Apoc­a­lyp­tic lib­er­al­ism

Re­solv­ing crises is a means to im­pose more govern­ment

The Washington Times Daily - - COMMENTARY - By Vic­tor Davis Han­son

Shortly af­ter the 2008 elec­tion, Pres­i­dent Obama’s soon-to-be chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, in­fa­mously de­clared, “You never let a se­ri­ous cri­sis go to waste.” He elab­o­rated: “What I mean by that [is] it’s an op­por­tu­nity to do things you think you could not do be­fore.”

Dis­as­ters, such as the Septem­ber 2008 fi­nan­cial cri­sis, were thus seen as op­por­tu­ni­ties. Out of the chaos, a shell-shocked public might at last be ready to ac­cept more state reg­u­la­tion of the econ­omy and far greater deficit spend­ing. In­deed, the na­tional debt dou­bled in the eight years fol­low­ing the 2008 cri­sis.

Dur­ing the 2008 cam­paign, gas prices at one point av­er­aged over $4 a gal­lon. Then-can­di­date Barack Obama re­acted by push­ing a green agenda — as if the cash-strapped but skep­ti­cal public could be pushed into al­ter­na­tive en­ergy agen­das.

Mr. Obama mocked then-Repub­li­can vice pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Sarah Palin’s pre­scient ad­vice to “drill, baby, drill” — as if Mrs.

Palin’s en­dorse­ment of new tech­nolo­gies such as frack­ing and hor­i­zon­tal drilling could never en­sure con­sumers plen­ti­ful fuel.

In­stead, in Septem­ber 2008, Steven

Chu, who would go on to be­come Mr.

Obama’s sec­re­tary of en­ergy, told The Wall Street Jour­nal, “Some­how we have to fig­ure out how to boost the price of gaso­line to the lev­els in Europe.”

In other words, if gas prices were to reach $9 or $10 a gal­lon, an­gry Amer­i­cans would at last be forced to seek al­ter­na­tives to their gas-pow­ered cars, such as tak­ing the bus or us­ing even high­er­priced al­ter­na­tive fu­els.

When up for re-elec­tion in 2012, Mr. Obama dou­bled down on his be­lief that gas was des­tined to get costlier: “And you know we can’t just drill our way to lower gas prices.”

Yet even as Mr. Obama spoke, U.S. frack­ers were up­ping the sup­ply and re­duc­ing the cost of gas — de­spite ef­forts by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion to deny new oil drilling per­mits on fed­eral lands.

U.S oil pro­duc­tion roughly dou­bled from 2008 to 2015. And by 2017, the old bo­gey­man of “peak

When up for re­elec­tion in 2012, Mr. Obama dou­bled down on his be­lief that gas was des­tined to get costlier: “And you know we can’t just drill our way to lower gas prices.”

oil” pro­duc­tion had been put to rest, as the United States be­came nearly self-suf­fi­cient in fos­sil fuel pro­duc­tion.

View­ing the world in apoc­a­lyp­tic terms was also use­ful dur­ing the Cal­i­for­nia drought.

In March 2016, even as the four-year drought was over and Cal­i­for­nia pre­cip­i­ta­tion had re­turned to nor­mal, Gov. Jerry Brown was still harp­ing on the con­nec­tion be­tween “cli­mate change” and near-per­ma­nent drought.

“We are run­ning out of time be­cause it’s not rain­ing,” Mr. Brown melo­dra­mat­i­cally warned. “This is a se­ri­ous mat­ter we’re ex­pe­ri­enc­ing in Cal­i­for­nia, as kind of a fore­taste.”

Fore­taste to what, ex­actly?

In 2017, it rained and snowed even more than it had dur­ing a nor­mal year of pre­cip­i­ta­tion in 2016.

Cur­rently, a drenched Cal­i­for­nia’s chal­lenge is not the­o­ret­i­cal global warm­ing, but the more mun­dane is­sue of long-neglected dam main­te­nance that threat­ens to un­der­mine over­full reser­voirs.

Mr. Brown had seen the drought as a means of achiev­ing the aim of reg­i­ment­ing Cal­i­for­ni­ans to read­just their life­styles in ways deemed en­vi­ron­men­tally cor­rect. The state re­fused to be­gin work on new reser­voirs, aque­ducts and canals to be ready for the in­evitable end of the drought, even though in some 120 years of ac­cu­rate record keep­ing, Cal­i­for­nia had likely never ex­pe­ri­enced more than a four-year con­tin­u­ous drought.

And it did not this time around, ei­ther.

In­stead, state of­fi­cials saw the drought as use­ful to im­ple­ment per­ma­nent wa­ter ra­tioning, to idle farm acreage, and to di­vert ir­ri­ga­tion wa­ter to en­vi­ron­men­tal agen­das.

Well be­fore this year’s full spring snowmelt, more than 50 mil­lion acre-feet of wa­ter has al­ready cas­caded out to sea (“lib­er­ated,” in green terms). The lost fresh wa­ter was greater than the ca­pac­ity of all ex­ist­ing (and now nearly full) man-made reser­voirs in the state, and its loss will make it harder to deal with the next in­evitable drought.

No mat­ter: Pro­gres­sive nar­ra­tives in­sisted that man-caused car­bon re­leases prompted not only record heat and drought, but within a few sub­se­quent months also record cool­ness and pre­cip­i­ta­tion.

And in “Alice in Won­der­land” fash­ion, just as drilling was sup­pos­edly no cure for oil short­ages, build­ing reser­voirs was no rem­edy for wa­ter scarcity.

In the same man­ner, ne­glect­ing the main­te­nance and build­ing of roads in Cal­i­for­nia cre­ated a trans­porta­tion cri­sis. Un­til re­cently, the pre­ferred so­lu­tion to the state’s road may­hem and grid­lock wasn’t more free­way con­struc­tion but in­stead high-speed rail — as if sub­stan­dard streets and high­ways would force mil­lions of frus­trated driv­ers to use ex­pen­sive sta­te­owned mass tran­sit.

These days, short­ages of credit, wa­ter, oil or ad­e­quate roads are no longer seen as age-old chal­lenges to a tragic hu­man ex­is­tence. In­stead of over­com­ing them with courage, in­ge­nu­ity, tech­nol­ogy and sci­en­tific break­throughs, they are seen as ex­is­ten­tial “teach­able mo­ments.”

In other words, crises are not all bad — if they lead the public to more pro­gres­sive govern­ment.

ILLUSTRATION BY LINAS GARSYS

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