Imperialism, Left and Right

No, I am not talking about foreign policy. My concern is with how both Left and Right seem to have their straightjackets into which they want everyone to be strapped, like it or not.

It is disturbing in part because a high point of the American way of life has always been the 'live and let live' principle. And the USA, with its substantial commitment to the principle of private property rights, has managed to live up to that idea quite well.

Just consider religion-'in America there are no serious religious wars because the faithful of each religion are able to conduct their affairs in peace, undisturbed by others with whom they disagree. Consider how different this is from, say, Jerusalem, where the faithful of several religions are constantly bickering about who should rule the turf. Here, in contrast, the public square is secular and the faithful are free to assemble where they will, on private property, and carry on just as their doctrine requires.

But there are some exceptions, unfortunately. Too many among the religious right have it in big time against gays now, so whenever gays get various concessions from the legal authorities, they are attacked. So long as there is a public component to being gay, gays have to contend with the political clout of the religious right. And since the state has for centuries made it its business to treat marriage as its preserve, issuing licenses and conferring rites on those who would marry, there is no peace for the unusual, unorthodox, or odd. It is a bit like interracial marriages used to be, namely, a province of state regulation, so voters could make their desires, prejudices, hates, loves felt on the topic. That is pretty much what happens whenever something that ought to be private, a matter of voluntary consent, is invaded by government. In dictatorships the big Kahuna says how it goes and in democracies it becomes an invitation to various hordes of people meddling in the affairs of others.

The environmentalist Left is, of course, no different. Just notice how quickly they get into the fray where public spheres such as roads or parks or coastal regions are concerned. For them SUVs, for example, are virtually open targets. Many feel no compunction expressing their hate for people who own SUVs and initiating legal actions of one or another kind against the vehicles, urging the government to cut them down to the size they feel they should be, never mind what the actual SUV owners wants. No live and let live here either, no way Jose.

The religion here is not a traditional one but more recent, fueled from within the religion and academic discipline of ecology. And environmentalists, not unlike those from the Christian right, have acquired sacred texts of their own in terms of which what they dislike can be condemned with a tone of moral righteousness. They invoke what they refer to as 'the Gaia hypothesis.' According to this doctrine, which is accepted by more and more environmentalists, 'all of life on earth can be seen as whole that is more than the sum of its parts, this whole being like a huge super-lifeform . . . (after the name for the ancient Greek goddess of the earth).'

Why is this a Left wing movement? Because it preaches, as does Socialism, that human beings are part of a large organism ' in their own words, 'that the earth is alive and that we are part of it.' Socialism confines this collectivism to people, either in some nation (for the national socialists) or the globe (for international socialists). We might call environmentalists geological socialists. They argue that 'Living systems have a tendency to keep themselves in balance but also to adapt and evolve over time.' They go on to claim that 'scientists have found that the earth also has these tendencies, with feedback mechanisms to 'keep in balance' the temperature and oxygen levels of the atmosphere, just as our bodies maintain the temperature and oxygen levels in our arteries.' (See more on this here.)

Once you have elected yourself as the spokesperson for such a viewpoint, where you speak for Earth, just as when you speak for God, the move toward the missionary'-indeed, the holy warrior'-role is a very easy one to make. After all, the rest of us are by these doctrines deemed to be anything but sovereign citizens. We are all parts of and thus must owe allegiance to the Whole! Anything you do or I do immediately comes under the supervision of the protectors of the holy-'or this time scientific-'mission.

It's a ruse, that's what it is, of course. Environmentalists are no better positioned to know what amounts to the proper harmony of all of nature, including what kind of cars other people should purchase and drive, than are those of the Christian Right qualified to tell how reality should be ordered, including who should or should not be married. In any case, it's none of their business. Even if there is some insight or wisdom to be imparted on the various topics from these groups, there is certainly no justification for imposing such wisdom-'after all, all those speaking on the topic are just parts of the whole, even from their own perspective, as are you and I.

I suggest that we be very, very careful about letting folks get away with claiming to be the authoritative representatives of either God or Nature. They are too often up to something invasive, intrusive, and aggressive when they see themselves in that light.

Your rating: None
Tibor R. Machan's picture
Columns on STR: 70

Tibor Machan is a professor of business ethics and Western Civilization at Chapman University in Orange, Calif., and recent author of Neither Left Nor Right: Selected Columns (Hoover Institution Press, 2004).  He is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.