If I Wanted America to fail: Free Market Agitprop With a Lesson

If I Wanted America to fail: Free Market Agitprop With a Lesson

April 30, 2012
Originally published in Real Clear Markets

A powerful YouTube video essay that premiered on Earth Day has since gone viral. I first saw it when it cracked 100,000 views. At last count, over 1.7 million people have seen it, a number that grows daily. It started out being passed along by conservative Americans but has begun spreading into wider circles.

This video, entitled, If I Wanted America to Fail, can be best described as a pithy five-minute antidote to Al Gore's ponderous and plodding film, An Inconvenient Truth. Written and narrated by a young Floridian political activist named Ryan Houck from an organization named Free Market America, the piece is loosely modeled on Paul Harvey's famous 1965 radio sermon "If I Were the Devil."

But this is not a religious screed. It is an anti-religious screed. The religion it attacks is radical environmentalism, and the priesthood it exposes is the runaway bureaucracy of the regulatory state. The philosophy it proposes as an alternative is free market capitalism.

It's not just the crisp production values and skilled emotional manipulation that makes this piece so notable. It is the structure of the repeated refrain that tacitly asks the most important questions one could ask about both radical environmentalism and the wider basket of progressive policies that are now strangling our economy.

The questions are: Should government policies be judged by their intentions or their results? Should political leaders be judged by what they say they want to accomplish or by what actually happens after they gain the reins of power?

If you believe that the answers to these questions are yes, you must watch this video.

The piece opens: "If I wanted America to fail ... to follow, not lead; to suffer, not prosper; to despair, not dream. I would start with energy."

What follows is a steady drumbeat of indictments depicting the actual results of environmental regulatory policies that have demonized the energy infrastructure that keeps us all alive. In example after example, Houck drives the message home. This is not working. This is not making us better off.

While the essay lays the blame at the feet of global warming hysteria, it does not engage in a debate on the scientific merits of that controversial theory. It merely notes that all of this economic devastation is being justified by the highly speculative notion that somehow, someday, these economically destructive policies will deliver a greater good.

Note that Houck does not directly accuse progressives of wanting America to fail, yet that is exactly what progressives hear-and it is the only thing they hear-when they listen to this piece. He merely states that if failure were your objective, then the energy policies our government has espoused would be a very effective way to go about it.

Most of my friends are liberals, not just because I live in an extremely blue state but because I enjoy their company. I believe them when they say that they want what's best for America. While numerous Cloward-Piven strategists may lurk in academia hoping to overload our current system so badly that it comes crashing down, I believe that these radicals are a tiny minority, even within the Democratic Party.

There is no reason not to take the good intentions of environmentalists and progressives at face value. Sure, it's fun to point out the hypocrisy of jet-setting environmental celebrities and their heated swimming pools, but no political group has cornered the market on hypocrisy.

Rather than questioning motives-which almost never leads to fruitful dialogue-this essay invites us to question results. Have government policies created a viable, scalable, economically sustainable solar power industry? Has the biofuels movement reduced or increased our carbon footprint? Can windmills really generate enough reliable electricity to replace coal, or would we end up living with rolling blackouts if we let the EPA shut down the coal industry?

Is it rational to expect that current policies will make electric vehicles a meaningful portion of the automobile market in the foreseeable future? Has blocking an oil pipeline from Canada forced those dirty oils sands to stay in the ground? Has an explosion of promised green jobs actually arrived to reduce unemployment and help pull us out of recession?

As Houck eloquently points out, can we condemn logging, mining, and farming while we expect to have roofs over our heads, heat in our homes, and food on our tables? If we demonize prosperity because it is not instantaneously enjoyed equally, should we expect to get more or less of it?

Finally, I'd like to ask my liberal friends: If failure is not your objective then why are you demanding that failed policies be continued, and even expanded?

I recommend you invest the four minutes and 39 seconds it takes to watch this video, even if you are a radical environmentalist. Especially if you are a radical environmentalist. Because this guy is your worst nightmare. Ignore him at your peril.