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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Reading List: Merchants of Despair

Zubrin, Robert Merchants of Despair. New York: Encounter Books, 2012. ISBN 978-1-59403-476-3.
This is one of the most important paradigm-changing books since Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism (January 2008). Zubrin seeks the common thread which unites radical environmentalism, eugenics, population control, and opposition to readily available means of controlling diseases due to hysteria engendered by overwrought prose in books written by people with no knowledge of the relevant science.

Zubrin identifies the central thread of all of these malign belief systems: anti-humanism. In 1974, the Club of Rome, in Mankind at the Turning Point, wrote, “The world has cancer and the cancer is man.” A foul synthesis of the ignorant speculations of Malthus and a misinterpretation of the work of Darwin led to a pernicious doctrine which asserted that an increasing human population would deplete a fixed pool of resources, leading to conflict and selection among a burgeoning population for those most able to secure the resources they needed to survive.

But human history since the dawn of civilisation belies this. In fact, per capita income has grown as population has increased, demonstrating that the static model is bogus. Those who want to constrain the human potential are motivated by a quest for power, not a desire to seek the best outcome for the most people. The human condition has improved over time, and at an accelerating pace since the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, because of human action: the creativity of humans in devising solutions to problems and ways to meet needs often unperceived before the inventions which soon became seen as essentials were made. Further, the effects of human invention in the modern age are cumulative: any at point in history humans have access to all the discoveries of the past and, once they build upon them to create a worthwhile innovation, it is rapidly diffused around the world—in our days at close to the speed of light. The result of this is that in advanced technological societies the poor, measured by income compared to the societal mean, would have been considered wealthy not just by the standards of the pre-industrial age, but compared to those same societies in the memory of people now alive. The truly poor in today's world are those whose societies, for various reasons, are not connected to the engine of technological progress and the social restructuring it inevitably engenders.

And yet the anti-humanists have consistently argued for limiting the rate of growth of population and in many cases actually reducing the total population, applying a “precautionary principle” to investigation of new technologies and their deployment, and relinquishment of technologies deemed to be “unsustainable”. In short, what they advocate is reversing the progress since the year 1800 (and in many ways, since the Enlightenment), and returning to an imagined bucolic existence (except for, one suspects, the masters in their gated communities, attended to by the serfs as in times of old).

What Malthus and all of his followers to the present day missed is that the human population is not at all like the population of bacteria in a Petri dish or rabbits in the wild. Uniquely, humans invent things which improve their condition, create new resources by finding uses for natural materials previously regarded as “dirt”, and by doing so allow a larger population to enjoy a standard of living much better than that of previous generations. Put aside the fanatics who wish to reduce the human population by 80% or 90% (they exist, they are frighteningly influential in policy-making circles, and they are called out by name here). Suppose, for a moment, the author asks, societies in the 19th century had listened to Malthus and limited the human population to half of the historical value. Thomas Edison and Louis Pasteur did work which contributed to the well-being of their contemporaries around the globe and continue to benefit us today. In a world with half as many people, perhaps only one would have ever lived. Which would you choose?

But the influence of the anti-humans did not stop at theory. The book chronicles the sorry, often deceitful, and tragic consequences when their policies were put into action by coercive governments. The destruction wrought by “population control” measures approached, in some cases, the level of genocide. By 1975, almost one third of Puerto Rican women of childbearing age had been sterilised by programs funded by the U.S. federal government, and a similar program on Indian reservations sterilised one quarter of Native American women of childbearing age, often without consent. Every purebred woman of the Kaw tribe of Oklahoma was sterilised in the 1970s: if that isn't genocide, what is?

If you look beneath the hood of radical environmentalism, you'll find anti-humanism driving much of the agenda. The introduction of DDT in the 1940s immediately began to put an end to the age-old scourge of malaria. Prior to World War II, between one and six million cases of malaria were reported in the U.S. every year. By 1952, application of DDT to the interior walls of houses (as well as other uses of the insecticide) had reduced the total number of confirmed cases of malaria that year to two. By the early 1960s, use of DDT had cut malaria rates in Asia and Latin America by 99%. By 1958, Malthusian anti-humanist Aldous Huxley decried this, arguing that “Quick death by malaria has been abolished; but life made miserable by undernourishment and over-crowding is now the rule, and slow death by outright starvation threatens ever greater numbers.”

Huxley did not have long to wait to see his desires fulfilled. After the publication of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring in 1962, a masterpiece of pseudoscientific deception and fraud, politicians around the world moved swiftly to ban DDT. In Sri Lanka, where malaria cases had been cut from a million or more per year to 17 in 1963, DDT was banned in 1964, and by 1969 malaria cases had increased to half a million a year. Today, DDT is banned or effectively banned in most countries, and the toll of unnecessary death due to malaria in Africa alone since the DDT ban is estimated as in excess of 100 million. Arguably, Rachel Carson and her followers are the greatest mass murderers of the 20th century. There is no credible scientific evidence whatsoever that DDT is harmful to humans and other mammals, birds, reptiles, or oceanic species. To the anti-humanists, the carnage wrought by the banning of this substance is a feature, not a bug.

If you thought Agenda 21 (November 2012) was over the top, this volume will acquaint you with the real-world evil wrought by anti-humanists, and their very real agenda to exterminate a large fraction of the human population and reduce the rest (except for themselves, of course, they believe) to pre-industrial serfdom. As the author concludes:

If the idea is accepted that the world's resources are fixed with only so much to go around, then each new life is unwelcome, each unregulated act or thought is a menace, every person is fundamentally the enemy of every other person, and each race or nation is the enemy of every other race of nation. The ultimate outcome of such a worldview can only be enforced stagnation, tyranny, war, and genocide.

This is a book which should have an impact, for the better, as great as Silent Spring had for the worse. But so deep is the infiltration of the anti-human ideologues into the cultural institutions that you'll probably never hear it mentioned except here and in similar venues which cherish individual liberty and prosperity.

Posted at April 28, 2013 17:35