British actress Joanna Lumley, famous most recently for hosting TV travel series to exotic destinations like Siberia, India, Japan, the Caribbean etc., thinks you should give up traveling to stop the climate crisis. Channeling her inner Marie Antoinette, she even calls for wartime rationing, adding “Maybe more of our holidays should be at home or taking trains, and not hopping on a plane to Magaluf for the weekend…” We are disinclined to take such advice from any celebrity, but especially from one whose career has focused on extolling the joys of traveling to the Nile, Turkey, the Silk Road, Greece, etc. While we shall, indeed, resist the impulse to jet off to Magaluf any time soon (in case you don’t habitually hop across oceans either, it’s in Majorca, Spain), it is not out of respect for her chichi noises on the climate crisis du jour, but because we are not among the Joanna Lumleys of the world for whom it is an affordable option.
Lumley is not only a travel queen, she’s also the long-time star of Absolutely Fabulous, winner of two BAFTAs and, we can’t help mentioning, 75. We’re all for age and guile over youth and a bad attitude. But she’s had too many decades of plane-hopping, and too much opportunity to do it over the years, to go lecturing the rest of us about foregoing pleasures in which she has indulged lavishly. Despite which, as Eric Worrall notes, she now “wants ordinary people’s leisure activities and travel to be restricted by a climate rationing system.”
Said ordinary people’s activities being, she seems to think, more like her own than perhaps they are. (A train to Brighton and its shingle beach, anyone?) But she hates the civilization that treated her so well so it’s OK. As the Guardian reports, “Lumley, who has been involved in conservation work, said that while many people remained poor, it was largely ‘the western world that stuffs its face and chucks stuff away’.” Like the character she played in Absolutely Fabulous in return for which she now, well, you get the idea.
Such views are now trendy among the trendy. Over at the Guardian, George Monbiot or his headline writer says “Make extreme wealth extinct: it’s the only way to avoid climate breakdown”. Which is the kind of thing that can fuel paranoia about the “Great Reset” and globalist plots and the use of climate change as an excuse to implement communism. But the proper way to regard the matter is that there are a great many people out there, surprisingly often in lucrative positions of authority, who think that in some nebulous way their society is a dismal failure and must be smashed to smithereens so a better world can be built in its place. And when something comes along that seems to vindicate this instinct, they do not adopt it cynically but with genuine and very dangerous enthusiasm.
If you look at Monbiot’s bio, with his elite family, prep school, Oxford degree and career with the premier British government news agency the BBC, you might expect him to be grateful. But it is far from uncommon for people with such privileges to feel guilt and resentment instead and in fact Monbiot’s causes include breaking up the United Kingdom which, after all, has done nothing much for humanity unless you count the industrial revolution, abolishing the slave trade and winning two world wars. Which is very much beside the point.
What matters isn’t why people hold their beliefs or what they think would happen if we acted on them. It’s what they believe and what would actually happen if we acted on them. If we listen to people who want to destroy the wealth of the west, and deny it to the rest of the world, the result will be misery.
If they are watermelons, the problem isn’t that they are insincere or even that they are often hypocritical. Though they are, including we must here mention because we praised her tepidly last week, EU Commission President Ursula van der Leyen whose contribution to decarbonizing the economy was to spew over a tonne of CO2 in under half an hour by flying in a private jet the 47 km from Vienna to Bratislava (a trip you can make by train in an hour for about €11.00). To be fair, it wasn’t just Bratislava; of her 34 business trips since assuming office in December 2019, 18 were by private plane. Because she is much busier than we peasants and “In addition, there were concerns about using scheduled flights or trains because of Corona” said a spokesperson who had apparently forgotten that Ms. Van der Leyen dubbed 2020 “The Year of the Train”.
Hypocrisy is an issue. And not just a PR issue. It suggests that people are proposing solutions they know are not workable or, if workable, not tolerable. Which of course points to the big issue.
It is that people who should know better frequently propose solutions with a proven track record of creating poverty and oppression, and it doesn’t trouble them because they know their wealth will insulate them from all the problems they inflict on others.
The liberal contingent has never been all that enthusiastic about upward economic mobility for the population at large. Limousine liberals, latte lefties and penthouse proletariats see to their own abundance even as they begrudge it to the rest of us. When the greatest economic expansion the world had ever seen came to a stop in the 1970s, liberals could barely contain their enthusiasm:
"What America really needs is more shortages," roared liberal columnist James Reston in 1974. "It's not our shortages but our surpluses that are hurting us...Americans have always been able to handle austerity and even adversity; prosperity is what's doing us in."
At the time, the then California Gov. Jerry Brown told us we should "lower our expectations."
John Steinbeck, noted for his compassion for the poor, said the following about prosperity:
"We now face the danger which in the past has been the most destructive to [nations]. Success, plenty, comfort and ever-increasing leisure: no dynamic people have ever survived these dangers."
America's decent into a Third World economy is not a failure of liberal economic policies. It represent the policy's success.