Socialistic Chiliasm on the March
We recently took the time to look at a few of the videos of presentations from the annual meeting of the Property and Freedom Society in Turkey. One presentation struck us as especially noteworthy (they're all worth watching, but we picked this one for a specific reason), namely Jeffrey Tucker's “One Million Tiny Miseries, Government Policy in Our Time” (link at the end of the text). As Tucker explains, it seems as though after the downfall of the misnamed Marxian “scientific” Socialism in the former Eastern Bloc, a form of Utopian, mystical Socialism has infected Western governments and bureaucracies, closely resembling what Ludwig von Mises called Socialistic Chiliasm in his 1922 analysis of Socialism.
As some readers may know, experiments in mystical socialism were in fact tried in medieval times on a small scale in certain regions and towns. A cult leader who claimed to be divinely inspired would appear and among his commands would invariably be that private property had to be abolished. As might be expected, these experiments all failed rather spectacularly. Apart from the cult leader and his immediate entourage, all other followers were soon suffering the greatest deprivations (namely as soon as the community ran short of the loot it had previously acquired from non-believers in the vicinity by theft or robbery).
Basis for these cults was usually the idea that there was once a “Golden Age” (to quote Publius Ovidius Naso on the subject: “Aurea prima sata est aetas, quae vindice nullo, sponte sua, sine lege fidem rectumque colebat…” – “Golden was that first age, which, with no-one to compel, from its own free will, without law, kept faith and rectitude…”), during which men lived in a kind of Garden Eden, or better yet, a Land of Cockaigne – naturally a place of communal property – where there was eternal spring and the roasted chickens would fly of their own accord into the hungry mouths of the holy comrades. Then came the division of labor and civilization and ruined everything.
Therefore, the ideal was to return to the conditions of this mythical Golden Age as quickly as possible. These medieval communist cult leaders did of course not know of the Industrial Revolution and what would follow in its wake, but their modern-day heirs seem to regard this particular event as an especially great evil and see it as their duty to undo it and its consequences. Today they mostly harangue us day in day out with scarcity memes and countless scare stories (anthropogenic global warm…sorry, “climate change”, is one of the more prominent ones). And unfortunately they appear to have taken over the apparatus of government.
The Energy Savings Lamp Mafia
Tucker notes in his presentation that government regulations are now slowly but surely actively undoing important advances of civilization we take for granted. This immediately reminded us again that the European Union's corrupt bureaucrats had the chutzpa to make incandescent light bulbs illegal in the EU after being lobbied by industry, forcing citizens to replace them with “energy savings lamps” that contain poisonous mercury and give off a light that evokes faint associations with the lighting used in the enhanced interrogation dungeons of the Nazis. Not surprisingly, they cost multiples of the old light bulbs.
Confess citizen – to the left the good old incandescent light bulb, now illegal in the EU. To the right its ugly, poisonous and expensive replacement.
(Image source unknown – The Web)
However, much more than just light bulbs is at stake. The bureaucrats and their socialistic handmaidens in the political class and among various NGOs want to spring a great many more things on the citizenry – which naturally has precisely zero input regarding these decisions.
“Now that 100-, 75- and 60-watt bulbs have already been eliminated, as of Sept. 1 the smaller 25- and 40-watt bulbs will also slowly disappear from the lives of 500 million Europeans — without any of those citizens having ever been asked about the ban. Nowhere is the bureaucratic influence of European government agencies as powerful as in the delirium of energy efficiency.
"The EU has made a decision without consulting citizens and, in doing so, it has massively intervened in our quality of life," says Hannot, the light-bulb activist. This paternalism and lack of transparency almost aggravates him more than doing without the stronger, warmer light of incandescent light bulbs. The makers of the documentary film "Bulb Fiction" even speculate that the European light-bulb lobby, including major companies like Philips and Osram, are behind the demise of the cheaper incandescent light bulb given the much larger profit margins associated with more expensive energy-saving light bulbs. [that is definitely more than just a 'speculation', ed.]
But there is also someone else behind the phase-out of incandescent bulbs: Sigmar Gabriel, the current chairman of the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), Germany's largest opposition party.
The 53-year-old — who is undoubtedly a shining light for the Social Democrats today — wanted to make a name for himself in 2007, when he was the federal environment minister. At the time, Germany was ruled by a grand coalition made up of the SPD, Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), and Germany had just assumed the six-month rotating presidency of the European Council presidency in Brussels. Gabriel was seeking the international spotlight.
In February, after Australia announced a ban on incandescent light bulbs, Gabriel wrote to the EU environment commissioner, saying: "Europe can no longer afford products with a degree of efficiency of only 5 percent, such as conventional light bulbs."
The regulatory committee approved the proposal on Dec. 8, 2008, and none of the member states raised any objections. At this point, while lawmakers seemed to have been asleep at the wheel, the general public still had no idea about what was being cooked up for them. Finally, when the European Commission adopted Directive 244/2009, on March 18, 2009, the fate of the tungsten wire was sealed.
To this day, environmental groups from Greenpeace to the German Environmental Aid Association (DUH) welcome the mandatory switch to the energy-saving light bulb. But for chemist Michael Braungart, the new products are "a crime" owing to the highly toxic mercury they contain. "In the name of protecting the environment, the EU is forcing its citizens to bring toxic waste into their homes," says Braungart, who calls the legislation "perverse."
In a 2010 study, the German Federal Environment Agency (BMU) concluded that if one of the bulbs is accidentally broken, it is sufficient to simply open the windows and air out the space. But even if the bulbs are not broken, disposal is problematic. Since the EU does not require retailers to take back the bulbs, 80 percent end up in household garbage, leaving the mercury to ultimately seep into the soil or groundwater.”
But as much as opinions diverge on energy-saving light bulbs, there is widespread agreement over the problematic nature of decision-making procedures in Brussels. The EU's two legislative bodies, the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament, had actually meant to use the 2009 Lisbon Treaty to wrestle back some authority from the European Commission, its executive body. But, instead, the bureaucracy has become even more powerful.
After a tough battle, the following solution was eventually rubber-stamped: The Commission can adopt laws via either a "delegated act" or an "implementing act." In the former case, it is no longer necessary to involve an expert committee or engage in any consultations. The European Parliament merely has a right of revocation and a deadline for objections.
For Holger Krahmer, a member of the European Parliament for Germany's business-friendly Free Democratic Party (FDP), the reform is a complete failure. "We are heading for a dictatorship of bureaucrats," he says. Krahmer is on the energy committee, which is using the Ecodesign Directive to make more and more products more energy-efficient.
For example, plans call for mandating that the heating plates of coffee makers are designed to only stay on for a specific amount of time. Vacuum cleaners are supposed to become more efficient with the additional of moveable suction mouths. Laundry detergent could be reformulated so that it dissolves fats at only 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit). And laundry itself could soon be cleaned using microwave or vacuum technology.
A debate over the showerhead of the future is also causing a certain amount of stress. Germany opposes water-saving showerheads. The country's sewage pipes already threaten to dry up today because water-saving plumbing devices are making it so that not enough water is being flushed through the system. Everything from stoves to heating systems, ovens, windows and insulation is being tested and made more efficient by the EU.
When a refrigerator makes a beeping noise because the door has been left open too long, it's probably because of the efforts of people working for EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger. It might not even be long before bureaucrats will be telling Europeans how brown their toast and how hot their showers can be.
If the European Parliament or the Council of the European Union want to reject a measure, they will have to come up with a majority against it. If no one takes action, the provision automatically takes effect after a predetermined time period. For Krahmer, this presents an insurmountable hurdle. "Neither the Council of the European Union nor the European Parliament has the muscle to oppose the power of the bureaucrats," he says.
Sigmar Gabriel – the well-fed German socialist behind the light bulb ban. As an aside, he is also regularly voting for bailing out banks and entire countries in the EU – not because he has any love for the banks, as he himself claims, but because we allegedly “have no other choice”.
(Photo via the NRhZ-Archive)
Rolling Back the Advances of Civilization One at a Time
Little did we know that many of the regulations discussed above have already been implemented in the US as well. Tucker's presentation is an eye-opener in this regard. And as he not unreasonably points out, many of these regulations actually represent a significant roll-back of the advances of civilization. Especially revealing is one little anecdote: an expert on dish-washing machines asks the members of a Congressional committee whether they are aware that removing phosphates from dish-washing soap and lowering the amount of water that the machine can employ in every wash cycle will “lead to people beginning to wash their dishes by hand again” (because no-one is happy with the dishes remaining dirty) and they reply without hesitation, “yes, we know.” In other words, this is precisely what they actually want!
Incidentally, this modern-day chiliastic movement was apparently born with the publication of a book by Kenneth Galbraith that bemoaned material affluence as a “problem” that had to be rectified by transferring as much wealth and power to the government as possible. Then came Rachel Carson's 1962 book “Silent Spring” that was instrumental in getting DDT banned. By now this ban has evolved into a near complete stop in research into effective insecticides – hence it should be no surprise that bed bugs have made a huge comeback in the US – with 200 new incidents of infestation recorded every day. Mrs. Carson has certainly achieved one of her main objectives: we now have to “arrange ourselves” with the insects.
However, Tucker ends his talk on a hopeful note: people have by now clearly had enough of this. A quiet revolt against the overbearing State and its myriad oppressive regulations is underway. People are “breaking bad”, by doing whatever they can to escape these strictures. There is now even a growing black market for air-conditioner coolant that is actually useful (forbidden by regulations). A black market for make-up can't be far behind.
Here is Tuckers excellent talk. If you need a reminder why you should despise the State with every fiber of your being, this will prove quite useful.
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11 Responses to “Jeffrey Tucker on the One Million Tiny Miseries Inflicted by Government Policy”
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