TRUE NORTH: Canada and the Reality of Agenda 21 – By Caleb McMillan

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– “The issue is always the same: the government or the market. There is no third solution.” – Ludwig von Mises

The Ottawa Citizen has taken offence at two Conservative politicians who attack Ontario’s green fascism as Agenda 21. David Reevely made both a video and an article to accompany this attack. Despite the mountains of evidence that exist (including this map, highlighting the “human contaminants”), Reevely writes,

“If you don’t believe the premise that the earth has finite resources and we’re using them up — if you believe the ostensible reason for having held an Earth Summit 22 years ago wasn’t just wrong, but a lie — it is true that Agenda 21 only makes sense as a crypto-communist manifesto. In which case anything pro-environment, pro-urban, or anti-poverty, anything that could be in alignment with any of the broad themes in Agenda 21, isn’t what it appears to be: It’s actually a sinister plot.”

Here is a book about Agenda 21. There does seem to be a conspiracy, but let’s not quarrel over that now. Economics alone shows why these Earth summits equal more environmental destruction and the absolute destruction of civilization’ foundations. Government planners have been some of the worst stewards of the environment. So the Ottawa Citizen thinks it’s preposterous that two politicians would dare question the UN zeitgeist?


Well, does the State speak for us? Reevely’s characterization of what happened in Rio neglects the role of trade and commerce in how wealth is created. David Reevely assumes the government does everything. But the government is not “us.”


“We” is an empty term, you have to define who “we” are first. You can’t define people as homogeneous blobs called “rich countries” and “poor countries.” We develop as individuals in society, through market means: trade, exchange and private property. Borders only constrain markets, they don’t define them. Looking at the world means looking at society as individual human actors, not aggregating all progress to the state and calling it “we”.


Reevely makes the same mistake in the video: in the first 39 seconds he completely sets a false premise of how societies emerge, function and prosper. He neglects the proper role – if any – for the nation-state in economic planning.


Reevely sarcastically describes Agenda 21 as a nefarious plot to “get people who live in free rural villages into cities where they become dependent on the government, living in apartment blocks and taking buses to work, like Soviet proletariats.”


Reevely doesn’t seem to make the connection between this “nefarious plot” and what the world around him is actually like. Perhaps the Ottawa Citizen has treated David well, and no doubt the “Ottawa Bubble” means more than just political culture – this is where the tax-loot ends up and sometimes never leaves. Reevely seems completely unaware that for many Canadians – especially the poor – this is exactly what their lives look like.

The reason this happens – and the reason it happened to the Russians – is because of the inherent, universal failures of the statist system. Carl Menger and Eugen Böhm von Bawerk were some of the first economists to recognize this. They destroyed capitalist exploitation theory, including the contradictions in the labour theory of value. Böhm-Bawerk correctly deduced the role of interest in the production process. Capitalists don’t make profits at the expense of the workers. Voluntary exchange means wealth for all.

Ludwig von Mises studied under Böhm von Bawerk at the University of Vienna. In 1920 Mises published an article, “Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth,” that would spark a debate over economic calculation in planned economies. Mises followed up two years later with an entire book: Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis.

Now what does this have to do with Agenda 21? Reevely scoffs at the idea of sustainable growth being a nefarious crypto-communist plot by the UN. But there’s important lesson to learned here. Agenda 21 does not need to depend on a nefarious conspiracy in order for it to be true. Even though Agenda 21 is a real thing, and the desire to centralize power in the name of the environment is a real phenomena. Reevely may argue good intentions, but even if we took his premise as true, how does this leave us any better off?

What the Austrian economists have been pointing for over 100 years now is the inherent failures of government planning. It doesn’t matter what the intentions of the leaders are. Without access to the market signals entrepreneurs rely on, government planners are just “groping in the dark.” Now Austrian economics is not ideological. The “school” consists of a series of analytical claims on how people act. The point of economics is to understand the role of exchange, and how individuals, groups and the rules themselves condition to those exchanges.


While Reevely laughs at conspiracy, MP Cheryl Gallant probably laughs at his ignorance. But there is a solution both parties can agree too. No one has any reason to reject Austrian economics, as it is a discipline built on the deductive study of irrefutably true axioms. And by understanding why prices, markets and private property are so important, both Reevely and Gallant can walk away with a better understanding of what makes civilization work. Gallant won’t have to rely on conspiracies alone to make her case; Reevely will understand that if the United Nations are staffed by all-loving angels with no self-interest and only our best interests at heart – they will still destroy the tenets of civilization with their “sustainable growth” plans.


As Menger pointed out, when people exchange goods it is because in doing so, they believe they will be better off afterwards. This is because cost and value are subjective. Values cannot be objectively measured or compared, especially among different people. And only an individual can determine the costs of his or her actions. Only individuals act. Opportunity cost is subjective and – to a certain extent – expected. Prices make this cost objective for others.


Only the prices from voluntary exchange can determine the costs of action. The planet’s resources are scarce; people don’t have all the time in the world. Preference and scarcity reveal themselves through knowledge surrogates: free market prices.


This system only works when private property is sacrosanct. In order for prices to be meaningful signals, they have to be the result of individuals freely exchanging their own property. How else is exchange fathomable? Without private property, what are people trading?


This is particularly true in the means of production, or capital inputs. Without privately-owned means of production, prices for capital goods remain unknown and thus cannot be allocated in any efficient manner. Without prices, there is no indicator as to how scarce the resource is, or whether people prefer it be used in this or that particular line of production. Markets are a form of spontaneous order; Ludwig von Mises called it a consumer’s democracy. People vote with their money. The mechanics of this system are non-existent in government bureaus. Funds come from above, rules and regulations are decided by superiors, there is no risk of loss nor gains to be made in profit. The rules of the capitalist hierarchy, absent government intervention, rests in consumer hands.


Vladimir Lenin ignored this recognition. He believed that economic organization was possible, even easier, once the profit-motive was driven from society. “As self-evident,” he wrote, as “the extraordinarily simple operations of watching, recording, and issuing receipts, within the reach of anybody who can read and write and knows the first four rules of arithmetic.”


The Soviet Union was the worst steward of the environment and had no private property. This is not a coincidence. Without private ownership, there were no incentives to reap the capital value on the market. There was no market. People grew wealthy by political means. It ended in disaster 69 years later.


When the government talks about planning for “sustainable growth” they fail to grasp the lessons of the 20th century. States cannot calculate by mimicking the market. Bureaucrats are not entrepreneurs. Crony-capitalists don’t monopolize their wealth; they sow the seeds of their own bureaucratization. Even with the best of intentions, supplanting free markets for government planning ends in disaster.


But there are no good intentions here. They openly write about de-industrizlation and global depopulation. Conspiracies happen. It’s everyone’s job to distinguish theory from fact but it’s especially your job, David Reevely. Unless the Ottawa Citizen‘s advertisers and consumers would rather be lied to. Then congratulations, you’re part of the problem.

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