The Tragedy is “the Commons,” Part 3

In the 1980s, a school of thought emerged that challenged Garrett Hardin’s alternatives of privatization or regulation. This school was a revival of a movement from the Progressive Era, called Institutionalism, that studied how individuals interact to achieve their own “highest utility”—their self-interest—in utilizing the commons. Today, advocates of this school call themselves the New Institutionalists.

The New Institutionalists vary in terms of the details they advocate, but they agree on basic principles. Elinor Ostrom, a professor at Indiana University and the 2009 Nobel Prize winner in Political Economy, is regarded as one of the leading thinkers of this school, and thus serves as a good representative of the school.

The New Institutionalists claim to present a third “alternative” to privatization or government regulation. Ostrom, for example, argues that individuals can often avoid the tragedy of the commons without resorting to privatization or government control. Either may work in some situations, but neither will work in all situations. In her book, Govering the Commons, Ostrom presents case studies of a multitude of “commons” across the globe. Her case studies include fisheries, forests, grazing land, irrigation systems, and water resources, as well as what she considers both successful and unsuccessful management of the commons.

As a result of these studies, Ostrom develops a set of “principles” that allow individuals to manage the commons effectively without the need for government regulation. Commons that are managed most effectively—that is, the resource isn’t being depleted—follow these principles. Those commons that experience depleted resources do not follow the principles. Among the most significant of these principles are: the ability of users to set clearly defined boundaries on who may use the resource and the terms of use, a mechanism to monitor resource use, and a process to sanction those who violate the terms of use.

Ostrom argues that successful management of the commons cannot be achieved by centralized bureaucrats who issue edicts and mandates. They lack an intimate knowledge of the resource, local conditions, and don’t take into account the needs and desires of those using the resource. But privatization won’t work either, Ostrom claims, because the challenge is “how to impose private ownership when those currently using a commons [are] unwilling to change to a set of private rights to the commons” (page 12). In her concluding chapter, Ostrom writes: “If this study does nothing more than shatter the convictions of many policy analysts that the only way to solve [“commons”] problems is for external authorities to impose full private property rights or centralized regulation, it will have accomplished one major purpose” (page 182).

Consider what this means: rights are not objective and inalienable, but must be “imposed” by government. We are not born with the rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness; government must force these rights upon us. If this is true, what government gives, government can take away. If this is true, our rights are nothing more than permissions, which government may remove whenever it chooses. But this is not true.

Rights are not a subjective grant from government. A right, wrote Ayn Rand,

 pertains only to action—specifically, to freedom of action. It means freedom from physical compulsion, coercion or interference by other men.

Thus, for every individual, a right is the moral sanction of a positive—of his freedom to act on his own judgment, for his own goals, by his own voluntary, uncoerced choice. As to his neighbors, his rights impose no obligations on them except of a negative kind: to abstain from violating his rights.

Rights are neither granted nor imposed—they are a consequence and requirement of our nature.

The solution to the tragedy of the commons, according to Ostrom, is community control and management. In contrast to Hardin’s coercive regulatory agency, Ostrom contends that community control is voluntary and cooperative. To Ostrom, successful management of the commons means treating it as communal property, with access and terms of use determined by the community.

In some ways, Ostrom’s proposal mimics—and I stress mimics—a private property system. In a sense, the commons is treated as private property, with the community acting similar to a corporation. Members of the community act similar to shareholders. In these situations, the community controls access to and use of the resource, and many communities have done so successfully. However, there is a crucial distinction between a real corporation and these community regimes. A corporation is voluntary; the community regimes are coercive, despite Ostrom’s claims to the contrary. A corporation is individualistic, with each individual free to act on his own judgment; a community regime is collectivist, with individuals forced to abide by the demands and decisions of the group.

An example of this can be found in many of the lobster fisheries in Maine. In many parts of Maine, rules governing lobster fisheries have long been established and enforced by the lobstermen themselves. Often, access to a particular fishing area requires property ownership or family ties to a particular town. The result is a decision making process that involves considerable social pressure to go along with the desires of community leaders. James Acheson, a Professor of Anthropology and Marine Sciences at the University of Maine, has extensively studied Maine’s lobster industry. He writes that “gossip, slander, and ostracism are usually quite successful in forcing people into line with the expectations of the community.” And when that doesn’t work, dissenters can find their equipment damaged or destroyed. As an example, in May 2012, two lobster boats were sunk over a dispute. It is mob rule, in which the majority imposes its views on everyone by whatever means necessary.

In terms of essentials, Ostrom has not offered a new alternative to Hardin’s regulatory regime. All she has done is localize the initiators of force. Community control is no different from a centralized regulatory agency. In both instances, the individual is prohibited from acting on his own judgment. In both instances, the individual is forced to abide by the decisions and dictates of the collective—the majority. Both Hardin and Ostrom are advocates of altruism and believe that the individual exists to serve the collective.

Altruism and collectivism are the driving forces behind every movement on the Left, including the commons movement.

The Tragedy is “the Commons,” Part 2

When the American West was first settled, the vast prairies were shared by ranchers in what was known as the open prairie system. The absence of trees and similar materials made it expensive to build fences, and the scarcity of water made it necessary for livestock to graze over a large area. The open prairie system resulted in numerous problems.

The unfenced livestock had a tendency to roam. For ranchers, this created difficulties in keeping an eye on their herds, making them easy to rustle or fall prey to wolves and cougars. In addition, sheep and cattle often competed for the same grazing areas. As sheep cut the grass closer to the ground, the cattle frequently had little to eat. For farmers, the roaming livestock often caused destruction of their crops. In the 1870s, a relatively simple invention transformed the west. Barbed wire was an inexpensive, easy to install method for enclosing the prairies, that is, to transform the open prairies into private property.

Enclosure allowed farmers to keep livestock out of their crops. It allowed ranchers to improve the quality of their herds by isolating inferior bulls from cows. It allowed sheep and cattle to be segregated. However, enclosure was not welcomed by all. Access to water was crucial, particularly in times of drought, and enclosure often prevented ranchers from obtaining water for their herds. The result was often violent conflict over access to water or prime grazing grounds. But in time, the open prairie system died out.

The problems associated with the open prairie system are typical of the commons. Today, we know this as the tragedy of the commons, which was given its name and gained notice in modern times in an article by Garrett Hardin, an American ecologist.

In 1968, Hardin wrote a highly influential article titled “The Tragedy of the Commons,” in which he examined the problems that inherently arise when property is owned “in common.” Hardin tells the story of a pasture shared by a number of herdsmen:

As a rational being, each herdsman seeks to maximize his gain. Explicitly or implicitly, more or less consciously, he asks, “What is the utility to me of adding one more animal to my herd?” This utility has one negative and one positive component….

Adding together the component partial utilities, the rational herdsman concludes that the only sensible course for him to pursue is to add another animal to his herd. And another; and another…. But this is the conclusion reached by each and every rational herdsman sharing a commons. Therein is the tragedy. Each man is locked into a system that compels him to increase his herd without limit–in a world that is limited. Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons. Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all.

In short, when property is owned “in common,” each individual pursues his own short-term profit without regard to the long-term consequences. As each individual does this, the resource is depleted, and eventually, nobody can use the resource.

In the article, Hardin proposed two possible solutions: privatization and government regulation. But Hardin rejected privatization because air and water cannot be easily fenced, implying that fencing, or enclosure, is the only way to establish property rights. Hardin concluded that air and water have been, are, and always will be a part of the commons.

While acknowledging the life-sustaining benefits of recognizing property rights, he claimed that “our particular concept of private property, which deters us from exhausting the positive resources of the earth, favors pollution.” A factory owner, for example, would find no economic benefit to treat his waste, and would simply dump it into the nearby river. Having refused to question his basic premise—that of the commons—Hardin concluded that the only solution is “mutual coercion, mutually agreed upon by the majority of the people affected.” In other words, we will actually benefit if we are forced to act contrary to our own independent judgment; we will be better off if we are compelled to put aside our self-interest. How and when that force will be used is to be determined by the majority of those using the resource.

To Hardin, the individual has a moral duty to sacrifice his own interests and desires to those of the majority. This is the morality of altruism, a term coined by the French philosopher Auguste Comte.

According to altruism, you have a moral obligation to place the welfare and needs of others before your own; you have a moral duty to serve others. Altruism, according to Comte,

only recognises duties, duties of all to all. Placing itself, as it does, at the social point of view, it cannot tolerate the notion of rights, for such notion rests on individualism. We are born under a load of obligations of every kind, obligations to our predecessors, to our successors, to our contemporaries. After our birth these obligations increase or accumulate, for it is some time before we can return any service…. Rights, then, in the case of man, are as absurd as they are immoral.

To Comte, the individual has no right to live his life in the pursuit of his own personal happiness. Instead, the individual has a duty to satisfy the obligations imposed upon him by others.

Hardin agrees, arguing for “mutual coercion, mutually agreed upon by the majority of the people affected.” The individual, he believes, should be forced to meet obligations imposed upon him by the collective—the majority.

In response to criticisms that this would stifle freedom and violate rights, Hardin claimed that private property itself “involves the infringement of somebody’s personal liberty.” For example, if I refuse to allow you to graze your cattle in my pasture, I have violated your liberty to do as you please. To Hardin, freedom means a license to do anything one pleases, and since this is nothing more than anarchy, we must have restrictions on freedom. According to Hardin, our choice is: freedom and ruin, or controls and paradise. The only issue up for debate is: who will be coerced and for what purpose? And to determine that, we will have a vote.

However, freedom is not a license to do anything you want. Freedom is the absence of government coercion. It means a social context in which you can act according to your own judgment, so long as you respect the rights of others to do the same. It means that you can act as you choose, but you cannot use force or fraud against others. Contrary to Hardin, prohibitions on the initiation of force, such as robbery and murder, do not limit your freedom. Robbery and murder violate the rights of other individuals by forcing them to act contrary to their judgment, and nobody has a right to violate the rights of others.

During the 1960s, Americans had legitimate concerns about air and water pollution. Hardin’s article was highly influential and helped shape the political discourse. Few challenged his basic premises, and both conservatives and leftists jumped on the environmental bandwagon. The short-term result was the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970 (under a Republican administration). The long-term result has been the steady and consistent growth of government controls and regulations to protect the environment—the commons.

While virtually nobody questioned Hardin’s basic premise, there were those who disputed his conclusions. It wasn’t long before intellectuals began offering an “alternative” to Hardin’s proposal of “mutual coercion, mutually agreed upon.”

The Tragedy is “the Commons,” Part 1

The political Left is comprised of many different movements, many of which are dedicated to a particular issue or cause. For example, feminists clamor for “women’s rights.” Environmentalists seek to “protect” nature from human encroachment. Unions seek to expand their power and influence. While each of these movements has a different focus, they agree on basic premises.

Because of these shared premises, Leftist movements often overlap, with the ideas and positions of one movement being embraced and advocated by another movement. In recent decades, the idea of “the commons”* has gained increasing influence on the Left, and we can see that influence in everything from environmentalism to the Occupy movement.

The idea of the commons has existed throughout recorded history. Indeed, the Romans held that certain resources, such as air and water, are Res communes—“things common to all.” Further, Roman law stipulated that these resources are extra patrimoiium—they could not and should not be privately owned. Instead, these resources should be held “in trust” or owned “in common” by the public, with the state regulating the use of the resource.

This “public trust” doctrine was cited by the United States Supreme Court in 1892, when it ruled that state governments hold title to resources such as rivers and lakes, “a title held in trust for the people of the state, that they may enjoy the navigation of the waters, carry on commerce over them, and have liberty of fishing therein, freed from the obstruction or interference of private parties.”

More recently, a man in Oregon was convicted of illegally retaining and storing rain water on his property. Oregon law holds that all water is public property, and any individual wishing to capture and store water must first obtain permits from the state. This applies even to rain water that falls on one’s property.

The “public trust” doctrine is widely embraced, and stems from a faulty view of property and property rights. Most people can understand property rights in such things as an automobile, computer, or real estate. But property rights in a moving resource, such as air and water, seems impossible. In short, the idea of the commons is plausible. But plausible does not mean legitimate.

While the commons may seem like a plausible and benign idea, it is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It is a malignant idea, both morally and politically. Morally, it is motivated by the premise that individuals must sacrifice their personal judgment, accomplishments, and happiness for the alleged well-being of the group. Politically, its goal is the destruction of private property.

In this series, I will examine the ideas that underlie the commons and where those ideas must necessarily lead. I will then show how private property rights—including in air and water—are the only moral and practical solution to the problems that advocates of the commons allegedly seek to solve.

*“The commons” is not a legitimate concept. For purposes of readability, I will not use quotes around the term going forward.

 

Beer Cronyism

Last week, the Texas House passed a bill that will establish new regulations for craft brewers who sell directly to consumers. The bill will require brewers who produce more than 175,000 barrels per year to sell their product to distributors, and then buy it back from the distributors before selling it to consumers.

In theory, the beer would never even leave the brewer’s premises–the transaction could occur entirely on paper. Yet, the brewer will be forced to pay the distributor for doing absolutely nothing. Which means, consumers will pay higher prices.

A lawyer for the Wholesale Beer Distributors of Texas said that the regulation will prevent large brewers from establishing a monopoly. Such arguments are often used by the beneficiaries of cronyism to justify government intervention.

Monopolies are a creation of government. Only government can prohibit or limit competition. In a free market there are no barriers to entry. Even if a single brewer dominated the market, others remain free to open a brewery. And competition isn’t limited to breweries. Wineries and distillers also provide competition.

The only beneficiaries of this bill are the distributors. Despite their claim that the bill prevents a monopoly, it actually does the opposite. It grants distributors a monopoly. Brewers will be forced to use the services of the distributors whether they want to or not.

Without this regulation, brewers would be competing with the distributors. They would be providing an alternative method for getting beer to consumers. But the regulation prohibits this.

The operative word in “free market” is “free”–the absence of government coercion. In a free market producers can produce and sell the products of their choice on the terms of their choosing. Consumers are free to purchase those products or abstain. Government’s only proper role is to protect the rights of individuals to act on their own judgment and prosecute those who initiate force or engage in fraud.

In a mixed economy, such as we have today, special interest groups compete to win government favors. They seek subsidies, restrictions on competition, and other policies that limit the freedom of individuals. They don’t want to compete in a free market. Instead, they use their political connections to obtain what they cannot get through voluntary means.

Mackie and Kamrath: Farnsworth and Chambers Office Building

In the late 1930’s architects Karl Kamrath and Frederick MacKie began a practice in Houston that would shortly change course from traditional revival designs to a local variant of Frank Lloyd Wright’s take on the Prarie School approach.  In 1946, Kamrath met Wright and a lifelong friendship resulted.  Inspired by Wright’s use of interior space, natural materials and siting, Kamrath soon became the main designer for the firm and a major advocate of Wright in the US south.  In projects where MacKie & Kamrath had complete supervision authority, the Prarie School influence is clear and locally convenient for Houstonians.  A good example of such executed designs would be the 1957 Farnsworth & Chambers Construction Company headquarters at 2999 South Wayside Drive.

Set off by a large two-lane covered entrance protecting arriving parties from rain or the Texas sun, this office facility resembles Wright’s Taliesin West structure in two respects. First, the appearance of stability is stressed by the angular wall stance which slopes at about 12 -15 degrees. This makes the foundation larger than the building’s topmost points, like the stylobate footings of larger Greek structures which protected against earth movements. Second, the massive window awnings are bolstered by periodic vertical supports like the skylights of the Taliesin building, but thicker to match the long awning itself.  This was a modernist effort to reduce glare and control interior temperature, and most awning lines follow and stress the horizontal main shape of the building.

This structure was soon vacant due to a shutdown of the F&C offices at that location and in part due to the death of co-founder Dunbar Chambers in 1961. But in 1962 the expansion of NASA with a new (as originally titled) Manned Spacecraft Center at Clear Lake City would begin and temporary NASA offices were needed immediately. Bob Gilruth and his lieutenants chose this site as the stand-in for the future “Building One” administration building now in place as Johnson Space Center’s tallest structure. The original seven NASA Astronauts officed here with Gilruth until 1964.

Later known as the Gragg Building after the family that later owned it, it’s now on the National Register of Historic Places and is in use by the City of Houston. Kamrath’s 1956 client presentation drawing is shown at this page from the University of Texas, the location of much of the firm’s archives.

This site shows a photo of early Astronauts and officials in 1962, at the completion of the move-in (scroll down to headline “The NASA Manned Spacecraft Center.”

Other resources for the structure include:

Rice Design Alliance F&C page

Historical Marker coverage

The Dishonesty of Statists

Statists aren’t known for their intellectual honesty, but on occasion they exercise such intellectual gymnastics that even Simone Biles would be impressed. A recent example comes courtesy of the Chronicle’s “Gray Matters,” a column that supposedly has the purpose of making us think about important issues.

The article is titled “Houston sidewalks aren’t improving fast enough.” The author is John S. Jacob, who is identified as Professor and Extension Specialist and Director of the Texas Coastal Watershed Program, part of the Texas A&M University System (Dept. of Recreation, Park, and Tourism Sciences, Texas AgriLife Extension Service and Texas Sea Grant).

You might think that someone with such impressive credentials would be able to identify the contradictions in his own writing. And you would be wrong.

Jacob tells us that developers are building the Market Square Tower downtown “because they know people want to live close in and be close to everything.” In other words, the developers are responding to a perceived need in the market. Jacob immediately follows this by telling us, “And yet the developers make absolutely no contribution to exactly what people want to move downtown for: Places where things are happening.” In other words, the developers aren’t responding to his perceived need in the market.

Jacob’s remedy for this “oversight” is for the city to control development.

As citizens we have a very large stake, through the taxes that built this infrastructure [sidewalks, streets, and parks], in how this city develops. We expect the market of course to guide exactly what goes where. But we don’t, or at least we shouldn’t, expect nothing in return from those who benefit from our investment.

Jacob has no problem with allowing the market to operate, so long as it provides the type of development that he desires. But when developers fail to build as he thinks that they should, he wants the government to intervene.

The streets, and the buildings or parks that front them, are in a sense public rooms. We own these public rooms, and the city therefore must protect and maintain the quality of this public resource on our behalf.

Nearly every building fronts a street, and is therefore a part of a “public room.” If government has a responsibility to protect and maintain these “public rooms,” then government has a responsibility to control all land use.

Jacob doesn’t openly call for complete government control of land use, but that is what he is advocating. He doesn’t have the intellectual honesty to explicitly state his objective, and instead attempts to hide his goal.

Affordable Housing and the Choices We Make

We have heard a great deal about the need for additional affordable housing in Houston. Advocates have told us that over 210,000 households in Harris County spend more than half their income on housing. They have told us that children in low-income neighborhoods suffer from high crime and substandard schools. But in all of these stories, one crucial fact is consistently ignored. Humans possess free will and our choices determine what options are available to us, including where we can afford to live and what percentage of our income we must spend on necessities such as housing.

For example, if a teenager decides that it is more fun to skip school, his choice could impact the rest of his life. If he chooses to forgo the educational opportunities that he has, his earning potential is diminished. His choice will determine what housing options he has later in life.

Or, if he decides to have children at a young age, the financial burden of parenthood may reduce his ability to save for a down payment on a house. His choice will determine what housing options he has today and tomorrow.

Or, if he chooses to abuse alcohol or drugs, he reduces his productive capacity, his ability to hold a job, and the development of a career. His choice will determine his salary (if any) and hence his housing options.

The choices that we made in the past determine the opportunities that we have today. The choices that we make today determine the opportunities that we will have tomorrow.

The advocates of affordable housing want us to ignore this. They want us to ignore the role that an individual’s past choices play in his current conditions. They want us to focus only on the present moment and the fact that he is spending more than is desired on housing. The cause for this is dismissed as irrelevant, but the cause is fundamentally relevant.

The advocates of affordable housing want us to believe that we don’t possess free will, that we are products of conditions beyond our control. This is how they justify a focus on the present, with no consideration of the choices that led to it. Consider how often they cite statistics showing that children who live in low-income, high crime neighborhoods wind up in housing conditions similar to where they started. But there are countless examples of children—including Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner—raised in such environments who have risen above where they began life.

They chose differently.

When we absolve individuals of responsibility for their choices, we encourage irresponsible choices. When we tell individuals that they can’t help it, they don’t help it, or themselves. When we shift the consequences of poor choices to others, those who made the poor choices have no motivation to identify their errors and correct them. When we deny free will, we tell individuals that they aren’t responsible for their choices and the consequences.

There is a long philosophical tradition of denying free will, of claiming that our actions result, not from our choices, but from factors outside of our control. Whether it is our genes, our environment, or our social/economic class, many philosophers have argued that free will is a fallacy.

One need only briefly consider the myriad choices one has made in his life to realize the absurdity of such a claim. Each day we make choices, from what to eat and wear, to how to spend our leisure time and whom to befriend. Our choices range from the mundane to the life shaping. Those choices are ours to make, and the consequences are ours to bear.

Affordable housing advocates want more vouchers and public housing. But these programs address the effect and not the cause. At best such programs only resolve acute short-term needs, while perpetuating the myth that low-income families are victims. If the advocates truly want to help low-income families in the long-term, they would do far more good by acknowledging the relationship between one’s choices and the housing one can afford. They would do far more good by promoting responsible decision making and individual responsibility.

HERO and Chechnya

Since the defeat of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) in November 2015, LGBT activists have portrayed Houston as a backward city. The latest salvo in this campaign is an article in the Chronicle titled “The ‘humanitarian emergency’ in Chechnya.”

The articles starts:

Chechnya is a world away from Texas.

But for LGBT Houstonians, Chechnya has seemed terrifyingly close, as a stream of news reports over the last two months has flowed out of the country about a vicious pogrom targeting gay men.

From these opening sentences, you might think that the article is going to detail similar assaults on gays in Houston. You would be wrong. Houston isn’t mentioned again in the article.

To be clear, what is happening in Chechnya (and many other places in the world) to gays is atrocious and should be condemned. But implications that something similar is occurring in Houston should also be condemned.

To the LGBT crowd, the defeat of HERO and the torturing of gays in Chechnya is morally equivalent. But there is a fundamental difference. Indeed, HERO was founded on the same premise that “justifies” the Chechnyan government’s actions against gays.

HERO prohibited property owners from discriminating against individuals on the basis of certain characteristics, including gender identity. Among other things, HERO would have forced property owners to allow individuals to use the restroom of their choosing, regardless of the property owner’s choices and desires. Under HERO, community standards would supersede individual rights.

The Chechnyan government is acting on the same premise. Community standards in Chechnya hold that homosexuality is immoral. A part of the government’s campaign is aimed at exposing gays, and thus subject them to ridicule and ostracism. The rights of gay individuals are superseded by the standards of the community.

Every individual has a moral right to act on his own judgment in the pursuit of his own happiness, so long as he respects the rights of others to do the same. The purpose of government is to protect the freedom for voluntary interactions between consenting adults. That includes choosing who may use the restrooms on one’s property and with whom one will engage in sexual relations. Both HERO and the actions of the Chechnyan government violate this principle.

Gender Bias, or Biased Reporting?

Chronicle business writer Chris Tomlinson tells us, “Our society, and our businesses, simply don’t want mothers to work.” As evidence, he cites “hundreds of other studies that have proven, time and again, that women are paid less than men for the same work.”

Replying to a claim that “Since similar results were found all over the country and in all [medical] specialties there must be some reason other than misogyny. Surely, not everyone who hires doctors shares the same prejudice,” Tomlinson writes, “Yes they do, grasshopper. Oh, how they do.”

Tomlinson and his ilk would have us believe that millions of Americans–men and women alike–arbitrarily pay women lower wages than men. They would have us believe that the only explanation is mysogyny.

If this were true, then businesses would stop hiring men. If they can save 20 percent or more on wages by hiring women rather than men, then why would they ever hire a man?

Statistics are funny things. They can be used to “prove” almost anything, particularly when used selectively and out of context. For example, 100 percent of those who ate a pickle in the 18th century are dead. Viewed out of context, we could conclude that pickles are deadly.

The “equal pay for equal work” crowd likes to cite statistics, and they particularly like to cite averages. In doing so, they treat both men and women solely as members of a group. However, taking the average of a group tells us nothing about particular individuals.

Tomlinson claims that businesses pay women less simply because they are women. But he also inadvertently tells us that this isn’t true: “Women… get paid more than men until they have children. After that, they get paid less.” In other words, some women get paid less than men, but some women get paid more. This is conveniently ignored, and all women are lumped together in one group.

If childless women are paid more than men, then there is clearly no bias against women per se. Discrepancies in pay aren’t based on their sex, but on some factor or factors that Tomlinson and his cronies haven’t or won’t identify. But rather than dig deeper, they seize upon the politically popular explanation–sexism. That isn’t objective reporting. It’s biased reporting.

Houston People’s Climate March

I will admit to having a certain morbid curiosity about manifestations of evil. I find it interesting to understand both the psychology and the philosophy of those who engage in criminal activities. For this reason, I attended last Saturday’s Houston People’s Climate March.

Except for Houston City Council, I had never attended a Leftist event, and so I was not sure what to expect. I assumed that I would be repulsed. Instead, I was mostly amused. It wasn’t as good as a trip to the Laff Stop, but for the most part the entertainers were amateurs.

I assumed that a march would involve walking to some destination. Instead, the attendees stood in a park, patted one another on the back for their social consciousness, and listened to a series of speakers. The speakers entertained us with stories about the plight of women, minorities, and indigenous people, the evils of Donald Trump and corporate America, and the glorious future that  renewable energy will bring about. In short, it was a rally for every Leftist cause under the toxic haze created by the nearby refineries that made possible virtually every aspect of the “march,” including the signs many carried. But that wasn’t the best part of the event.

One of the emcees–who was introduced as a human rights activist–complained that “it shouldn’t be this hot today.” She seemed to believe that there is a certain temperature that it “should be,” and anything to the contrary is evidence of climate change. At the time of her statement, it was 80 degrees with a forecast high of 85. The average high in Houston on April 29 is 82 degrees, with a record of 90 degrees in 1963. It may have been a little warmer than normal, but to the alarmists, a little warmer is evidence that the planet is burning up.

The warmup act–no pun intended–for the “march” was the previously mentioned human rights activist and a colleague. In between their rants, they led the crowd in a series of chants. The purpose of the chants was unclear, but it seemed to be an attempt to meld the assembled throng into one mindless mass. Truth be told, I don’t think that chanting was necessary to accomplish that end.

Mayor Sylvester Turner was the headliner for the “march.” He mouthed the expected platitudes about climate change and the city’s efforts to use more renewable energy. His best joke came midway through his act. “Nearly all scientists,” he said, “no, nearly all credible scientists agree that climate change is real.” According to Turner, no credible scientist would dare question his colleagues because scientific truths are determined by a consensus. According to Turner, truth is not determined by looking at facts, but by taking a vote.

Contrary to Turner’s beliefs, credible scientists continually question their colleagues. They judge the truth by using their own rational and independent judgment. Politicians like Turner, however, are a different story.

In true collectivist fashion, the hypocritical crowd participated in the encore. After spending hours denouncing everything made possible by fossil fuels, they climbed into their gas-powered cars and drove back to their air conditioned homes. But at least they could be content in the knowledge that they had spoken in defense of Mother Earth.

There is, or course, nothing humorous about the climate change crowd. They are hellbent on destroying industrial society, and that is not a laughing matter.