We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

What will be the next Big Tyranny Excuse for the catastrophiliacs?

Catastrophiliac. I like it. I found this word, which is new to me, in comment number one (“Mailman”) on this at Bishop Hill.

I like it because, as I keep on saying, climate change on its own is not the issue. The issue is catastrophic climate change, of the sort that would-be global tyrants think is a good excuse for global tyranny.

But there is now no getting away from it. The catastrophiliacs are now on the run. Just how completely they are on the run, and just how quickly this fact will become obvious to all, even to most of the catastrophiliacs themselves, are of course matters for much debate, but the direction of argumentative tide is now clear, even to the less dense catastrophiliacs. Regular people and regular politicians more and more now think that C(atastrophic) A(nthropogenic) G(lobal) W(arming) is at best an embarrassment and, in ever more such regular minds, a total crock, a fraud, a hoax. Only the “climate scientists” and their pathetic would-be globally tyrannical fans are still yammering on about it.

It’s not that CAGW and all its related rackets have entirely ceased from doing the world any harm. Far from it. But, to use a commercial analogy, CAGW is now what a business strategist would call a “mature product”, a cash cow, a product whose days are numbered. Attention now needs to switch to the products that might succeed CAGW when CAGW finally runs out of puff.

So, next question, what will be the next Big Tyranny Excuse from the would-be global tyrants for the global tyranny that they yearn for? I believe it will not be anything to do with “the environment”. We anti-global tyranny people have now become just too good at arguing against all that stuff.

No, it will be something totally different, and when they finally arrive at it, it will be quite a surprise.

Meanwhile, the Darwinian process of kite-flying (please excuse the mangling of those metaphors) will now get seriously under way, to identify the next Big Tyranny Excuse. This new BTE will have to be something catastrophic, something that is plausibly arguable as the fault of “capitalism” (which rules out things like asteroid strikes or the sun misbehaving dramatically), something which suggests a plausible, pleasingly tyrannical, and actually doable – but only just doable, provided we all drop everything (especially our guard against tyranny) and act now!!! – correction mechanism, and too intellectually complicated to be obvious nonsense.

They will need to discover or establish a whole new academic anti-discipline to base their nonsense on. But what will that be?

Once upon a time it was theology. Then it was economics, as mangled by Marx and then by Keynes. Just lately it has been “the environment”. (Arguably it never stopped being theology, more loosely defined.) What next? Any offers?

42 comments to What will be the next Big Tyranny Excuse for the catastrophiliacs?

  • Jim

    I reckon its food. As the world population increases, and food production lags behind population growth, the swings of food prices will get bigger and bigger, as stocks fall, and occasional poor harvests have increasing effects on prices. Thus the calls will come for a method of controlling food production, and its equitable distribution around the globe. This could take the form of nationalisation of land, but more likely (given the practical experience of the Soviets in the lack of production of collective farms) a system of global food quotas – effectively limiting the amount of food any one individual can eat. This will be ‘sold’ to the West as a moral issue (starving Africans etc) and as good for them anyway (more stable prices and lowering of obesity and resulting health issues). It will therefore get a fair amount of support from all the usual suspects in the West (BBC/left leaning media/political Left etc). All of which would require a massive amount of control over national governments, and any country that was not 100% self sufficient would have an incentive to be in favour, for fear of losing out if not in the ‘club’. Countries that were net producers of food could be cowed by the fear of losing markets for their produce if excluded from the cartel.

  • Simon Jester


    – The collapse of the EU, or at least the Euro. As ever, the solution proposed to problems caused by “Europe” will be “more Europe” (or an equivalent transnational institution).

    – Drugs. This one may have particular appeal, as it will be supported by authoritarians across the political spectrum, as well as “ordinary, decent people” who oppose other people getting high on substances that they, themselves, don’t.

    – Terrorism. Less likely, as there has already been plenty of legislation passed on the subject; this, like CACC/GW, seems to be a “mature product”.

    – Meteor/comet impact. This seems a bit off-the-wall, given the low probability of such impacts, but it is one area where there is a genuine (if low) risk of a truly global catastrophe (see: dinosaurs). Even though ruled out in the original post (as not the fault of capitalism), it could be argued that a single, collective effort (similar to WW2) would be required to build the infrastructure to detect and neutralize such threats. And (as with WW2) collectivisation would be “required” to make the most “efficient” use of resources, to meet those objectives.

  • bloke in spain

    Already been going for a while, hasn’t it. Capitalism, markets, freedom of choice……

  • Tedd

    So far I think Jim has the plausible theory. Food meets all the criteria for catastrophilia and has another “advantage”: policies put in place to deal with the present CAGW scare will help produce the conditions that create the food scare.

    I wonder if catastrophilia is just misdirected hubris — that our desire to think of our particular moment in history as special causes some to catastrophize. That would explain why catastrophilia is so popular in the places were life is most comfortable.

  • Frank S

    The CAGW fiasco will surely have increased the number of people who will now automatically challenge and doubt the next BTE. We have had quite a few of them in the last 50 years, so surely our collective wisdom about the phenomenon has increased. Some have leant on computer models (Limits to Growth, CJD & Foot&Mouth, Climate) to good effect, and so perhaps will the next BTE. There are many advantages in having the key ‘insights for alarm’ pop out of a computer, not least that poorly-informed people are inclined to take them very seriously indeed. I like the food one suggested earlier. Water might be another. Air a third – it is remarkable how much air molecules mix around the world over the years, so that we all breathe in some once used by Caesar for example. A computer model could surely be set-up to scare the living daylights out of us about some industrial pollutant that will wreck our DNA perhaps?

  • AKM

    I thought they’d already lined up acidification of the oceans as the next scare, or am I falling behind?

  • MakajazMonkee

    haha Peak CAGW

    Surely the next product would be “paper money collapse”. Which is what they’ve always been saying since Marx.

  • andyinsdca

    Water. Because control of water would grant control of damn near everything. Food production. Production of meat takes too much water (watering the feed corn and water for the herd, nevermind the pollutants from it), so severely limit meat production. Makes the enviro-weenies happy, the animal rights people happy and the vegetarian-by-force crowd happy (but they’re one in the same, aren’t they?) Steel production. ANd so on.
    It allows a great deal of “democratization” of resources (i.e. giving lots of $ to the poor unfortunates who don’t have clean water)

  • lucklucky

    “As the world population increases, and food production lags behind population growth”

    Nonsense. In Europe the Agriculture Policy is to stiflle production to maintain prices. Africa if it gets continuous peace and some stability can be one of most productive parts of the world in agriculture.

  • RainerK

    Something involving “greed” and “capitalism”. Tailor made for sweeping government control of the economy. The stories of rehypothecation are a good case in point. When the manure starts flying it will be all caused by greed and rampant, unchecked capitalism, not ever caused by government policies; qed.

  • Snorri Godhi

    The next BTE is already here, especially in the UK, but libertarians* are some of the least likely to recognize it: it is the fear of “fascism”.
    You can call it “anti”-fascism (Churchill was prescient in this), multi-culturalism, or more specifically anti-anti-Islamism or anti-“Islamophobia”.

    * though not the author of this post, I believe

  • Dale Amon

    There may well be more money globally put into asteroid defense, but the amounts required is just not big enough or open ended enough. To make it even worse from the viewpoint of the tyrannophilics, a large effort for asteroid defense will simply catapult the already rapidly growing private and individualist sectors into deep space.

    Perhaps they would fail to see that possibility, in which case they would toss the milkweed pod into the heavens and unknowingly kick start thousands of years of uncontrolled frontier expansion a couple decades faster than it would otherwise have happened.

  • nemesis

    I think the frequently cited Club of Rome quote has it covered: “In searching for a new enemy to unite us, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like would fit the bill….All these dangers are caused by human intervention….and thus the “real enemy, then, is humanity itself….believe humanity requires a common motivation, namely a common adversary in order to realize world government. It does not matter if this common enemy is “a real one or….one invented for the purpose.”

  • Alisa

    Thanks, nemesis, to you and to Google.

  • The emerging cause on the left internationally seems to be support for anti-blasphemy laws. Defined, of course, as “tolerance”—but working out to a demand for global surrender to Islam.

  • Genetically modified food. Paranoia over its effects on the human genome. The Mutant Menace!

    The tyranny would be needed to root out the impurities, and those who push them.

  • Sustainability.

    It has already started. It was the super-, mid- and sub-text at Rio.

    It has the advantage of wrapping up Jim’s points in the first posting, all the economic control any socialist could ever wet themselves over and incorporates every environmental scare of the past 200 years.

    What’s not to like?

  • Mary


    You’ll be surprised, because with the glut of tyrannical anti-terror laws in recent years, you think this has been “done”. It hasn’t.

    However nasty the Middle East looks now, it could blow up much much worse yet. Apart from anything else, they’re poor, technologically backward, and introverted. Most of them spend their best efforts fighting each other. Those that attack the West are, frankly, a sick joke, and it’s only our low tolerance for any losses that causes us to overreact to the pathetic attacks we’ve seen as we do (only 9/11 was even remotely credible by the historical standards of war, and there was no follow-up. Madrid and 7/7, however horrible in their own right, are by the standards of warfare minor skirmishes, and their real impact was self-inflicted. Thinks like the Mayfair nightclub bombing attempt were, frankly, embarrassing to any would-be meglomaniac).

    But serious regime change in the Middle East is in progress, and highly theological regimes stand a good chance of replacing the merely secural tyrants of the last fifty years.

    So if the Middle East does blow up properly, and become a real military conflict with significant military impact on the West, what then? I don’t know. But if current progress is anything to go by, all pretence of freedom of speech will be thrown out in the name of “appeasement” respect, while “show me ze papers” will become the normal relationship of British people with police officers, and God help you if you have an Asian appearance.

  • CaptDMO

    There’s waaayy too much of it in the US.
    It’s cheap (relatively)
    It runs actual heavy manufacturing (jobs)
    It’s an INSTANT “shovel ready” (no-literally!) source of jobs in itself.
    It would INSTANTLY supplant “natural” resource bankruptcy “investment”.
    Even unskilled, unemployed, “occupy welfare” folk
    (even with sudden “bad back” reefer scrips) can do it.
    It would render moot claims about racisssss profiling, by ” it’s because I’m black… “.

  • thefrollickingmole

    As was posted above, water..

    The crisis is easily generated by refusing (on green grounds) to build any new storage.

    Allready happening in Australia, dams are “bad” and water restrictions/deserts for back yards are good.

  • Alisa

    It sounds like what Brian has in mind are natural catastrophes, so Islamism aside, the correct answer is: all of the above. Water, air, food and energy are all naturally interconnected anyway, and the scaremongering related to any of them separately never really went away. The useful idiots each pick the one they personally find more appealing, and those who actually use those idiots (see my link above) just keep throwing all of this at the rest of us, until this or that scare du jour sticks.

  • Snorri Godhi

    No, Alisa, re-read Brian’s 5th paragraph.

    Also, the real danger is not Islamism, at least in the near future. The danger is anti-anti-Islamism. The distinction is important.

  • Snorri Godhi

    PS: on second thought, “anti” fascism is significantly broader than anti-anti-Islamism. Nowadays, every opponent of the ruling class is labeled “far-right” unless explicitly far-Left. EG any opponent of eurozone bailouts.
    As the joke goes, in the near future everybody will be Hitler for 15 minutes.

  • Alisa

    Snorri: I counted to five, and you are indeed correct:-)

    My bet then will be on something that will have to do with the collapse of all of the major global currencies and with the consequent proliferation of alternative ones – be they gold, or bitcoin, or anything else people will find useful on a large enough scale to protect themselves from hyperinflation. The use and *global transfers* of such alternative currencies can easily be tied with all kinds of good old bogiemen, such as terrorism and drug trafficking.

    That does not conform though to Brian’s qualification of the scare being scientifically and academically based. As far as I can see, only the environment-related issues mentioned above can qualify in that regard – unless they are arrogant enough to go for extraterrestrial stuff…Oh, and there’s also the trade in human organs. Other than that, whatever new technology energes to either improve or prolong human life, it is potentially very dangerous and must be controlled. If not entirely eliminated.

  • hennesli

    “Islamofascism will cause a catastrophe in the 21st century that will dwarf anything in the 20th” – David Horowitz

  • hennesli

    Do you have a source for that, and a link to where Horowitz expands on and justifies that? I googled those exact words, and got nothing.

  • Kentuckyliz

    The 12th Caliphate.

  • hennesli

    Its from an interview with Julian Assange, around 10 and a half minutes in.


  • hennesli

    its from an interview with Julian Assange, around ten and a half minutes in:


  • I agree with Counting Cats re sustainability. Climate change, overpopulation, deforestation, ocean acidification and biodiversity loss will still get a mention, but these will be secondary. I think we can expect to hear ever more about overconsumption, stewardship, ecological overshoot, resource wars, Earth’s carrying capacity, affluenza, planetary boundaries, loss of ecosystem services and a host of similar buzzwords and buzz-phrases which come under the sustainability heading. On this subject, the name Stephen Emmott might become very familiar to the UK public in coming months and years; his neo-Malthusian stage play “Ten Billion”, about overpopulation and unsustainability, was apparently a hit, and may well be adapted for TV soon.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Another post-scriptum, sorry about this.
    Speculation is all well and good, but ultimately we should heed the Merlin principle:
    Danger always hides where you do not expect it.


    I’d think that Hayek and Nassim Taleb would agree.
    We cannot have Hayek’s opinion; but if Taleb reads this comment, perhaps he can give us his opinion.

  • Stephen Fox

    The imminent ice age.
    You never know. They can’t always be wrong.
    Can they?

  • Saxon

    Financial problems – bailouts, paper currency debasing, CDS and other even more complex financial instruments that are too difficult to understand – will result in major governments “collaborating to fix the problems created by ‘free-markets’ and ‘unfettered capitalism’ to bring fairness and social justice to all”.

    It will be more difficult to oppose the regulations and indirect taxes since the majority will not comprehend the impact, and/or will be baying for blood of the rich/corrupt.

  • virgil xenophon

    Those here (CountingCats, et al) who vote for “sustainability” i.e., Agenda 21 are on the right track. It is a concept already being pushed/advanced in every local zoning//city planning document in every burg in America large and small. And it is a concept that is intrinsically “scalable”–it really covers the waterfront, as they say. and as Alicsa, above points out.. And it also fits the centralization/”Regional Planning” zeitgeist of our time. As a Federal Judge from the 6th Dist once bemoaned on PBS during a conference on judicial administration: “Unfortunately these days there is not the smallest side-walk zoning dispute in the smallest township in the land that cannot be gotten into federal court if the lawyers involved are both energetic and creative enough.”

  • virgil xenophon

    PS: I should add that the “sue and settle” tactics used by outfits like the EPA wherein leftist statist bureaucrats in the agency surreptitiously encourage like-minded NGOs to sue the agency and then fold like a tent and settle under court order such that any decision-making is taken out the hands of the people’s elected representatives in the legislature and put in the hands of unelected bureaucrats and judges goes hand-in-hand with the trends discussed here. Unless and until such tactics are stopped, ANY castatrophiliac movement will be hard to be brought to heal

  • Ben

    Like bootleggers and Baptists, the pirates and tyrants are allied with sufferers of the Holden Caulfield Syndrome.

    Like him they want to be the catcher in the rye, saving the innocent, foolish, playing children from the cliff’s edge.

    There are many people who would like nothing better than for the world to be in imminent danger of a kind only they can prevent.

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    New York is having serious laws passed on all kinds of food issues, by an over-zealous Mayor. Creeping health naziism will work its’ way into all societies. It will all be for our own good, of course! Like all those smoking bans. Something like Prohibition, on every food!

  • Surellin

    Sorry, I read that word as “castratophiliacs” and wondered whether I was on the right website.

  • LJHills

    As the free exchange of information exposes scams and riles both the religious and smug (probable tautology there), I fear the next panic will justify tampering by the state with the internet and its technologies. I am presently reading Heather Brooke’s “The Revolution will be Digitised” and am at that part describing how purchasers of an ebook version of, appropriately, George Orwell could no longer read because of copyright issues. Those who wish to control our minds may decide that physical magazines, newspapers and books should go the way of the incandescant light bulb, leaving them free to manipulate our reading, making disappear, as contemporary publishers of say Mark Twain, anything deemed harmful. They’re just casting about for reasons and I am sure some lefty will provide a reason for ” our own good” and create a panic to justify it.

  • Eddie Willers

    I’ll go with Alex and say that the next BTE will be the whole ‘sustainability’ circus. It’s big, complex, interconnected, trans-national, trans-governmental and has no single point of completion. It combines neo-Malthusianism (long overdue for a revival) with all aspects of the Green agenda.

    Water shortages, as a single issue, are easily addressed by nuclear-powered desalination. Crop yields, as a single issue, could be increased by a new Norman Borlaug, combining GMO with existing hybridization knowledge.

  • Robert

    From Clive James’s Telegraph TV column, September 29:

    Crappily entitled “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”, a Horizon special about asteroids turned up on BBC Four. There was an awful lot of “could be”: a useful pair of words when you have a speculation to peddle. The asteroids could be full of water. Some of them could be destined to slap into the Earth. This last bit caught my attention. I took it personally. At my age I might not be around much longer, but I’m rather keen on the idea that my granddaughter should inherit a functioning environment. Yet the man doing the voice-over doesn’t seem to care how frightening he sounds when he says that quite a lot of asteroids could be ripe to smash into us. “Scientists estimate that there could be up to a million…” My own guess is that the man-made global warming scare is now running out of puff, and that even the BBC, hitherto one of its chief advocates, could be looking for alternative threats.