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A Critic Fights The Environmental Tide

The green movement has many supporters. Peter Schwartzis definitely not one of them. In fact, the author and former chairman of theAyn Rand Instituteis adamantly opposed to its philosophy and mission, believing it has had a profoundly negative affect on both American business and the economy.

Schwartz is the founding editor and publisher of The Intellectual Activist, a periodical covering political, cultural and philosophic issues. He is the author of The Battle for Laissez-Faire Capitalism and The Foreign Policy of Self-Interest: A Moral Ideal For America.

What is the mission of the environmental movement?

It is a renewal of hostility to individuals taking control of their lives by means of reason. Environmentalists want man to be controlled, to control what individuals and business can do to advance mankind economically. I think they are very opposed to industrialization. They claim they’re not against technology, just harmful technology -- nuclear power, for instance -- but no technology will ever pass their test.

Yet nuclear energy is making something of a comeback?

It’s making a comeback to where it had been. For three decades, no nuclear plants were proposed. The industry has been suppressed because of the scare stories promoted by environmentalists. People will choose one energy over the other in a free market. The important thing to keep in mind is that environmentalists want to protect nature not for mankind but from mankind, to live without the benefit of technology. Environmentalism is a moral philosophy. It is definitely anti-capitalist.

How does this play into American business?

You would think that businesses would be asserting the morality of their position, that is creating a product that improves the condition of human beings. But they feel guilty. They are morally cowed by environmentalist. Unless they somehow cloak their activities in the gab of environmentalism, present themselves as loving the environment, then they can’t go forward. It's as if they saying 'We're not really in this for the profit, or what the market will demand and pay for, but for keeping the land pristine.'

So you are saying its a an Achilles heel for CEOs?

CEOs are not very astute when it comes to philosophic issues. They have volunteered the whole realm of the intellect to professionals. They are followers.

What industries to you see as most susceptible to this?

The energy industry is the biggest example. When companies take out ads trying to defend some new oil well or arguing for offshore drilling or building pipelines on the arctic tundra. They don’t say we have a right to build it and we are in if for a profit. They say our top priority is to keep the caribou safe.

I read the ads, saying how environmentally friendly they are. They have their hats in their hands. The unfortunate thing is businesses believe that the way to oppose environmentalists is to join them. The way to oppose them is to state philosophically how they are wrong. They should assert their free-market principles with pride.

Look at the amount of energy that is available to an individual today than 50 years ago. The light bulb is a tremendous advancement in energy efficiency. You need a laissez fare approach.

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And this quantifiably hurts profits?

They hurt profits because they allow the idea that profits should somehow be subordinate to or secondary to wellness.

Why is the green movement sweeping Corporate America now?

I think it is because no one in business is standing up and saying we will not sacrifice man to nature. Humans by their very nature survive by reshaping nature to fulfill our needs.

Is government done any better in resisting?

If you look at the overall trend of legislation and regulation, it is further and further hamstringing business and every individual who wants to buy products that will improve his life.