists the policymakers—human judgment is conserved. The judgment became theirs. Hence Michael Mann, Climate Stalin. Granted effective sovereign power in his own field, he started to behave like a sovereign. And if he hadn’t, someone else would have. No shortage of potential Stalins in this world. Satan’s job is never tough to fill.
The great Victorian historian Lord Acton made a famous observation: power corrupts. Ironically, he is (quite unfairly) remembered for little else. The mechanism behind the corruption of power is fascinating and worthy of its own long discussion, and I’m not even sure Acton understood it correctly. But this would be a digression, and we’ve already digressed too much. Let’s just take it as an axiom. People already believe it anyway.
We see immediately that when sovereign authority is initially granted to an individual, group, or institution, especially if it is granted suddenly, without warning, and with no preceding period of protracted drooling, the result may well be quite good. Why? Because the judgment of those who have power thrust upon them thus is uncontaminated by the Acton effect. In good individuals, in fact, power tends to confer responsibility—they rise to its challenge.
Over time, however, these institutions are corrupted. They become arrogant and… insane. Good individuals outcompete the bad ones. Hubert Lamb retires; he is replaced by Phil Jones. Under Boromir, Gondor is just another province of Mordor. Both, after all, are ruled by the Ring!
And this degradation, once again, is entirely irreparable. Or rather: it can only be repaired by replacing the corrupted institutions with new institutions. It certainly cannot be repaired by replacing the corrupt institutions with old institutions—i.e., the preceding generation. Not only were these institutions perhaps quite corrupt themselves, they are no longer a practical option. Because they no longer exist.
This is the point that conservatives just can’t get. An unseated sovereign rapidly ceases to be capable of ruling—if it continues to exist at all. The Bourbon court cannot be restored, because it does not exist. The Roman Republic could not be restored, despite all the tumults of the Empire years, despite the fact that the Senate still existed—why? Because the Senate was no longer a plausible governing body. It was no more than a collection of the Emperor’s placemen.
Needless to say, the American Old Deal is in exactly the same position. So when I see otherwise sensible conservatives, such as Paul at Powerline, write things like this:
Many years ago, I learned that under the American model of governance, Congress (the representative of the people) enacted legislation; the executive branch implemented the legislation; and the Supreme Court became involved, in rare instances, at the back end of the process. However, this model has, in a sense, been reversed when it comes to regulating carbon dioxide—a matter of enormous potential consequences for both the environment and the U.S. economy.
In 2007, the Supreme Court decided that carbon dioxide should be considered a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. It therefore held that the EPA had not only the power but the duty to regulate this gas. Thus, nine unelected individuals issued, in effect, a directive to the executive branch.
Yesterday, the bureaucrats at the EPA announced that carbon dioxide and several other gases pose a danger to the environment and the health of Americans and that, accordingly, EPA would begin writing regulations to reduce emissions. EPA’s administrator added, however, that she would prefer that Congress pass legislation to accomplish the same task.
As Sen. John Kerry aptly characterized the situation, “the message to Congress is crystal clear: get moving.”
Thus, the executive branch, in response to a directive from judges, is now attempting to pressure Congress into taking action that, from all appearances, Congress does not want to take.
If this is democracy, it seems like a new kind of democracy.
- I despair. Paul! Darling! Love! Apple of my heart! If you wanted to fight that battle, you should have been born in the 1850s, not the 1950s. Because it was over a century ago. At least. Doesn’t the phrase “Progressive Era” ring any bells for you? Bueller? Bueller?
The “American model of governance,” as described by Paul, if it ever existed as anything like this pretty abstraction, ceased to exist in 1933. Its replacement is indeed a “new kind of democracy,” and always has been. It is our kind. To wish for any other is entirely futile, for this is the kind we have. It was not always; but the past exists only in our imaginations. It can be recreated, of course, but so can many better things.
Congress is simply not a plausible governing body, because Congress is simply not a collection of statesmen. It is a collection of party hacks, basically actors in the world’s dullest reality show, perhaps with a few amateurish proto-statesmen in the mix. Since these people do not habitually exercise the function of statesmen, namely sovereign judgment, there is no realistic program under which power can be restored to their hands. Their hands are too limp to hold it. Exactly the same was true of the Senate of the Roman Empire.
Similarly, others (again, typically Republicans) dream of a restoration of populist democracy, in which red-blooded Americans take back their government directly—without any of those corrupt politicians. Again: dream on. The American voting population, as a collective body, is nowhere near fit to hold the reins of government. It is not some collection of misunderstood statesmen. Indeed, it knows almost nothing of the reality of how Washington actually works. It is as unfit to govern as I am to fly a 747.
Those who dream of turning this clock back, of restoring defunct political arrangements or institutions, must answer this question: why would anyone who got their hands on power, then convey it to some other incompetent party? The answer is simple: they wouldn’t, and shouldn’t. If their goal is personal aggrandizement, they keep the power themselves. If their goal is competence, they keep the power themselves, or transfer it to some competent authority. Thus, the Republic is not restored; should not be restored; cannot be restored.
Of course, if a time machine had actually transported the entire Roman aristocracy of 200 BC, the Scipios and Catos and what not, into the collapsing Empire of 400 AD, I am sure the Scipios and Catos would have lost little time in setting things right. The Rome of 400 AD had an aristocracy as well, and quite a cultured one; but it consisted of Sidonius and Claudian, not Scipio and Cato. Note that this governing class, too, exercised strikingly poor judgment.
The human element is essential. A Senate of Sidoniuses and Claudians is not a Senate of Scipios and Catos, whatever its parliamentary procedures. In fact, there is a very simple reason why the Washington of 2009 makes such poor decisions. It is the same reason that the Rome of 409 made bad decisions.
Washington makes poor decisions because in Washington, the true art of general statesmanship, the broad art of judgment in government, is neither studied, nor taught, nor practiced, nor even sought. The cockpit is locked; whatever is in it, is not a pilot; we are all on the plane.
The ancestors, understandably, are a little upset by this. I have explained the problem philosophically; now, to finish, I want to explain how it happened, historically, to us. And since the ancestors have been so enlightening with their pithy little sentence, I want to let them explain it in their own words. Delivered without benefit of Ouija board.
These words make sense to me. I hope they make sense to you. If not, I have failed in communicating something. Try reading the whole works, not just these samples.
First, let’s look at one of the most talented and effective non-monarchical governments in history, the aristocratic Parliamentary system of Victorian Britain. This regime cannot have been too effective, because it no longer exists. Obviously, it in some way neglected its own security: a fatal lapse in any sovereign. In its heyday, though, it pretty much kicked everyone’s ass.
From his Plea for the Constitution (1859):
It must be remarked, moreover, that the individual members of the Parliament speaking generally belong to aristocratical or elevated classes. The position of the Head of the State, and the stations held by the Peers, are too obvious to need comment. For the most part the members of the House of Commons are men of hereditary or acquired wealth, and can afford to devote themselves to practical politics without pecuniary reward; for a well founded dislike of political adventurers (or aspirants to seats in Parliament with a view to pecuniary gain) has hitherto disposed the electoral body to reject candidates without independent means. For the most part, therefore, the members of the House of Commons are drawn from the vast body who may be styled an aristocracy of independent gentlemen. … The reproach of aristocratical tendencies, so often brought against the British Government, is founded on the influence exercised in Parliament, and in the country at large, by the aristocracy (composed of the Lords and the higher Commonalty), which we have ventured to style a political aristocracy, on account of its special vocation to practical politics. We therefore will try to describe, as briefly and clearly as possible, the advantages accruing to the country from the existence of this aristocracy, and from the functions which it performs.
The art of statesmanship, like other high and difficult arts, can only be acquired by those who make it their principal business. The aristocracy in question, being men of independent means, can afford to devote themselves to public life; whilst men whose time and thoughts are absorbed by their private affairs cannot give themselves thoroughly to the concerns of the nation. From the possession of an aristocratical body specially affected to practical politics, the nation derives the well known advantages which arise from the division of labour. A larger proportion of competent statesmen will naturally be furnished by a body comparatively skilled, than by the bodies (far more numerous) whose attention to public interests is necessarily intermittent, and whose knowledge of those interests is therefore necessarily superficial. To this it must be added that in consequence of the high and undisputed positions occupied socially by the aristocracy in question, they naturally acquire a cool self-possession, a quick insight into men, and a skill in dealing with men which are specially necessary to statesmen in a free and Parliamentary country.
In other words: pretty much the same way the Roman Republic solved the problem.
Note in particular that when these gentry were landed gentry, as once almost exclusively, they came to Parliament with extensive experience in personal government. Well into the 19th century, the English country squire retained an essentially feudal role in local administration; he was the king of his shire, so to speak. In short, this caste was to governing as Hasids are to diamonds, Syrians to bodegas, or Patels to motels.
Again, note that there is simply no way to restore this system of government. The institutions, as they were, were dependent on the aristocrats Austin describes. This population no longer exists. Thus, the institutions cannot be restored. No Patels, no motels.
Britain still has an aristocracy, of course. Generally, it is the same aristocracy as the American—a truly global elite. You can see its doings, or at least its pretenses, if you read Vanity Fair. This set, no longer a caste, is rich, intelligent, influential, cultivated, beautiful; in every superficial way, everything an aristocracy should be. Completely beyond distinctions of birth, of course; admitted only by wealth or achievement.
And terribly concerned with its carbon footprint. A Sidonius-and-Claudian bureaucratic aristocracy, not a Cato-and-Scipio ruling aristocracy. Very fit for decoration; not at all fit for government. Again, perfectly intelligent—just awfully misinformed, with little or no education or experience in the “high and difficult art.”
Britain is a good country on which to track the 19th and 20th centuries. Its form of government, while democratic (by Austin’s definition—and if you lack your own theory of sovereignty which you prefer for some reason, I’d just stick with Austin’s) throughout the period, goes from strongly aristocratic at the beginning, to strongly bureaucratic at the end. In the end it converges with that of the United States, as does everyone’s. But the US itself is a cultural backwater for most of the 19th. Next to the Victorians, it is barely worth noticing.
When we look at the Gilded Age, Old Deal or Third Republic regime in the United States, what we see is a good deal uglier than its British counterpart, but still relatively functional. This is the golden age of the boss and the interest—more plutocratic than aristocratic. Still, the difference between plutocracy and aristocracy is a subtle one at best. The Victorian aristocracy was perfectly open to honest wealth, more or less honestly acquired.
And the American captains of industry were just that—captains. Thus, a Senate controlled corruptly by corrupt interests was also a Senate of talents and powers, more or less fit by experience to govern. (Nor was the Victorian election exactly a festival of human purity.) Moreover, the US at this time had a strong militaristic tradition, inherited from the Civil War through institutions like the GAR—still visible in many period statues. This, too, imparted fiber.
In retrospect, like the Victorian era, the Gilded Age strikes me as a golden age of good government. Its architecture certainly tells a better story than ours, and architecture seldom lies. Viewed close up by those living in it, however, the period could be quite unattractive. Under a strong enough microscope, anything looks ugly.
Moreover, though fundamentally aristocratic in the management of the State, these regimes remained democratic in their foundation of sovereignty. Democratic forces—to be precise, populist forces, not controlled or instructed by the legitimate authorities—were etching away at the aristocratic bastions. For all the reasons you don’t want Sarah Palin on the throne of FDR, these democratic forces tended to exhibit extremely poor judgment.
The question, however, will not long or deeply trouble those who, like me, have the strongest suspicion that, if there really arise a conflict between Democracy and Science, Democracy, which is already taking precautions against the enemy, will certainly win.
This is how bad Sir Henry Maine is. Not only does he tell us about the great battle at the end of time which will pit Democracy against Science, a conflict unthinkable to you and I until this freakish spirit chat with the ancestors, but now perfectly clear and clearly inevitable—but he has no dog in that fight. Bow to the ancestors! For lo, their greatness is palpable.
Frankly, I remain skeptical. In real life, Hari Seldon never gets it exactly right. Science has already proven far more durable than Maine imagined. Its destined foe, Democracy, has never been weaker or more contemptible. Still, if history shows us anything about the latter, it shows us that Democracy can lie dormant and apathetic and seemingly dead for decades, even centuries, then burst out again in volcanic explosions of frenzied mob energy, irrational, irresponsible and irresistible, driving God knows where in a river of heads on pikes.
Should we prefer this? Or the long grim gray decaying reign of Michael Mann, Climate Stalin? Democracy, infinitely stranger and more dangerous; Science, the frozen tyrant we now know. Dear reader, the ancestors have left this one to you.