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Reblogged:Shellenberger Profiled at Common Sense

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At Bari Weiss's Common Sense Substack blog is a good profile of best-selling author and California gubernatorial candidate Michael Shellenberger, whose Apocalypse Never I enjoyed and highly recommend. Its title is "Can a Red-Pilled Tree-Hugger Save California?"

I think the piece does a very good job of describing the promise and limits of the Shellenberger candidacy, and why he could win in California:
Image by Michael Shellenberger, via Wikimedia Commons, license.
That became clear during his days as an environmental activist. He'd spent years fighting for renewable energy, but there were limits to what renewables could do, and, starting in the mid-aughts, he started to rethink the conventional wisdom on nuclear-power plants. Most environmentalists hated them. He didn't get it. Nuclear was an abundant and sustainable energy source, and there were new technologies that made it safer, reduced radioactive waste, and enabled growth. Wasn't that good? The environmentalists didn't think so. They accused him of being a traitor. "It was always the usual Judas sellout caricature," Shellenberger said.

He had the same experience with homelessness, although Shellenberger pointed out that, "by the time I got to 'San Fransicko,' I knew there was a double-game being played." In other words, he knew there was a chasm between what progressive activists said they wanted and what they actually wanted. They claimed to want to end homelessness, just as the environmentalists had claimed to want to combat climate change. But that wasn't true. Really, they wanted the fight, the feeling of moral superiority and, of course, the cash for their NGOs.

In both cases, he'd started from a progressive place -- the environment is precious; so are human beings sleeping in tents -- and wound up somewhere else. It was not exactly conservative, but it had a conservative hue to it. ("There needs to be some renewal of faith in civilization, in liberal democracy, in, for lack of a better word, in capitalism," Shellenberger said in the car.)

He called his worldview "physicalist," as in: How does this transform the physical, or lived, environment, in the center of San Francisco or the Central Valley or the Mojave or wherever? Another way of describing it is commonsensical. He wanted to fund the police to clean up bad neighborhoods, and he wanted to incentivize development, and he wanted a "tax peace." In a text, he explained: "No increase or decrease until we end homelessness crisis, achieve school choice, and energy/water/housing abundance." [bold added]
The bad and the good of Shellenberger is that he has a far-left background -- He was even a Chomskyite at one point! -- but he is far from suffering from the doctrinnaire, intellectually insular, and near-religious intellectual mode so common among today's Democrats. He is willing to question whether a policy achieves what it is supposed to and, if it doesn't, he will consider alternatives, even including (gasp!) capitalism. That said, he is far from being a capitalist: For example, we need police to protect individual rights, not to "incentivize" development (although they do: rule of law does encourage prosperity).

I don't see perfection here, but I do see two things as close to good as we will get in California any time soon: (1) A man who can address that electorate on its own terms, and (2) a man who is both reasonable and humanist. I think Shellenberger genuinely wants the people in his state to prosper, and is open to questioning (and ditching) the conventional wisdom there in order to help that happen.

That is a rare combination in a politician these days, and it makes any such candidate worthy of consideration. I would consider voting for Shellenberger in most contests today. Against Gavin Newsom, the choice is a no-brainer.

-- CAV

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