Then there is the green revolution, which has been with us for some time, to little effect. But now the nation's--indeed the world's--politicians have decided that global warming is enough of a threat, or at least has captured the imagination of a sufficient number of voters, to warrant their attention and very vigorous action affecting many aspects of life. So, too, corporate chieftains, who no longer see green only as in "greenback," but as in greener operating policies demanded by customers, investors, their work force, and regulators. In short, this green will not fade as quickly as have past environmental fads.
Which is both good and bad news. Good because the hunt for more efficient, cost-effective ways to use energy is accelerating; bad because hare-brained schemes such as ethanol-from-corn are leading to deforestation and higher food prices, with no appreciable net reduction of carbon emissions.
So we may be on the way to a world in which non-democratic governments dominate capital markets, protectionists interfere with the free flow of capital and goods, the dream of home ownership becomes more difficult to realize, bureaucrats decide what is permissible to eat, and the greening of the world shoehorns us into smaller cars and dimly lit rooms. Unless, of course, America decides to rely less on government intervention, and more on economic growth to propel its living standard ever upward. We'll know the answer when the next election rolls around.
Irwin M. Stelzer is a contributing editor to THE WEEKLY STANDARD, director of economic policy studies at the Hudson Institute, and a columnist for the Sunday Times (London).