TCS Daily


Common Cause Against the Global Administrative State

By Hugh Hewitt - July 26, 2001 12:00 AM

The Bonn Codicil to the Kyoto Protocol ought to have been a Robert Ludlum title, though Ludlum novels are, on the whole, more plausible than any plot that has industrialized nations hitting their near-term emissions reduction targets. The quick expose on the new dance was provided by TechCentralStation's own James K. Glassman in July 24th's Wall Street Journal. Other detailed reviews will follow.

I would like to add a few kind words on behalf of the demonstrators in Genoa.

I made a point of hanging around the protesters in Los Angeles last summer for the Democratic National Convention. Given their proximity to the Biltmore Hotel, this wasn't hard. Some of the handouts were not the easily dismissed ramblings of the Spartacus Youth League reborn under a new name and sponsor. The vast majority were non-violent, and many of their musings were not so different from those I hear among LA's aging yuppie elite: Too much Nike; too much Disney; too many Starbucks.

There was also a murmur among them that -- believe it or not -- makes common cause with Bush-types. Those upset with the nameless, faceless engines of global capitalism are also upset with the nameless, faceless minions of the global administrative state. What is the WTO, after all, except a bureaucracy? And the Brussels crowd? An EPA of sorts on steroids, really, and the international equivalent of the federal agencies currently intent on driving the farmers of the Klamath Basin off their land.

The Kyoto Protocol has always struck conservatives not just as horrible economics, but also as an anti-democratic exercise in jam-down politics pursued on the international stage. Al Gore danced in and signed on without so much as a phone-home to the majority in Congress. Environmental elites then kept the treaty far away from the U.S. Senate, where its rejection was assured. Had Gore pulled Florida out of his hat, the plan was to edge the country towards Kyoto compliance via rulemakings and agency guidance, working groups and executive orders. Gore and his allies on the left were convinced that Kyoto was good for us and for the globe, and we were damn well going to comply, regardless of public opinion or democratic consent.

Enter President Bush with his simple "No." Notice that American public opinion is not running wildly against him on this score. Sure, his numbers on the environment aren't that great, but the brush-off he gave Kyoto has drawn a big yawn. (My guess is that drilling in Alaska accounts for the softness in those numbers, and given the media imbalance on that score, those numbers are not too bad either.) Though Tom Daschle and others have grumbled, they have done so expertly -- without a single soundbite that I can find endorsing Kyoto to use against them in 2004. The Protocol died in the U.S. because American opinion doesn't want it. And American public opinion surely does not want American environmental and energy policy set by elites in large buildings on faraway continents.

If the Genoa protesters have an argument with anti-democratic decision-making by remote elites, then American conservatives share that concern. The support for American "sovereignty" is not, in fact, limited to the right, but exists across a broad cross section of the American public. It is not isolationism to demand transparency in decision-making, and it is not paranoid to suspect that international bodies can be captured by representatives of nations not well disposed to the U.S. It is also not extreme to insist that decisions taken by elites be tested against the genuine desires of the peoples who will be affected by them.

Last week I used this space to defend the suddenly unpopular SUV -- unpopular in Congress, that is. When I put the issue before my radio audience, callers from North Carolina to Seattle, and Los Angeles to Tampa Bay weighed in with a ringing defense of their beloved war-wagons. E-mailers blistered the arrogance of representatives who hadn't bothered to ask them what they thought about the trade-off between size/safety and increased fuel efficiency. Once again a small group of experts had convinced themselves that they knew what was best for the average American. Once again the average American had concluded that experts were, by and large, pinheads.

The methods of the Genoa street guerillas are not mine, of course, and the violence is as anti-democratic as one can get. Beneath the tactics, however, is an impulse that far from being anti-American in origin, is quintessentially made in the U.S.A. The irony is that those protesters fail to recognize that the plain-speaking President is their best friend on an international stage crowded with would-be chief executives of everything.

 
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