Saturday, October 10, 2009

You Dont Have To Be a Socialist To Be Green

I try to steer this blog away from political issues because Computers for Charity is a non partisan organization and we want to keep it that way. I started to write about good reasons to recycle and reuse computers and as I was doing my research it became abundantly clear that the issue of the environment has been hijacked by those with a definite political agenda.

I couldn't speak about the economy and the environment without someone branding me as conservative or liberal. To be honest, I reject both of those ideological points of view. Neither am I a moderate, my views are too far left to be conservative and too far right for the liberals. This post will contain a lot of material that is solely my own viewpoint and may not represent the views of Computers for Charity or its staff and volunteers.

I am not a vegan, I don't practice yoga, I don't drive a hybrid, and I don't wear hiking boots to work, but I am a conservationist, an environmentalist and a proponent of a green vision. I don't seek to impose my lifestyle choices on others through government coercion. I work to spread awareness though my charitable activities and my writing. My environmental consciousness has been born form working in the recycling field as a Hazardous Materials Technician. We take the hazardous materials out of waste, so those wastes can be reclaimed and recycled.

In this line of work we have to have a good understanding of environmental laws and regulations. This gives one a whole different perspective on the politics of these issues. These materials are regulated on every level you can imagine. From how they are labeled, stored, and shipped. All aspects are covered under EPA, ODOT, OSHA and a host of other Local, State, and Federal regulatory agencies.  Staying in compliance with current laws is time consuming, confusing and expensive. It requires a lot of training, and is a constantly evolving field.
This is another reason why Green jobs will not be a panacea for the economy. The cost of training individuals to handle this type of work drives down a companies ability to pay a decent wage in this industry. This is not only true for us but is also true for all businesses who generate any kind of waste deemed as hazardous by our government. This includes electronics, light bulbs, batteries, and a whole host of other common items you may not have considered.

Companies consult with and contract with a company such as the one I work for to avoid getting shutdown or fined for violating environmental laws. It's easy to see why some small businesses will never have a chance of even getting a foothold when faced with these laws on top of all the others a business is required to follow to operate in this country. If you are planning on working for the EPA you may have an opportunity for upward mobility but the rest of us can look forward to a longer, deeper and more severe recession.

This is a bad trend that has been ongoing for a long time. The well intentioned government tends to complicate, convoluted and over extend its reach. Some within the current government are moving with an unprecedented zeal and boldness to further their own version of a green economy. This new economy will not look much like the free market system in which countless advances in technology have given us the opportunity for both economic progress and environmental stewardship. This vision of government as the guiding force in the economy that will move all of America, willing or not, into what it considers the best practices to save the earth. This is not a vision I can support.

What they fail to recognize in this equation is that the power of governments is the power of the sword.  The government is not just a benevolent Santa Clause to who we write a wish list and it is delivered to us through magical means. Every new law carries the cost of creating a new bureaucracy to enforce it. That means an additional tax on the people and we can't afford to pay for more government bloat and waste right now. I believe in the sovereignty of the individual and have no illusions about the limitations of the government. The Practical experience of history should have taught us by now that the government should have no role in the bedrooms or in the boardrooms.

It is also clear by now that industry left to itself will destroy the rights of the individual in different yet equal ways. Therefore, government being wedded to industry is the scariest of all propositions. We are heading in this direction when the government awards money to industries with strings attached. These strings are used for control. Other companies will lose out in terms of being able to fairly compete against these hybrid government corporations.Those chosen industries will be protected by government and in turn the consumers will lose out in terms of freedom of choice and an increase in the cost of goods and services. Its easy to see how if the government is taking your tax money and propping up a competitor, you wont stand much of a chance in the new marketplace. Government supported monopolies are far worse than private monopolies that are at least governed by market forces.

We are in an economic quagmire right now caused by a meddling government and willing corporations and the results are unemployment, declining wages, higher taxes, inflation, and an overall lower standard of living for all. Its becoming an economy where you either work for the government or one of its chosen entities, or you are poor. This is the new class structure. It's no longer the race going to the swiftest, its the race going to the loudest lobbyist. Those who benefit from this structure encourage the expansion of this type of system. As the governments power increases so does their power and influence. Its not the same as a free market where everyone strives to better their lives and the lives of their families. Obtaining wealth is becoming a matter of lobbying government instead of the normal path of hard work and ingenuity.

Environmentalist have become a part of this system. The new so called 'Greens' are seeking to pass legislation that will regulate their competition nearly our of existence. In order to do so they are proposing a massive expansion of federal power. I don't throw my hat in with this crowd. They seek to destroy the very system that can do the most to fix our environmental issues. In the last 40 years we have done more than at any point in history to clean up pollution and at only a modest economic cost. Proposed legislation such as cap and trade or emission taxes will further hurt our own Industries in this country and further harm our economy. No one disputes this in the extremist green movement. They look forward to the new economy they will forge from the ashes of the free market system.
These people aren't in the same Green movement as I am in. I believe in freedom. I believe in enterprise. I believe in the goodness and resolve of the American people. I believe we have the intelligence and the technology to solve the current crises without destroying the foundations of a free society even further. Awareness and information is the key to motivating the people to do what is right. Not more legislation and constraints on our freedoms.

There is a growing trend in the country that has not come from Washington. Those who donate equipment to us are anxious to find ways to recycle other items as well. People are motivated by causes such as ours because our focus is not just on lecturing and scolding and lobbying Washington to take more and more of our freedoms away. Our focus is on helping people. We are not helping people if we destroy there very livelihoods and drive up the costs of living thorough frivolous legislation. Saving the earth and saving the economy can go hand in hand.  If we could take every single so called 'green' lobbyist and have them volunteer for charitable causes instead of vying for government money and power we'd have this issue solved! 

I  also believe in the importance of clean air to breathe, clean rivers for people to use, and freedom from involuntary exposure to cancer causing chemicals. I think that people should conserve and recycle without government coercion to do so. I think that market forces should be brought to bear against companies that do not follow this common sense approach and this has been proven to be an effective means of changing attitudes. We don't need to take over businesses or the economy but our nation should make polluters pay the real costs that their pollution imposes upon society. That would give polluters tangible incentives to conserve non-renewable resources and to use renewable resources in a wise and responsible manner. 

The environment is not a left/right issue any more. All of us have a role in its care. Those in Washington have little to teach us about conservation and efficiency. Our federal government is in  fact, the worst polluter. Federal agencies have contaminated at least 61,155 sites around the USA, produce more toxic waste annually than the nation's five largest chemical companies, and have polluted 475 billion gallons of ground water. And the politicians and bureaucrats are immune from the laws they pass, and immune from the criminal penalties ordinary people face.

We all also share in protecting not just our freedoms but the freedoms of all. The Government has nothing to teach us about creation of wealth. Governments don't create wealth. They only consume it. The big government approach to the environment must end. The Socialist world suffers from the worst pollution on earth. You can be in favor of freedom and be Green and you definitely can be Green without being a Socialist.

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