“The transition to a low-carbon economy” is a mantra mouthed by almost every political party, environmental group, global bureaucracy and media outlet. It is invoked not just as a policy prescription but as a moral signpost. However, like all the catchphrases of the Big Green Agenda – sustainable development, corporate social responsibility, climate crisis, environmental justice, social licence, etc. etc. – it demands trenchant analysis.
Free markets are always in the process of transition due to innovation and ingenuity, but the low-carbon transition is to be forced. Its great proponents are the enforcers, and we are talking about something far more radical than merely the way we generate energy. Leading Transitionistas such as the late Maurice Strong and UN climate Suprema Christiana Figures have admitted that they want a fundamental change in the global economic and political system.
Whenever I hear such people assert both the necessity and viability of the Great Transition, I think of the introduction to my old paperback copy of Joseph Schumpeter’s great book, Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, which was first published in 1942.
In that introduction, written in 1976, British Marxist academic Tom Bottomore declared that the book’s popularity was explained “by the fact that it undertakes a serious and thorough examination of the great social transition of the present age, from capitalism to socialism.”
Bottomore, failing to see Schumpeter’s ironic message – “Socialism is coming, and won’t you be sorry when it arrives” – went on to praise Soviet satellite Yugoslavia as a likely model for the state enterprise that would bring about heaven on earth.
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