Yesterday we met Andreas Malm, an up-and-coming Swedish scholar who holds up sub-Saharan Africa as an economic model for the rest of the world.
Malm has a new book, Fossil Capital: The Rise of Steam Power and the Roots of Global Warming. In it, he pretty much slams every scientific, economic, and technological development that’s taken place since the industrial revolution. The devil lurking behind all this development, he makes clear, is the c-word: capitalism. As he puts it in his ringing Marxist-academic prose, “the fossil economy is coextensive with the capitalist mode of production.” For Malm, as the Manhattan Institute’s Robert Bryce wrote in a review of the book for City Journal, “the rise of the steam engine was little more than a ploy by evil capitalists to subjugate workers, and because of that, we are now all going to die from global warming.”
Malm’s prescription to avoid this dire fate? A “special ministry” in each of the four entities – the U.S., the E.U., China, and India – that produce the most greenhouse gases. These ministries would be empowered to cut emissions – and, in order to achieve their desired goals, would be obliged to cut them very, very drastically. Needless to say, this radical transformation of the present world order would involve an almost complete shutdown of industrial activity and, essentially, a replacement of democratic capitalism by an all-powerful international superstate intent on “simplifying” life in the developed world to a virtually unimaginable degree.
As is the case with many other climate alarmists, Malm’s purported analyses, forecasts, and proposed remedies raise the question of whether this fellow is prepared to sacrifice modern freedom, prosperity, and comfort because he’s genuinely that hysterical about the prospect of disastrous climate change, or whether, like the recently deceased Maurice Strong, he’s a man who, quite simply, despises capitalism for the usual Marxist reasons and has latched on to climate as a rallying cry because he recognizes it as an effective way to argue for the utter dismantling of the capitalist system.
What Malm’s prescriptions don’t take into account is this: that the deliberate undoing of modern civilization founded on democratic capitalism wouldn’t just impoverish people in the developed world and shorten their lifespans. It would also, among much else, render their lives dirt-cheap. Take a good look at sub-Saharan Africa: what you see there are see societies so backward that in Tanzania, for example, albino children are hunted down and macheted to death because their severed limbs are thought to have magical powers. Many a family in Angola, after the demise of a family member, will attribute the death to acts of witchcraft by a child in the family, who is thereupon beaten, subjected to brutal rituals, expelled from the home, shunned, starved, and/or murdered outright. Throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa, atrocities such as rape, forced child marriage, and human trafficking are rampant and go unpunished. Why? Because there’s little in the way of advanced social structure, little in the way of rule of law, little in the way of respect for the individual human life. All these good things that are missing in most of sub-Saharan Africa are part of the civilization that, over the centuries, has come to maturity in developed Western countries, thanks in large part to the kinds of advances that Malm has identified as enemies of humanity.
The bottom line is clear. All too many people like Malm, sitting in their pleasant homes and their well-appointed offices in (for example) universities in Sweden, take a great deal for granted about the cozy lives they lead. When somebody in Malm’s position calls for an end to modern democratic capitalism, he is – whether he realizes it or not – a fool sitting in a tree and sawing off the very limb he’s sitting on.