Green New Deal just ide­o­log­i­cal re­cy­cling

Las Vegas Review-Journal - - OPINION -

IT’S fit­ting that the Green New Deal pushed by many but pop­u­lar­ized by Demo­cratic phe­nom Rep. Alexan­dria Oca­sio-cortez, who had her “60 Min­utes” de­but this month, is a tri­umph of re­cy­cling.

Not of plas­tic bags or soda cans, but of ideas. Specif­i­cally, Franklin D. Roo­sevelt’s New Deal and the im­pulses be­hind it.

To her credit, Oca­sio-cortez, D-N.Y., is fairly hon­est about her ide­o­log­i­cal re­cy­cling.

“None of these things are new ideas,” she ex­plained on the cam­paign trail last Oc­to­ber. “What we had was an ex­is­ten­tial threat in the con­text of a war. We had a di­rect ex­is­ten­tial threat with an­other na­tion; this time it was Nazi Ger­many and the Axis, who ex­plic­itly made the United States as an en­emy.”

“We chose to mo­bi­lize our en­tire econ­omy and in­dus­tri­al­ized our en­tire econ­omy, and we put hun­dreds of thou­sands, if not mil­lions, of peo­ple to work in de­fend­ing our shores and de­fend­ing this coun­try,” Oca­sio-cortez con­tin­ued. “We have to do the same thing in or­der to get us to 100 per­cent re­new­able en­ergy, and that’s just the truth of it.”

Alas, AOC, as many now call her, started the story in the mid­dle. The need to pre­pare for war marked the end of the New Deal. As FDR put it, it was time for “Dr. New Deal” to be re­placed by “Dr. Win the War.”

Iron­i­cally, the New Deal it­self was largely about war mo­bi­liza­tion — with­out war. Roo­sevelt cam­paigned for pres­i­dent promis­ing to adapt Woodrow Wil­son’s wartime in­dus­trial poli­cies to fight the Great De­pres­sion.

Nearly the en­tire struc­ture of the New Deal was copied from Wil­son’s “war so­cial­ism.” The Na­tional Re­cov­ery Ad­min­is­tra­tion was mod­eled on the War In­dus­tries Board. The Re­con­struc­tion Fi­nance Cor­po­ra­tion was an up­date of Wil­son’s War Fi­nance Cor­po­ra­tion.

Even the work­force was mil­i­ta­rized. On Sept. 13, 1933, stores in New York were or­dered to close to honor the pres­i­dent’s NRA Day Pa­rade, then the largest pa­rade in the city’s his­tory. Nearly a quar­ter-mil­lion work­ers, or­ga­nized by trade, marched past the pres­i­dent’s ros­trum as 49 mil­i­tary planes flew over­head.

Un­der the NRA, break­ing dis­ci­pline was a pun­ish­able of­fense, which is why a tai­lor, Ja­cob Maged, was sen­tenced to 30 days in jail for charg­ing too lit­tle to press a suit.

I could go on, but the im­por­tant point is that ever since philoso­pher Wil­liam James coined the phrase the “moral equiv­a­lent of war,” Amer­i­can lib­er­al­ism has been re­cy­cling the same ba­sic idea: The coun­try needs to be uni­fied and or­ga­nized as if we are at war, but not to fight a lit­eral bat­tle. The at­trac­tion stems from what John Dewey called “the social pos­si­bil­i­ties of war” — the abil­ity to re­or­ga­nize and unify so­ci­ety ac­cord­ing to the schemes of plan­ners and ex­perts.

This was the through line of 20th cen­tury lib­er­al­ism, and now 21st cen­tury lib­er­al­ism, too. Wil­son’s war so­cial­ism, FDR’S New Deal, Harry Tru­man’s Fair Deal, John F. Kennedy’s

New Fron­tier, Lyn­don B. John­son’s Great So­ci­ety, Jimmy Carter’s dec­la­ra­tion that the en­ergy cri­sis was a “moral equiv­a­lent of war,” and Barack Obama’s “new foun­da­tion for growth,” with his Thomas Fried­man-inspired talk about “Sput­nik mo­ments”: It’s all the same idea gussied up as some­thing new.

An­other irony: The mil­i­taris­tic or­ga­ni­za­tion of the do­mes­tic econ­omy is a hall­mark of na­tion­al­ist move­ments. But na­tion­al­ism is a dirty word among lib­er­als to­day. In­stead, they name-check a thor­oughly na­tion­al­is­tic en­ter­prise, the New Deal, and slap the word “Green” in front of it as if it were a fresh coat of paint.

Con­tact Jonah at gold­bergcol­[email protected] com, or via Twit­ter @ Jon­ahnro

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