The Butcher, Brewer, Baker, and (Oil) Baron

The Butcher, Brewer, Baker, and (Oil) Baron

Starting yesterday and running for the next two weeks, the COP28 conference on global climate change is being hosted this year by the Emirate of Dubai.  And though we never thought we’d type these words or anything similar, this United Nations-sponsored forum is already the source of the feel-good story of the month, if not the year.  More words we never thought we’d type: this feel-good story was broken by the intrepid journalists at the BBC:

The United Arab Emirates planned to use its role as the host of UN climate talks as an opportunity to strike oil and gas deals, the BBC has learned.

Leaked briefing documents reveal plans to discuss fossil fuel deals with 15 nations.

The UN body responsible for the COP28 summit told the BBC hosts were expected to act without bias or self-interest.

The UAE team did not deny using COP28 meetings for business talks, and said “private meetings are private”….

The documents – obtained by independent journalists at the Centre for Climate Reporting working alongside the BBC – were prepared by the UAE’s COP28 team for meetings with at least 27 foreign governments ahead of the COP28 summit, which starts on 30 November.

They included proposed “talking points”, such as one for China which says Adnoc, the UAE’s state oil company, is “willing to jointly evaluate international LNG [liquefied natural gas] opportunities” in Mozambique, Canada and Australia.

The documents suggest telling a Colombian minister that Adnoc “stands ready” to support Colombia to develop its fossil fuel resources.

There are talking points for 13 other countries, including Germany and Egypt, which suggest telling them Adnoc wants to work with their governments to develop fossil fuel projects.

Now, some people may call this cynical or craven.  Indeed, “Prof Michael Jacobs of Sheffield University, who is an expert on UN climate politics, told the BBC the COP28 team’s actions looked ‘breathtakingly hypocritical’”.  We disagree.  When we first read the story, we tweeted/x’ded in response that “this restores our faith in humanity.”  And we weren’t joking.

The most accurate description of what the United Arab Emirs have done here isn’t “cynical” or “hypocritical.”  It’s “self-interested” or, perhaps, animated by “self-love,” as in:

It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest. We address ourselves not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities, but of their advantages.

In our eventually-to-be-published follow-up to The Dictatorship of Woke Capital, we argue that these sentences – likely the two most famous Adam Smith ever wrote – are his restatement of Spinoza’s Conatus Principle: “Each thing, as far as it can by its own power, strives to persevere in being….”  But it is more than that as well.  It is more than just the mere acknowledgment that man seeks his self-interest first and foremost.  It is also a description of how man comes to recognize his and others’ self-interest through studied communication, a fundamental building block of successful commercial transactions.  Smith put it more explicitly in his Lectures on Jurisprudence:

If we should enquire into the principle in the human mind on which this disposition of trucking is founded, it is clearly the natural inclination every one has to persuade.  The offering of a shilling, which to us appears to have so plain and simple a meaning, is in reality offering an argument to persuade one to do so and so as it is for his interest.  Men always endeavor to persuade others to be of their opinion even when the matter is of no consequence to them.  If one advances any thing concerning China or the more distant moon which contradicts what you imagine to be true, you immediately try to persuade him to alter his opinion.  And in this manner every one is practicing oratory on others thro the whole of his life… In this manner they acquire a certain dexterity and adress in managing their affairs, or in other words in the managing of men… This being the constant employment or trade of every man, in the same manner as the artizans invent simple methods of doing their work, so will each one here endeavor to do this work in the simplest manner. This is bartering, by which they adress themselves to the self interest of the person and seldom fail immediately to gain their end.

In this case, the Emirs communicated with the Climate Change Elites, listened to their needs and wants, and convinced them that hosting their annual paean to deindustrialization in the middle of the richest deposits of fossil fuels in the world would be in everyone’s self-interest.  For example, the Emirs agreed to contribute $100 million to the UN’s “loss and damage fund” – the means by which the Climate Cult intends to bribe the leaders of developing countries, where people suffer and starve due to lack of energy, to keep their countries and people deprived of energy.  In return, they get to host all of the world’s energy ministers and secretaries together in one spot for two weeks, enabling them to sell their energy supplies and other wares.  A win-win, precisely as Smith would have expected.

The folks who organize and run the annual COP meetings and the rest of the climate change agenda are, contrary to popular opinion, NOT stupid.  They know how the commercial economy works and how to get what they want.  That’s why they’re billionaires or centi-millionaires who fly around to these gatherings in private planes, all the while telling us that we will “eat the bugs” and like it!

What they are is arrogant.  Their self-interest is inflated, rather than “enlightened” or “rightly understood” (to borrow a phrase from Tocqueville).  They think that we’re stupid and that we don’t understand what they do, which is why they insist on trying to convince us, in the face of economic and political reality, that our interests are not what we think they are.

It’s not going to work, of course.  That’s not the nature of man.  Although the BBC presents the story of the Emirs’ machinations as a scandal, we’d guess that most people think it’s pretty funny.  Of course, they’re trying to sell oil and gas at the UN’s climate change conference.  Why wouldn’t they?  We may not expect our dinner from them and their self-interest, but we do expect the means by which to cook it.  And yes, we’ll be having meat from the butcher, much to Michael Bloomberg’s dismay.

Stephen Soukup
Stephen Soukup
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Steve Soukup is the Vice President and Publisher of The Political Forum, an “independent research provider” that delivers research and consulting services to the institutional investment community, with an emphasis on economic, social, political, and geopolitical events that are likely to have an impact on the financial markets in the United States and abroad.