Xiuhtezcatl Martinez was the end-of-show guest on last Friday's episode of HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher."
At 17 years old, Martinez is an impressive guy. He's an accomplished public speaker, he already has a book to his name, and he's a plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration's climate change policies.
That said, Martinez has a lot to learn. His "Real Time" appearance proves why his lawsuit is deeply misguided.
First off, Martinez aggressively opposes the democratic will of the people. His lawsuit is not simply about stopping the Trump administration's rolling back of Obama-era policies, but about forcing far more aggressive government action in reducing carbon emissions.
Martinez's preferred policies would be justifiable if approved by voters at the polls, but Trump was elected on a platform that explicitly rejected such an approach. For Martinez to now seek the judicial overthrow of that democratic mandate is authoritarian, arrogant, and dangerous. Where the electorally vested will of the people is subverted to the activism of the few, the people are delegitimated. As a case in point, Martinez told Maher that he is acting because Trump is "not standing up for the people of this country."
Other Americans might have something to say about that assessment.
My second gripe with Martinez takes root in the harm his policies would inflict on hundreds of millions of Americans. This is relevant not simply in and of itself, but in that the central claim of Martinez's lawsuit is in preventing unjustified harm.
Martinez says, "we've worked with top climate scientists to put together a climate recovery plan that is science-based evidence that will shape the way we address climate science in this nation through a massive reduction of greenhouse gases annually."
To account for such ambitions, Martinez's plan would have to rely on a huge shift to green energy supplies and an adoption of de-growth economics.
But as I've documented, such policies would mean significantly reduced economic growth and employment rates, huge new subsidies to green energy companies, and a significant increase in household energy bills. Oh, and the empowerment of Vladimir Putin.
Yet there's another issue that has to be addressed here. Who are the "top climate scientists" Martinez will retain to right America's course? What policies will they propose, and are they socialists or capitalists or something else entirely? Unelected scientists might be scientists, but they are also unelected. To accept Martinez's plan would be to render absolutist czars onto the nation.
Still, Martinez doesn't just want to control our economy, he wants to manage what we eat. Asked by Maher about the methane emissions of livestock, Martinez offered a reply of which Lenin would be proud. "We eat three meals a day," he said, "and every one of those is an opportunity to make a choice for or against our future."
Martinez wants us to reduce our meat consumption so as to reduce the number of animals that produce methane gases. Would his "top scientists" ban the eating of meat or simply tax such consumption? Regardless, to those Americans who might be skeptical about foregoing steak, burgers, pork chops, or chicken, Martinez offers an easy way to learn why "food justice" is so important: "Buy the book".
"The book," of course, is written by Martinez. Perhaps he has some capitalist inclinations after all!
Somewhat tragically, while he regards his own human rights as under threat from carbon emissions, Martinez isn't so concerned about another human right: free speech. At the conclusion of his interview, Maher referenced the anti-free speech movement and asked Martinez whether he would take a "flamethrower to that bullshit."
Martinez equivocated,"We're going to have to be really resilient", he said.
Such subjective attitudes explain why the founders chose democracy rather than a Martinez-style theocracy of courts and "top scientists". They knew that power must be accountable to the people. As it was under Obama, so should it be under Trump and whoever succeeds him.