In his weekly “New Rules” comedy segment, leftist comedian Bill Maher took on President Obama. The crime? Failing to live up to Maher’s fantasies. The occasion for Maher’s grumble was nothing of substance (as usual, Maher’s rant was reprinted at the “progressive” blog Huffington Post):
New Rule: President Obama must give up that awful habit that sets such a bad example for young people. I’m talking, of course … about golf.
Golf, if you’re not familiar, is a pastime where you basically walk outdoors with a bag, muttering and cursing. It’s like being homeless in loud pants. Anyway, Time magazine is reporting that since he became president, Barack Obama has taken up golf with a passion, playing almost every weekend for the past few months — and I feel betrayed. He campaigned as a basketball player. It said to us, “I’m urban and athletic and hip and a team player.” Golf says, “I like Lipitor and white collar crime.” And it’s not just golf — he’s been purposefully eating a lot of hamburgers in public lately, to prove he loves meat. And he said that, unlike before he became president, he prays all the time now and that his Faith and Neighbor Initiatives Director sends him scripture on his Blackberry to start every day. Jesus, is there something about that house that turns people into a-holes?
Golf? Hamburgers? These are Maher’s principle gripes?
As he shifted gears from comedy to political pontificating he made clear why these are such serious infractions:
There is also a more serious side to this, because golf, hamburgers, and religion are all things that are incredibly bad for the environment. According to the U.N., in 15 years almost two billion people will be living in conditions of absolute water scarcity. And yet, a golf course in Palm Springs consumes as much water per day as an American family uses in four years. Golf courses in America consume over 114 million gallons of water a year on grass that doesn’t even get you high. Golf courses also need large quantities of fertilizers and pesticides whose run-off pollutes the ground water for miles around.
This isn’t just a third world problem — there’s a water shortage right now in the western United States. If I surpass my monthly water allotment here in Los Angeles, I’ll get fined by the city. If I do it twice, they’ll send 40,000 prisoners to live in my backyard.
But when it comes to bad for the environment, nothing — literally — compares with eating meat. The business of raising animals for food causes about 40 percent more global warming than all cars, trucks, and planes combined. If you care about the planet, it’s actually better to eat a salad in a Hummer than a cheeseburger in a Prius
So Obama should not golf or eat meat because both are bad for the environment. And instead he should set an example:
There was a news story last week about the U.S. military warning America that the ripple effects from global warming inspired disasters could kill millions of people, but none of them can moonwalk, so nobody gave a s—. But if this “planet” problem is so dire the military is saying they’re going to have to start dealing with it, maybe the president should set a better example about how we just can’t live exactly as we always have and survive. I’m certainly not suggesting that we “take away” your golf or your hamburgers, but when it comes to being a role model on the environment, this president is out to lunch. With Joe Biden, eating greaseburgers.
Which is a shame, because he and his wife have demonstrated enormous power to lead by example.
[Emphasis added to highlight the key sentence here.]
Maher’s right about a few things here. Golf and meat are bad for the environment, in pretty much the ways he describes. (Though I don’t put it past him to exaggerate a bit. It’s not like he’s really citing his sources here.) He’s also right that these problems cannot be corrected by government stepping in and forcing people not to eat meat or play golf.
Where he’s wrong is in his answer to the problem. Is Obama acting as a “good example” really going to inspire people to give up things like golf and cheeseburgers — things that give them so much joy? Of course not. The suggestion is juvenile and absurd.
There is an answer to these problems, though Maher isn’t going to want to hear it: capitalism. How do you get people to stop using products (as in golf courses and meat) that harm the environment? Answer: create better products that harm the environment less.
These two problems are not really “problems” when considered through the lens of the entrepreneur. They’re opportunities. What product or service can be created that will allow golf courses to spend less money watering their lawns? Or is there a way to create a great golf course that doesn’t need to be watered at all?
Meat allows for the same opportunity. Our current system of corporate factory farming does produce more pollution and less healthy meat in the name of churning out a cheap product.Â Now is the perfect opportunity for more local farmers to step up and produce better quality meat while damaging the environment less.
What Maher doesn’t see is that capitalism isn’t the problem. It’s the solution that’s always been staring us in the face.