The decline of the environmental lobby’s political influence.

It sunk itself but it had a little bit of help ...

Political influence is obvious, when you see it being exercised. It’s normally exerted by politicians, who’ve been elected by the people, and are simply changing policy in line with the promises they’ve made to their electorate. Depending on their political persuasion, and yours, you’ll either approve or not of the move, but it’s a legitimate exercise of power.

When a politician makes a decision that’s questionable or at odds with their election promises, a political gamble is being taken. They’ve made the judgement call, that whatever they’ve done, will come to be seen by their supporters as a sound move, before they come up for re-election.

When they get that call badly wrong, it’s catastrophic not only for them, but potentially for their party too. Leaders come and go, but the party must always abide. No leader’s political career is bigger than the party. The usual way out, is to replace the leader, reverse the policy, and hope the voters will have forgiven them before the next election. The Conservative Party in the UK, under Margaret Thatcher and in the context of her Poll Tax, went through that loop and managed to win the next election under a new leader. The Australian Labor Party, under Julia Gillard with her deeply unpopular Carbon Tax, is currently considering the same option in an analogous situation.

What always ends the careers of politicians prematurely, is making a series of poor judgement calls. Each one saps support away and eventually diminishes their political influence to the point, where they have virtually none.

Political influence is not only exercised by politicians, but also exercised upon them by what’s commonly called lobby groups. These come in two distinct flavours. The first tends to be representing business interests, who, because they contribute money, services or influence to election campaigns, quite rightly expect to get something back for them. People may not like that, but it’s part of the eternal horse trading associated with politics. The simple calculation made by all business lobbies is the amount of money or services donated, will be exceeded by the amount they can earn as a result of favourable political treatment.

The unspoken rule of that game is, ask for something reasonable, that won’t put the politician into an awkward position with his other interests, and you’ll probably get it. There are times when two business lobby groups desire conflicting things, so the usual form is for them to agree something they can both live with, and then approach the politician. Where they can’t agree a way forward, it’ll be the biggest contributor who’ll get the decision. The higher you get up a power structure, the more brutally simple things get.

The second type of lobby group is political in nature. They represent, and are the organised spokesmen for, a concern held by a significant portion of the electorate. They’re usually one issue groups and the particular issue varies considerably, but dependent on how big a proportion of the active electorate they speak for and how much influence they have over the voting pattern of those they represent, they can wield considerable power. The deal they’ll make with politicians, is to deliver their supporter’s vote, in return for favourable changes in legislation and money, in the form of grants.

While business lobby groups are hardy perennials, the political lobby groups tend to be annuals by nature. They appear, blossom for a while, and disappear. The reason they always disappear, is that they can no longer deliver a significant number of votes. This may come about for a variety of reasons; the desired changes may have been achieved, whatever concerned their supporters no longer worries them, the cause is no longer fashionable or quite simply, their support has melted away to other causes. Professional career lobbyists have perfected the art of hopping off lobbies on the way down and onto the new ones on the way up.

For a decade or more, the environmental lobby was the biggest and most influential political lobby in most democratic administrations around the developed world. Because it could withhold or deliver a substantial number of votes, politicians were naturally obliged to pander to its wishes. It actually didn’t matter how sensible or not the policies it wanted were, they got them put in place in exchange for delivering support.

For reasons I’ve gone into elsewhere, the environmental movement is in decline. The current devastation of green parties around the world in national elections, demonstrates this obvious change in the political landscape. It no longer has the mass following it had and can therefore no longer deliver or withhold, a significant block of votes. In political terms, this means that beyond a few nice words in their direction, politicians can safely ignore them. This is fortunate, since as it happens, politicians are having to roll back the green policies of yesteryear, because a lot of those policies the lobby managed to get into place, have now become real electoral liabilities for the politicians.

An example of this is the artificial skewing of the domestic power supply market, in favour of heavily subsidised renewables, which has resulted in sky rocketing electricity bills for most people. Renewable energy sources, against all their proponent’s optimistic expectations, stubbornly refuse to get cheaper. When the average potential voter is hurting that badly, every politician makes with the feet, to fix it quick. They don’t want to get the blame for it and they’ll kill each other, to get the credit for cutting your bill. They all want to be your new best friend.

A lot of current environmental policies will be not only be reversed, but dropped entirely. The pressure to do this comes from these cash strapped recessionary times and it will be accelerated by the changes of administrations, caused by the forthcoming presidential election in America and next year’s federal election in Australia. New governments can wipe the slate clean and start afresh, and in these instances where they’ve got a big majority, they will. I discussed how such radical changes in policy are accomplished in a previous article, a link to which is below, but in essence its done by utilising two techniques; blaming the previous administration for everything and simply never mentioning any commitments you might have previously made in support of the by now deeply unpopular policies. You just stop talking about it.

The trick of not even mentioning the environment in significant speeches, has been in place for nearly the last two years. Recently, President Obama had to be blackmailed into mentioning it in a major speech by big donors to his re-election campaign, who threatened to withhold money unless he did. He of course did, but that’ll be that. Prime Minister Cameron has successfully managed not to mention it in a single major speech since 2010. Chancellor Merkel only mentions it in connection with changing renewables policy, to alleviate soaring power bills in Germany, amid a record number of household disconnections. Prime Minister Gillard of Australia mentions it a lot, because she’s essentially inept and fighting vainly for her political life. She won’t be succeeding, by the way. Indeed, thanks to her peculiar idea of what constitutes political acumen, her party now faces the political equivalent of what Geologists term an ELE or an Extinction Level Event.

That massive amount of saying nothing about the environment has by now, percolated well down the power structures of government and is manifesting itself in ministerial appointments of people, who’ll have no qualms killing off the old policies. Out go the old ministers, who weren’t acute enough to distance themselves in time from the sinking green ship, and in come the hard-nosed bean counters, with their axes in hand and orders in their pocket to do the requisite chopping back of environmental budgets and subsidies.

It’s not so much a case of going out with a whimper rather than a bang, but the old Chinese thing of suffering the death of a thousand cuts. If you stop to listen, you’ll hear the snips coming from all sides.

There’ll be a lot more appointments of that nature in the future, especially after the elections. It’s not a good time to be working in a heavily subsidised industry like renewable energy or for an environmental regulatory body. Employees of organisations like the EPA take note; now would be a very good time to explore your private sector options, before the jobs market is flooded with your colleagues.

In terms of international agreements on environmental policy, the situation has gone from already bad to hopeless. At the recent conclusion of the Bangkok meetings, meant to prepare some semblance of agreement ahead of the big Doha conference at the end of the year, any prospect of renewing the Kyoto agreement has actually gone backwards. Not only was nothing agreed, but the major players started talking about being more flexible in terms of carbon reduction targets. That’s bureaucratic speak for no binding agreements thank you and we’ll do as much reduction as is compatible with our domestic interests, which is to say, very little.

The message coming out of Bangkok and into Doha is quite simple, any prospect of renewing Kyoto is dead, which means the days of trying to agree carbon emission cuts internationally, is dead. Which will ultimately mean carbon cutting is dead. Period.

The fact that the bluff by the developing nations at the conference, to withhold the carbon credits the developed nations could buy from them via the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), was called, should give you a pretty realistic idea of what the future holds for offsetting emissions by international carbon trading. The CDM itself, is widely thought to be on the verge of collapse anyway, and nobody appears interested in rushing to its aid either.

Carbon trading actually died with the closure of the Chicago Carbon Exchange last year. If they’ve given up on being able to make a buck out of it in the Windy City, then believe me, nobody else can. The EU are soldiering on with their own version of it, but the biggest traders on it appear to be organised crime, which is why the whole system is periodically suspended. Australia is the only country to link its own carbon price to the EU one, but since every Australian and his dog, or should I say dingo, know that arrangement will only last until next year’s federal elections, I wouldn’t expect a lot of financial committment to it, except possibly from their own home-grown variety of organised crime, by which I don’t necessarily exclude a number of their politicians.

Over the decade when the environmental lobby had real political influence, it effectively frittered it away.

They wasted it by making one poor decision after another, and it was always the same generic mistake. Time after time, given the policy choice between one that was moderate and one that was extreme, they went for the extreme one on every occasion. The movement never understood what every politician learns early; there’ll always be a gap between what you ultimately want and what’s achievable and more importantly, sustainable in a changeable world.

The shining example of this blind compulsion was the Kyoto accord. When what came back from the conference for ratification by the US Congress, was unanimously turned down, which uniquely means not one single Congressman across the whole of the political spectrum could be found anywhere who could bring themselves to support it, the environmentalists launched straight into the condemnation game, rather than stopping and seriously thinking about what would have been politically acceptable, and I’ve no doubt some acceptable middle ground existed. The window of opportunity closed for good, the lesson was yet again not learnt, and that was that.

Because every policy they got into place was pushing the envelope, and they did get a lot of them into place, the sum total was not just simply unaffordable but politically untenable, in the face of an economic recession. It was that tendency to always push too hard and too far, which sowed the seeds of its present day woes.

Like those politicians, who’ve made a string of poor decisions, this has led inevitably to a loss of support and therefore the decline of their political influence.

©Pointman

Related articles by Pointman:

How policies get dropped and positions reversed.

A decisive minority of idiots, fashionistas and the innocent.

I’m not a scientist but …

Political fracture points and power vacuums.

Our secret weapon.

Click for a list of other articles.

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Comments
35 Responses to “The decline of the environmental lobby’s political influence.”
  1. Petrossa says:

    Unfortunately reason is not part of European policy

    Germany’s Offshore Fiasco
    North Sea Wind Offensive Plagued by Problems
    http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/german-offshore-wind-offensive-plagued-by-problems-a-852728.html

    Nonetheless they persist, in fact up the ante by just hoping the grid will take it

    http://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/Germanys-Power-Grid-under-Increasing-Pressure.html

    • Blackswan says:

      Thanks Petrossa – The most amazing thing I’ve ever read. Especially….

      “Last week, the German cabinet approved a law that will provide favorable compensation provisions for offshore wind turbines that are losing money because of delays in connecting them to the power grid.”

      These hopeless projects, conceived and built with the lure of trillions of taxpayer dollars, are going to be paid even MORE money when they fail.

      It’s apparent that NONE of this is about renewable energy – the turbines are entirely incidental to the process and nobody gives a toss if they EVER work or not.

      • Petrossa says:

        The worst thing is, that even if they get it working even the biggest moron can see that maintenance will be cost prohibitive. The older Californian onland windfarms are about 70% out of commission due to lack of maintenance. Too expensive.

        Failure of sea windturbines is 100% certain. A mechanical part will fail, an electronic part will fail, and catastrophic failure will happen. 10 years after construction costs will cause electricity prices soaring.

        But, France has just decided it’s a brilliant idea so they are going for it too. Oh, and with natural gas prices soaring obviously the government decided to shut down nukes and not give out permits for the estimated 51 billion cm (about a century’s worth of national consumption) shale gas exploitation.

  2. Blackswan says:

    Pointman,

    Your analysis demonstrates extraordinary perception of the political climate in Australia. The scenario you outline is being played out day by day. Last weekend in New South Wales, local government council elections were held and the Greens were trounced, with massive swings against them in previously Green-dominated electorates.

    “THIS week the Gillard government was given a glimpse into its political future in Sydney – and it’s as grim as it gets.

    It was an image that has been quarantined from public debate because of the equally bleak outlook for the government’s perfidious bed-fellows, the Greens. Deluded Labor MPs and their cheer squads have been out celebrating the diminishing fortunes of the minority party – all to divert attention away from the real problem.

    The bigger story behind the NSW council elections last weekend seems to have been buried under a Maoist suppression order within Julia Gillard’s government.”

    http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/opinion/no-hero-rides-to-labors-rescue/story-e6frezz0-1226473668715

    Since Greens Leader Bob Brown retired (very astute at reading writing on walls is ole Bob), leaving the Leadership to the seriously unpopular Christine Milne, Labor has been back-pedalling furiously on many of the eco demands previously established as Labor policy.

    Milne, who previously primped and preened at press conferences claiming personal kudos for the implementation of outrageous Green ‘initiatives’, has been oddly silent as one by one her mad, economically destructive policies have been renounced by Labor.

    There’s definitely a feeling of optimism as the election draws closer and we have the opportunity to stuff those Green Gremlins back into the oblivion they so richly deserve.

    • mlpinaus says:

      ‘Swan, I agree with “There’s definitely a feeling of optimism as the election draws closer and we have the opportunity to stuff those Green Gremlins back into the oblivion they so richly deserve. ” My concern is with the under- whelming alternative on offer to the Yabby and her cohort. Where are the real conservatives in Oz?

      Marcus

  3. Keith AB says:

    Good article. Most encouraging.

    Thanks.

  4. David S says:

    Most enjoyable analysis. The really sad thing is that by allowing themselves to be swept away in climate change/CO2 hysteria, the activists have massively undermined the real environmental causes they should have been concentrating on all along. The good news, in Europe at least, is that by overstretching themselves on emissions trading and “renewable” energy sources they have provoked an energy crisis to which a large part of the answer has to be shale gas, whereas we might have been limping along with a smaller number of windmills and lots of expensive imported gas.

  5. orkneylad says:

    Another storming article Pointman; I hope this new reality eventually sinks-in north of the border.

  6. Heggs says:

    Nice read man, you certainly don’t pull your punch’s :)

    • Pointman says:

      Hiya Heggs.

      I take the view that since the MSM won’t represent my views and won’t even let me add them as commentary, I’ll do it myself, and as I’m doing that, I might as well give them both barrels while I’m at it.

      Pointman

  7. Graeme No.3 says:

    One of the often overlooked aspects is the amount of money the Green Organisations can put into an election. Some of it coming from the government itself, as a grant to the tree huggers comes back to the aid of the party granting it.

    As the greens lose public interest, not only will the government money dry up, so will their public support and the money coming from oil and coal companies which they never seem to display in their advertising.

    Worse, they might lose their tax free charitable status, as has happened to Greenpeace in NZ.

    As for our less than beloved Prime Minister, nothing she can say seems to boost her prospects for the future∗∗. Helped by her habit of changing policies on the run. Recently the Labor Party saw a ray of hope as a avalanche of new spending ideas, I can’t call them policies, has spewed forth. The government’s poll rating ‘recovered’ to 35%! It has started down again as the public starts to realise that the spending is in the future, and dependent on Labor winning the next election, and can only proceed if they can cut present spending first.

    It is not unknown for politicians to go into an election promising lots of goodies, but they don’t usually do so simultaneously drawing attention to their failures by making unpopular spending cuts.

    ∗∗ Losing the election finishes her in politics, and she stopped practicing law in 1995 because, according to her, nothing happened.

  8. exisle says:

    Thank you Pointman for a penetrating and readable analysis.

    An aspect of the global warming scam that has enraged me for some years is the way in which it has effectively politicised and destroyed the ‘legitimate’ environmental movement. I am sure that the vast majority of climate sceptics are also environmentalists – in the original meaning of the word. I know I am. But this train wreck has made any environmental pronouncements by politicians or ‘scientists’ suspect and needing very careful research before taking it at face value. This is the real tragedy for our stewardship of the planet – the law of unintended consequences at work.

    • Graeme No.3 says:

      Sadly, the “official” environmental movement i.e. the organised bodies WWF, the Australian Conservation Foundation, Friends of the Earth etc. have all rushed blindly into this scam. I don’t include Greenpeace, which in MHO has never been anything but a sham, but the others, and I am sure you could add dozens elsewhere have been blinded by this ‘end of the world’ illusion.
      Could anything be more ridiculous than the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in the UK campaigning to “save” the collapsing population of kittiwakes in Orkney while approving the installation of 22 wind turbines there?

    • Pointman says:

      Hello & welcome exisle. Both you and David S, touched on the skeptics being, as you say, traditional environmentalists. I’ve yet to meet a skeptic who wasn’t.

      The problem is that environmentalism is now a discredited brand, carrying too many negative connotations. We actually need a new name; perhaps stewardship or something?

      Pointman

  9. Graeme No.3 says:

    The End of It All

    It was a warm and humid afternoon in Washington, as they would have said in the old days when these things could be adjusted. As it was the veterans huddled and pulled their coats tighter. They looked sparse in daylight, even fewer than the tight knit crew who had briefly held the World in their palm. The onlookers were sparse and largely indifferent, for the Climate War was long over, and no-one knew or cared for this indulgent gesture by some fool in Congress. There was always some damned fool in Congress.

    Contrary to rumour nobody had come from the White House, nor was anyone in the Senate going to waste time on these losers. James Hansen had been let out to take the salute, but when some young lout called out “coal trains” the foam came to his lips and his attendants hustled him back to the home. Al Gore hadn’t been able to come; he couldn’t afford the bus fare after his quixotic attempt to support the carbon market and besides, he didn’t want to leave his house open to the bank’s attempts to foreclose and sell it, before the dropping sea level reduced its value further.

    So it was Captain Mann (he had so wanted to be a major) who call them to order. As the veterans shuffled into order he signaled to band leader Gleick who raised his signature instrument (always known in vet’s slang as the faxafonie). The slightly wobbly notes of the Regimental March cheered the men and they sang the old refrain as they marched.

    The ice melts in the summer in the Arctic,
    The ice melts in the summer in the Arctic,
    The ice melts in the summer in the Arctic,
    Global warming keeps rolling along
    Glory, Glory…

    When they got to the park, nostalgia ruled for a while, as Naomi Oreskes sang some of the old favourites “There’s a hot spot somewhere over the rainbow” and “IPCC”, but when she sang the lament “my grant flies over the ocean, the money goes without me” many burst into tears and drifted away. Soon no-one was left in the park, and the chill September wind blew the autumn leaves around in aimless eddies.

    NEEDS WORK and a appeal for suitable stuff for a songbook to support indigent climatologists?
    Feel free to cut this.

    • hillbilly33 says:

      A good start Graeme. I suggest whilst there is still time, that you put in for a grant ” to compile a songbook to support indigent climatologists and how they will be affected by climate change and lack of Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming!”

      On second thoughts cut “and lack of Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming ,” otherwise definitely no grant will be forhcoming!!

      How about this one for your songbook:

      ‘The Science is Settled Wholesale Consensus March’!

      76 climate “experts” led the Big Parade,110 climate modellers took the air,
      There were rows and rows of gullible warmist bozos, as they dimmed the lights everywhere!

      Come on fellas. I can’t think of the rest of the song at this moment, but I’m sure there are many out there who can add some stirring brass and thundering percussion sections!

    • Pointman says:

      Hi Graeme No.3. In a few years time, your short story will probably be thought of as reporting!

      Pointman

  10. hillbilly33 says:

    One word Pointman. BRILLIANT!! Do you mind if I C & P bits and pieces from time to time (with due well-earned acknowledgement of course).? Exposing the Union/superannuation/carbon dioxide tax/heavily subsidised renewables/Labor-Green scams etc., in Australia is on my agenda and I hope that of others!

    For any of your readers interested in what we face in Australia with corrupt goverments, unions. jydiciary/ legal profession, media etc.,, two links.

    The first is of arguably the first and only man to call for a Royal Commission or wide-ranging Judicial Inquiry into his own Union (and that followed advice from a QC who said it was the only waythe complex web of corruption and coverup could be dealt with. That was 16 years ago and still hasn’t happened!

    Ian Cambridge Speech to Queensland AWU Delegates

    http://michaelsmithnews.typepad.com/files/qlddelegatesjan96-1.pdf

    The second is that of a very brave part-time blogger Shane Dowling ,who has compiled IMHO, the best one-stop resource on judicial corruption and the Gillard/Wilson/AWU/Fraud.

    http://kangaroocourtofaustralia.com/julia-gillard-bruce-wilson-awu-fraud-page/

  11. Pointman says:

    Greens and Gummer routed as shale gas wins new enthusiasts

    “After years when our energy policy was being dictated by green wishful thinking, by the likes of Lord Deben and by state-subsidised pressure groups such as Friends of the Earth (which first invented, then helped to draft, the Climate Change Act), reality is at long last breaking in.”

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/9544677/Greens-and-Gummer-routed-as-shale-gas-wins-new-enthusiasts.html

    This is yet another country doing a 180 degree change in energy policy, and screw any emission cuts they’ve already agreed …

    Pointman

  12. johnnyrvf says:

    It is important to realise that behind the politics in France is a civil service very entrenched in the ideology that La France will always come first, ( although if I am mistaken, please correct me ) therefore when polititians make stupid decisions that will not be good for the country, there are mechanisms to get them ‘modified..’ Hollande’s call to shut down Frances oldest Nuclear power plant is a sop to the greens as EDF will be building more new ones ( uranium powered that is, to support the arms industry ) however France has great pride in its technological expertise and given they fought so hard to have the ITER project built near Marseilles, funnily enough not too far from Frances 1st Nuclear reactor ( again please correct me if I am wrong ) when India or China come on line with Thorium France won’t be too far behind. The reason France went Nuclear big time in the seventies was so that it could not be held to ransom for its energy needs, I am sure when the antics of the Russian gas industry start to stangulate some of the EU eastern countries fracking operations, such as Poland is suffering now and gas prices become extortionate, fracking in France will be given the go ahead.

    • Petrossa says:

      Very good observations. Till that time however french people are paying through the nose for natural gas just to please some really freaky greenies. Now we are paying 2 years 10% backwards augmentation with a price hike of 7% in the offing.

      And the money wasted on the 200 turbine offshore windfarm which, if invested in Iter would do much more good.

      What is it that makes greenies so daft? Discussion is impossible. You show them Denmark, Germany, and Spain gigantic failures with alternative energy and they just refuse to acknowledge it exists.

      Anyone with some technical instinct can easily imagine that there is no free lunch, and the energy transformation either costs dear in fuel or in equipment otherwise the laws of nature would be violated. Energy out of nothing just can’t be.

  13. johnnyrvf says:

    @Petrossa. I am well aware of the hike in gas prices, I rent 2 flats in the nearest town to where I live in S/W/France and have noticed that Gaz de ville gets questioned a lot more by prospective tenants than 5 years ago. I wonder when the French political community will wake up to the scam that renewables and the CAGW gravy train are.

    • Petrossa says:

      I am one of the lucky ones that is all electric.I am very sure this phase in political vision will at least last Hollande’s tenure. The french Verts are especially religious in their fervor. Only a re-election of UMP can stop this idiocy.
      Germany’s failure is not known in France. To them it’s a huge success. As you know the French don’t do foreign news much. The articles i quoted about the serious trouble Germany is in can’t be found in the french language anywhere. So it doesn’t exist.

  14. Pointman says:

    “Two decades on, what was once the “most powerful political ideal” on the international scene crashed and burned at Rio +20. The failure of environmentalism as an ideology was inevitable, since it has so badly misconstrued the causes of many of the problems it claims to address. It will be interesting to see in which direction those cherishing a permanent animus against democratic capitalism will now go. ”

    http://reason.com/archives/2012/09/24/the-end-of-international-environmentalis?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+reason%2FArticles+%28Reason+Online+-+All+Articles+%28except+Hit+%26+Run+blog%29%29&utm_content=Bloglines

    An interesting analysis.

    Pointman

  15. DP111 says:

    The science of “Climate” is not a science, and is unlikely to be ever a science, as it involves too many ‘sciences’. For a start a real climate scientist would have to be expert in Solar dynamics, planetary mechanics, thermodynamics, electromagnetics and radiation, oceanography- particularly the thermodynamics of heat exchange in the oceans, and the behaviour of living organisms. Thats for a start.

    Then the interaction, linear and non-linear, time delayed, feedback, noise, etc etc. Can’t see how it can be done. Even a committee of experts would be unable to handle it – in fact, a committee of experts has never made any significant contribution to science. The only way left then is to the take temperature readings and extrapolate. Extrapolation over decades, is far worse, scientifically speaking, then simply taking a random guess.

    Then this set of questions by the BBC is absurd.

    “How certain are you that mankind is warming the climate?”

    “How certain are you that C02 and the other things are greenhouse gases?”

    “How certain are you that we are emitting more CO2 which is one of the greenhouse gases?”

    Who ever asked questions pertaining to science to a group of disparate scientists, on matters on which they were not expert? The whole idea of proving a theory on the basis of a questionnaire is ridiculous. Scientists may or may not come to a consensus, but they do not rely on consensus as proof.

    The real reason is not the science of AGW that concerns the BBC and governments, but the monies and politics of AGW. They have invested too much political and other capital, for them to let it go, especially as the gains are in trillions in tax levies, and the bonanza of patronage that results from a windfall in taxes. The others reason is that the West will be locked into a command and control economy for the foreseeable future.

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