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Dec 22, 2008

Climate or Freedom?

Picture;Václav Klaus the President of the Czech Republic

Years ago I was the campaign director for the Progress Party (libertarian) in the Qld state election for the seat of Gympie. A guy called Reg Lawler was the Labor Party candidate and during the campaign I got to know him fairly well and we talked often. One of the things he told me was; “ I know where you are coming from, and you know where I come from, we are opposites so we understand each other, our beliefs are based on firm philosophies, the Liberals and Nationals have no idea where they stand or why.”

I was reminded of this by a speech by Václav Klaus the President of the Czech Republic, in a speech, “From Climate Alarmism to Climate Realism,” at the 2008 International Conference on Climate Change in New York. In it he shows a clear perception of the ways in which our liberty is threatened by the ideas of those who talk of freedoms as existing only within a social context.

Klaus seems to be a controversial character, possibly due to his free market perspective as seen from his membership of the Mont Perlin Society, articles in the libertarian free-market Cato Journal, and his the keynote address at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free market advocacy group. This is part of what he had to say: -

….. If I am not wrong, I am the only speaker from a former communist country and I have to use this as a comparative – paradoxically – advantage. Each one of us has his or her experiences, prejudices and preferences. The ones that I have are – quite inevitably – connected with the fact that I have spent most of my life under the communist regime. A week ago, I gave a speech at an official gathering at the Prague Castle commemorating the 60th anniversary of the 1948 communist putsch in the former Czechoslovakia.

One of the arguments of my speech there, quoted in all the leading newspapers in the country the next morning, went as follows: “Future dangers will not come from the same source. The ideology will be different. Its essence will, nevertheless, be identical – the attractive, pathetic, at first sight noble idea that transcends the individual in the name of the common good, and the enormous self-confidence on the side of its proponents about their right to sacrifice the man and his freedom in order to make this idea reality.” What I had in mind was, of course, environmentalism and its currently strongest version, climate alarmism.

This fear of mine is the driving force behind my active involvement in the Climate Change Debate and behind my being the only head of state who in September 2007 at the UN Climate Change Conference, only a few blocks away from here, openly and explicitly challenged the current global warming hysteria. My central argument was – in a condensed form – formulated in the subtitle of my recently published book devoted to this topic which asks: “What is Endangered: Climate or Freedom?” My answer is clear and resolute: “it is our freedom.” I may also add “and our prosperity.”

What frustrates me is the feeling that everything has already been said and published, that all rational arguments have been used; yet it still does not help. Global warming alarmism is marching on. We have to therefore concentrate (here and elsewhere) not only on adding new arguments to the already existing ones, but also on the winning of additional supporters of our views. The insurmountable problem as I see it lies in the political populism of its exponents and in their unwillingness to listen to arguments.

They – in spite of their public roles – maximize their own private utility function where utility is not any public good but their own private good – power, prestige, carrier, income, etc. It is difficult to motivate them differently. The only way out is to make the domain of their power over our lives much more limited. But this will be a different discussion. 


  1. Klaus is a breath of fresh air. I hope he shakes things up for the EU during his presidency.

  2. I haven't seen too many leaders expounding limited government and individual rights coming from Europe for a fair while. Maybe its a sign of political climate change.