Smith and his wife Fran (also a CEI scholar) came by the editorial board Oct. 16 to warn against the Law of the Sea Treaty, predict a "dot-com"-like ethanol collapse, rail against California's energy policies and much much more. A few highlights:
(On a global sea treaty.)
Fred Smith: Big issues right now is Law of the Sea Treaty. I just saw you had a thing down there about the [altered oceans]. It's an interesting treaty, it's got the support of the whole establishment: The Navy, the business community, the administration, the Democrats, the environmentalists. There aren't many people against it. The military, the sort of the, the sort of the right-wing military types, Frank Gaffney and something, have done a very good job of arguing against. Their position is not the same as ours, although we sort of sympathize with it, is that it seems like the Navy has been taking over by the JAG. Judge Advocate Court? Court? Group?
Anyway, as far as I can understand, there are people in the Navy who think they'd be perfectly willing to trade off the Seventh Fleet for a vote of the General Assembly, I mean it just seems crazy to me, but um.
Matt Welch: Back up about a half a second and--
Smith: What is the Law of the Sea Treaty?
Welch: Uh, and just where it's at, and what, what is your interest in it.
Smith: It was 1972 or something negotiated, it was moving forward pretty aggressively when Reagan took over. Everybody told Reagan, "Look, it's stupid but it's gotten this far, we might as well go ahead and sign it." And Reagan said, "No, that's not why we got elected for," and said no. And actually in his diary he explains why: it was just a stupid treaty.
The treaty is big -- it's got 12 or 13 parts of it. The part that people are focused on is part 11, which deals with the Sea-Bed Authority. It creates this essentially socialist enterprise to develop the sea bed, allow private entries to come in; you can go out and explore if you're a private firm. If you find something you think is worthy of exploration, you sort of have to divide your claim into two pieces. You give them both to the Authority -- the socialist enterprise -- it picks the one it wants to develop, and you get to develop the other one. But then if it turns out you don't have the right -- as you're a poor socialist enterprise -- you don't have the right technology, the right institutions, the private firm has to share with you. "Now you've got to play with others, share with your toys."
And then you get taxed for the privilege of doing all that, and etc., and then you've got to jump through every hoop that the United Nations -- well, the global establishment -- can have: the environmental hoops, everything else, human rights. So it's a design to make sure you'll never develop the sea bed, right? That, people are focused on; that's stupid.
The point is there's a sort of a codification of the standard navigation rules. We've got those, everybody agrees those are sensible, we don't need a treaty for those. If we wanted a treaty for that, that would be fine. But they've latched all this-- it's sort of like having, you know, you can marry the pretty sister, but you've got to marry the ugly sister at the same time, you know. It's just stupid to put that in.
The piece that most people haven't focused on -- certainly the business community hasn't focused on it, and it doesn't appear the administration has -- there's a whole bunch about protecting the oceans in there. Protecting the oceans, well, guess what? Everything flows into the oceans. If we're gonna protect the oceans we gotta protect what flows into it. What flows into it comes from rivers; rivers run in nation-states, so the nation-states are under an obligation to ensure that they do nothing that will threaten the oceans. Well suppose they do? Suppose an international group isn't happy with our farming practices or our chemical use practices, or our industrial practices or our anything? Then there's a tribunal that can require, that could be established to sort of ensure that land-based pollution is minimized to threaten the ocean.
And this is, what it's gonna be is a windfall for the global, for the NGOs, the environmental movement; it strengthens them. It strengthens the NGOs' role of being able to stop development anywhere, including the United States. And also it's just an incredible boondoggle to trial lawyers. [...]
The arguments -- I testified to this, in the [congress]; and this was dismissed, this was foolish. Yes, of course the language says that, but it's just ... language; we don't need to worry about it because it doesn't mean anything, it's just you know, uh, dressing, it's just you know sort of language to make people feel good.
Well, in America language that makes people feel good led the Clean Waters Act to be the wetlands protection act, led the Endangered Species Act to be able to stop anything over a bug or a minor plant. Led the Clean Air Act to be a national industrial policy act, and on and on. I mean, our laws have teeth, maybe not in other countries but certainly the United States. And vague amorphous language, the people who we worry about, the regulators, have been very very clever at translating vague language into real biting things.
And it just seems to me that due diligence hasn't been practiced. I don't think any of the senators have looked at this. [Sen. David] Vitter has done a good job of focusing in on this, um, and it's worth noting his language. He said, "Well, what does this mean?" Land protection; prevent land pollution and enforcement mechanisms. The enforcement mechanisms is through a tribunal. Tribunals are, if you and I agree we can pick our negotiators; if we don't, they're picked for us. In the system we'll be working in, are those likely to be pro-U.S.? Not likely. And even if they were pro-U.S., uh, the use of this kind of vague language by the U.S. itself has been very dangerous.
The best example of why I want you to worry about the Law of the Sea Treaty is the vague, amorphous, hoity-toity language that was included in the preamble to the World Trade Organization. They had language in the beginning that says, "Everything in this act shall be in accord with the sustainable development of the earth." More or less. Vague, amorphous language. Who the hell would; what could that possibly mean?
Well, the U.S. gets into a dispute over Asian nations over shrimp. "Those sonofabitches are selling cheap, good shrimp, and putting our shrimp people out of business." Well, that's life, and you can't just go in and ask for protectionism.