Profit Motive vs. Power Motive

The Cost of Energy is a blog dedicated to energy issues that shows up in one of the side bars from time to time. Each time I’ve read a post there it’s been one sneering at anyone who questions the absolute certainty of Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming (CAGW).  In this post, he is ostensibly complaining about some critic of CAGW (BTW, characterized as akin to one who denies the occurrence of the Holocaust) cherry picking some piece of data or the other.

I didn’t bother to check into that complaint because what caught my eye was the snippets he had highlighted, especially this part:

Mike Beard is a free-market conservative and pro-business. No one who calls himself those things can afford global warming to be true.

It is an article of faith among all leftists that anyone who has a profit motive is instantly more untrustworthy than those who nobly eschew profit for the pursuit of  political power. In their own minds, leftists are an intellectually superior group of altruists whose predictions are always instantly more accurate than the predictions of those with grubby commercial interests.

Yet in recent history we had a major event that demonstrated how the “pure hearted” leftists flew off into a destructive flight of self-interested fantasy, while those observers who were “free-market conservative and pro-business” not only had a more objective understanding of the problem but provided a solution that benefited everyone.

Back during the energy crisis of 1973-1984, we had the exact political dynamic that we see with CAGW: On the Left we had the clear-eyed altruists only wanting the best for everyone, while on the Right we had the self-deluding, incredibly greedy and selfish energy companies who only cared for their short-term profit at the expense of everyone else.

The noble, altruistic and “scientifically” driven leftists confidently told everyone that the “energy crisis” resulted from a physical and permanent shortage of oil caused by mindless and rapacious consumption by short-sighted capitalists. Leftists claimed that we would never have abundant oil or any energy source again and that they had the science, provided by institutions like the National Academy of Sciences, to prove it. The only possible solution was a tremendous expansion of government economic control to micro-manage this permanent crisis. They castigated the oil companies for earning profits off the crisis and instituted first price controls and then a “windfall” profits tax so those unjustly earned profits could be distributed to the leftwing interest of the people.

By contrast, the villainous, greedy and superstition-driven rightists cravenly claimed that there was plenty of oil in the Earth’s crust and that our inability to obtain enough oil was caused first by price controls in America, then price controls on North Sea oil, then the OPEC cartel, then by the “windfall” profits tax in America. Delusional rightwingers like Milton Friedman and that crony puppet of Big Oil, Ronald Reagan, hysterically claimed in the face of all evidence and reason that if America, Canada and the North Sea nations ended their punitive taxation of the oil industry and just let the free market operate, the oil shortage and the “energy crisis” would end.

By a cosmic tragedy that horrified all left thinking people, Reagan was elected and he did away with the “windfall” profits tax and other restriction on US oil production. Margaret Thatcher let the price of North Sea oil float with the market. The profits of greedy oil companies big and small exploded. Leftists gnashed their teeth at the horrific injustice of the undeserved profits flowing into so few hands. Leftists told everyone that we were just hastening our final consumption of a fixed, finite and ever dwindling resource. Doom, doom, doom was absolutely descending on us and they had the science to prove it!

And then suddenly, in 1984, the price of oil fell off a cliff and the “energy crisis” came to an abrupt end. The increase in oil production in North America undermined the OPEC cartel and the free market in oil reasserted itself. By 1989, a gallon of gasoline was cheaper than a gallon of distilled water.

The moral of this real and very true story is that just because someone has a profit motive doesn’t mean they are wrong. Big oil companies and pro-business academics and politicians had a vested interested in everyone seeing the energy crisis as resulting from political interference in the petroleum markets. Nevertheless, they were absolutely correct and the leftists, who had no immediate economic interest, were absolutely wrong.

The Big Lie of modern politics is that modern politics is a struggle between greedy, selfish business people on the Right and the noble, altruistic and self-sacrificing leftists in government, activist groups and academia. In reality, it is a struggle between people who want to make money off of you and people who want political power over you. Everyone in politics has a vested, selfish interest.

Leftists in particular are deeply selfish and self-interested. They only accept models of problems that justify solutions that increase the power of leftists over the rest of society. That is how leftists went so badly wrong with the “energy crisis.” When presented with several different explanations for the crisis, they chose the one explanation that most justified giving leftists the most power and control over everyone. They then used trumped up science and their power over academia and the press to morally savage anyone who questioned that justification. If you look at the media and academic writing from the era, it is almost impossible to find anyone who didn’t think that the energy crisis resulted from planet-wide resource depletion.

The damage their selfishness did to America and the rest of the world was enormous. Their selfishness turned a minor uptick in the cost of oil into a decade-long world-wide crisis that destroyed American communities, triggered wars big and small and caused economic collapse and starvation.

The parallels between the Left’s behavior during the energy crisis and the Left’s behavior with Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming (CAGW) are exact because we are witnessing the exact same socio-political dynamic. Regardless of the rigor of climate science and regardless of whatever predictive power the climate models may or may not have, leftists have a very strong power motive to claim that models that predict catastrophe are the correct ones and that the only means of preventing the catastrophe is some form of de facto socialism.

And just like the energy crisis, leftists will significantly reduce the standard of living of the developed world. And just as with the energy crisis, the effects will spill over into the developing world and there kill millions.

Over the last 150 years the Left has advanced a large number of  erroneous ideas to justify their assumption of power: Marxism, eugenics, Freudianism, the Blank Slate, behaviorism, the population bomb, resource depletion, global cooling, the energy crisis, nuclear winter and many other smaller claims of impending doom. All claimed to be absolutely scientifically proven, all justifying an increase in the power of leftist and all proven to be seriously wrong or significantly overwrought. CAGW is just the last in a long line of attempts by leftists to claim that they possess some special knowledge that grants them the moral right to have power over everyone else.

In the end, leftists are as driven by the lust for power as they themselves believe people in business are driven by the lust for profit. (Individual leftists may profit personally as well.) History has shown that the lust for profit produces better explanations and does less damage than the lust for power. Given that track record and given that everyone has one motive or the other, when forced to chose based on motive alone, we should always give more weight to the views of someone with a profit motive than the views of someone with a power motive.

7 thoughts on “Profit Motive vs. Power Motive”

  1. “It is an article of faith among all Leftists that anyone who has a profit motive is instantly more untrustworthy than those whose nobly eschew profit for the pursuit of political power. In their own minds, Leftists are an intellectually superior group of altruist whose predictions are always instantly more accurate than the predictions of those with grubby commercial interest.”

    So true … and all the more ironic that the likes of Al Gore and Michael Moore have become very wealthy leading this “anti-profit” mob. There is a lot of profit to be made from being eloquently anti-profit.

  2. If you want to find out what and why it’s always useful to “follow the money”.

    As you are now well into your decline I can tell you your experiment with greed as a way of life has failed.

  3. What is particularly dangerous is when the profit motive and the power motive are *too closely linked*. Benjamin Franklin warned against this:

    “There are two passions which have a powerful influence in the affairs of men. These are ambition and avarice—the love of power and the love of money. Separately, each of these has great force in prompting men to action; but, when united in view of the same object, they have, in many minds, the most violent effects.”

    See my post the accidental eloquence of mrs rearden

  4. PenGun,

    If you want to find out what and why it’s always useful to “follow the money”.

    Yes, but it is also always useful to “follow the political power”. After all, follow the money wouldn’t have told you much about the motivations or plans of Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot etc. they went after the power first and foremost and except for Mao, they all paid very little attention to their own personal wealth or even perks of office. I guess when you control and entire country and can play with the lives of hundreds of millions of people, a big mansion seems kinda small time.

    I think the fact that we have a phrase of “follow the money” but not “follow the power” demonstrates that we a cultural blind spot in that regard. It just like we have a single word “greed” to describe the destructive pursuit of wealth but not a single word to describe the destructive pursuit of power. Most likely because in the pre-industrial world where our culture was forged, rich people e.g. merchants, jewish money lenders etc could not kill but people in power i.e. military aristocrats, did nothing but, often personally.

    As you are now well into your decline I can tell you your experiment with greed as a way of life has failed.

    Not sure what you meant buy that but, since I am greedy, I think it implies that someone owes me money, possibly you.

  5. A grand summary. Let me suggest that two themes emerge: first, the left’s addiction to narrative; second, the left’s focus on input vs the right’s focus on outcome.
    As for the addiction to narrative, for any narrative to be so successful as to inspire a faith that actively ignores facts of massive human suffering, that narrative must connect viscerally on a mythological, emotional, and psychological basis. True believers’ faith can withstand any assault of reason or historical record, as long as the narrative arc holds and continues to satisfy deep human longings (including the need to believe they are part of some ‘master race’ entitled and destined to control all of mankind). Witness how firmly the Left clings to their Eden myth of ‘mankind’s destruction of natural earth by industrialization’: in spite of the brevity and barbarity of pre-industrial life, in spite of a hundred million dead as a result of the DDT ban, in spite of data that requires repackaging “Global Cooling” as “Global Warming” and now as “Global Climate Change”, and in spite of continuing improvement in the quality of air and water. Their inability and unwillingness to modify their syllogism suggest that we are not dealing with a ‘theory of the way the world works’, but rather a narrative with religious and mythological quality that is deeply satisfying on an emotional basis. These people will defend to the death Lenin as “well meaning”, and no recitations of the body counts will pierce through their veil of belief.
    You can not argue or reason someone away from their faith. You can only persuade them to shift their values they use to evaluate its tenets. This is done by (1) getting them to agree on a desired outcome; and (2) submit the tenets of their faith to this evaluation of outcomes by simply proposing the question “What system works to accomplish those aims?”
    In order to persuade any of the left or middle-left to trade the belief in static, zero-sum, input-focused, centrally-managed systems, in favor of dynamic, growth-oriented, results-focused, distributed systems, we must first change the rules of evaluation. For example, on tax policy we could begin the colloquy as: “Do we agree that the wealthiest members of a society should bear the highest burden for its cost? OK, then let’s examine which systems have produced those desired results.” They’ll be Laffer-ites in no time! Or on environmental issues: “Do we agree that we should limit mankind’s permanent footprint on the earth and preserve the environment for future generations? OK, then let’s examine which systems have produced those desired results. (perhaps we could include a tour of the Aral Sea….oh, I mean the former Aral Sea).
    Just a thought.

  6. “As you are now well into your decline I can tell you your experiment with greed as a way of life has failed.

    Not sure what you meant buy that but, since I am greedy, I think it implies that someone owes me money, possibly you.”

    Difficult to follow, I’m sorry.

    The experiment to create a society based on greed has obviously failed. You have no chance to pay the debt you owe. Your financial sector which has beggared your country and others owns your government so there is nothing you can do. You may have noticed that none of the people responsible for the collapse of the western financial system have even been charged.

    You can pretend everything is OK for a little while longer then you are screwed as a nation. Trying to demonize the left, Islam and the poor is pitiful and will not help you at all. Greed is the cause of this.

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