Monday, September 04, 2006

Intertwined Insanities

In the Middle East, young men, inspired by religious fanaticism the likes of which have not been seen since the Dark Ages, blow themselves up in order to murder innocent victims. At the same time, their leaders claim that their murderous Islamic creed is morally superior to the values of the West.

In the West meanwhile, another religious creed, one that harks back to the Stone Age, views Man as just another “biota” along with snail darters, spotted owls, and worms, all with equal “rights.” Again and again, it seeks to sacrifice the interests of Man to the alleged interests of the “environment”—an environment comprised not only of all the rest of the Earth’s “biota” but also of swamps, jungles, deserts, and rock formations, all of which allegedly possess “intrinsic value” and therefore must not be destroyed by Man.

Both creeds hate human reason, the individual freedom that reason inspires and requires, and the science, technology, and economic progress and prosperity that it makes possible. Because these values have become so closely identified with Western culture, and at the same time threaten the mindless rule of the Islamic clergy, the West, in the view of contemporary Islam, is Satan.

In the view of environmentalism, Man is Satan. Man is Satan, environmentalism holds, because his reason, science, and technology, that enable him ever more to adapt his environment to himself, equivalently destroy the alleged intrinsic values present in nature before Man’s intervention. Strictly speaking, from the perspective of the doctrine of the intrinsic value of nature, Man is a destroyer when he leaves his footprints in the sand: he has destroyed the alleged intrinsic value of the undisturbed sand; he is a destroyer when he breathes and converts preexisting oxygen molecules into carbon dioxide, thereby destroying the alleged intrinsic value of the oxygen molecules. But so long as Man is incapable of acting on a scale much beyond that of other animals, his alleged inherent destructiveness can apparently be tolerated by the environmentalists. It is when his reason, science, technology, and freedom allow him to act on the vast scale of modern capitalism, a scale incalculably beyond that of which any other species is capable, and to transform nature accordingly, that he is damned.

The insanities of contemporary Islam and of environmentalism are connected. The one is the father of the other.

For several centuries prior to the 1970s, hardly anything was heard from Islam. It was the religion of impoverished people in impoverished countries. It was obvious to everyone with intelligence and education that such countries must throw off the shackles of religious superstition and enter the modern world. Only then might their people prosper. This was the knowledge on which modern Turkey was founded. It was the knowledge that guided the last Shah of Iran.

What changed this and fostered the revival of Islam as a cultural force has been the flood of money that began to pour into leading Islamic countries in the 1970s and which has continued until the present day. This money has come in not because of any positive productive accomplishments on the part of the countries concerned but on the basis of a combination of circumstances to which their contribution has been merely one of good fortune. They have had the good fortune to possess vast petroleum deposits. These petroleum deposits became a source of wealth and income to them after foreign geologists discovered them and foreign oil companies provided the capital and the technology to develop them—foreign economic progress having already established a demand for the oil abroad. The only further contribution of these countries was to then steal the foreign investments by means of abrogation of contracts and nationalization.

The possession of oil deposits and the theft of the foreign investments that had developed them would not by itself have been sufficient. It would not have been the source of sufficient wealth and income to enable very many of those who would still have been virtual starving beggars to put on an air of modernity and think themselves fit to pass judgment on the world that feeds them. What made that possible was the vast monopoly profits handed to Arab countries by the environmental movement. The paralyzing grip of the environmental movement on economic policy in the United States has served to protect the members of the Arab-led OPEC oil cartel from the competition of the American energy industries, which has the potential radically to reduce their wealth and income.

Represented by government officials who might as well have been Senators and Representatives from districts in Saudi Arabia or Iran, rather than in the United States, supported by influential newspapers that might as well have been headquartered in Riyadh or Teheran rather than in New York or Los Angeles, the environmental movement has been able to prohibit the production of additional American oil. It has blocked oil production in Alaska, offshore on the continental shelf, and in the vast areas set aside as wildlife preserves and wilderness areas. In addition, it has prevented the construction of any new atomic power plants for several decades, and has greatly restricted the mining and use of coal as a source of energy. These measures have substantially held down the supply of oil and, by restricting the availability of substitutes, increased the demand for it, making oil much scarcer and more expensive than it needs to be. This in turn has greatly increased the revenues and incomes of the Arab oil-producing states and thus their ability to finance poisonous religious propaganda around the world, the purchase and production of modern weapons, now including atomic weapons, and acts of international terrorism.

If the grip of environmentalism could be broken in the West, what has aptly been called Islamo-fascism would likely fall of its own weight in the Middle East, because those who finance it and advocate it would justly go back to starving until they found a productive way to live.

Until the grip of environmentalism is broken, Middle Eastern lunatics will go on blowing themselves up in order to gain an alleged reward of seventy-two virgins in the afterlife. What will enable them to do so is Western lunatics urging the destruction of industrial civilization in order to manipulate the average mean temperature of the world and the height of sea-levels in future centuries.

This article is copyright © 2006, by George Reisman. Permission is hereby granted to reproduce and distribute it electronically and in print, other than as part of a book and provided that mention of the author’s web site is included. (Email notification is requested.) All other rights reserved. George Reisman is the author of Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics (Ottawa, Illinois: Jameson Books, 1996) and is Pepperdine University Professor Emeritus of Economics.