Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Inevitable Conclusion of Technocracy

Yesterday I blogged Monday's sunshiny debate on global warming between Newt Gingrich and John Kerry. Today, Dana Milbank rains on my parade with a quote from the former speaker:

"I am not automatically saying that coercion and bureaucracy is not an answer," he granted.

Newt has never been a limited-government conservative. In 1995, he told Time, "I'm for limited government, but a very strong limited government." (Translation, courtesy of Democratic Congressman Barney Frank: "He's not for smaller government. He's for different government.")

Indeed, in a word, Newt is a technocrat, who wants the government to wield science and technology in the service of empowering the citizenry.

Update: Bradford Plumer, the liberal TNR researcher-reporter on the GOP environmental beat, raps Newt for being too much of a limited-government guy. In Newt's alleged world, Plumer writes,

If it involves more regulation, it can't possibly be good. "We're talking about a massive increase in government power," he warns.

Plumer ends his article with another typically Newtonian quote,

perhaps the most elegant explanation of why global warming is a difficult problem for conservatives—even for someone who, like himself, professes to care deeply about the environment. "For most of the last 30 years, the environment has been a powerful emotional tool for bigger government and higher taxes," he says. "Even if it's the right thing to do, you end up fighting it because it's bigger government and higher taxes."

This is an intriguing but ultimately specious theory, because it assumes that people cannot be allowed to do the "right thing," but must have the government do it for—i.e., force it on—us.

If Newt were a conservative before he were a technocrat, he would instead trust the wisdom of crowds and the forces of supply and demand, i.e., the market. But because he's a technocrat before he's a conservative, he's not opposed to "coercion and bureaucracy."

Update (4/14): I should have noted that Newt isn't the only conservative to have gone green. Mark Sanford, the former congressman and current South Carolina governor, recently penned an op-ed in the Post, in which he proclaimed, "I am a conservative conservationist who worries that sea levels and government intervention may end up rising together."