Sumptuary laws (from Latin sumtuariae leges) were laws that regulated and reinforced social hierarchies and morals through restrictions on clothing, food, and luxury expenditures. They were an easy way to identify social rank and privilege, and were usually used for social discrimination. This frequently meant preventing commoners from imitating the appearance of aristocrats, and sometimes also to stigmatize disfavored groups. In the Late Middle Ages sumptuary laws were instated as a way for the nobility to cap the conspicuous consumption of the up-and-coming bourgeoisie of medieval cities.How does it compare to now?
Note that the people who are at the forefront of the environmental movement, men like Al Gore and the Hollywood glitterati who gave him a standing ovation for this environmental stands were not even momentarily inconvenienced by the rules they have tried to have the rest of the planet adopt. The arrived by private plane and stretch limousine, to over-lighted and air-conditioned auditoriums, to see and be seen by millions of Americans via carbon destroying video systems without even a thought to the impact of their wretched excess on the planet.Well, it might be a little hyperbolic, but the point is made.
But hypocrisy is really not the danger here. We are all hypocrites, each of us pretending to be better than we are. The danger is that the use of “carbon offsets” will create two things that are morally monstrous: a de-facto sumptuary law and the impoverishments of the poor and powerless of this planet.
The creation of an aristocratic elite that differentiates itself from the hoi polloi by its ability to buy “carbon offsets” while the rest of the planet is forced by environmental laws into a smaller and smaller carbon straightjacket is not so far fetched.
History is replete with movement leaders who don't practice what they preach. In this, Al Gore is not unique. He sort of reminds me of those fallen preachers of the '80s and '90's. Lots of bluster and self-righteousness and a whole lot of money rolling in. And what happened when they were "exposed" as hypocrites? Well, some fell, but some issued their mea culpa and came back, if not as strong as before. This isn't happening with the Reverend Al Gore, he hasn't really "fallen." Instead, he's just chosen to legitimize instead of apologize. And, at least for his brethren, that's enough.