Forty-Six Years Ago I Was a Watermelon

I was in college in Oakland and Senator Gaylord Nelson instigated Earth Day on a Wednesday in April so college students could participate to the fullest extent. They are malleable and the professors thought the cause was urgent enough that class could wait.

Global cooling was the cause of the day and certainly a worthy concern. Throughout the centuries famine and civil unrest have accompanied cooler periods which, unlike today, came and went with changes in solar activity and geologic events (as opposed to human activity). Warm climatic periods have been times of bounty.

On Earth Day 1970 I marched with some sort of sign, probably denouncing corporations for polluting a swamp. I lived a block away from Oakland Tech High School, where Huey Newton went before founding the Black Panther Party. The Panthers, as we affectionately called them, conducted social programs for “the community” along with their more militant and violent activities. In other words, they were a microcosm of the federal government.

In a quest for social justice, the Panthers and the government are tools for those who think they know the right thing to do and think that knowledge is exclusive to their exceptional minds. The real issue surrounding Earth Day should be whether government may be used to subsidize inefficient technology in unproven quests for a perfect world.

I know most people consider Earth Day as a good time to clean up or plant trees. I picked up some trash out of the road ditch yesterday, public property by the way. The problem comes when activists hijack the idea of recognizing the value of a clean environment and use it to justify trampling on the rights of others for their own utopian dreams or profits.

Take Elon Musk’s Tesla as an example. I read last weekend about the new Tesla Model X. It is a seven passenger SUV that can go from zero to sixty miles per hour in 3.2 seconds. The cost is only $135,000. It qualifies for a Section 179 tax break of $25,000 because it can be used for business and has a gross vehicle weight over 6,000 pounds. It also qualifies for a $7,500 electric vehicle federal tax credit. But now California has added a means test for their tax incentive. Hardly anyone who subsidizes Tesla can afford one of their cars and we pay for the roads as well.

All these benefits go to a company that is really no more green than Volkswagen when all the costs of mining, manufacturing, and electricity are added up. And our Volkswagen can go three times as far between fill-ups.

When I go to buy something I make a decision as to whether that thing is worth the effort I took to make the money. That process doesn’t apply to Tesla, or wind power for that matter. The money is spent for us without our consent. Some might say, as our son did upon a visit home from college years ago, that we did consent through our vote. As Charles Grassley once told me, “I don’t know. The courts just approved it over time.”

Musk, Warren Buffet, and untold numbers of sly businessmen dream up threats and crises. Taxpayers gladly cough up the money to pay for a fix that never gets the job done, unless that job is lining the pockets of businessmen who make products that would never stand the test of real capitalism.

I’m no longer green on the outside and red on the inside like a watermelon. I’m green through and through because I know that strict enforcement of private property rights is a better path to a clean environment. As I write this, it is tax day. When you read this it will be Earth Day. The two are more closely related than we might think.


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