You're to Blame for Everything

It is interesting how wealthy liberals are continually blaming the American middle class for global warming, terrorism, and pretty much all of the world’s problems. Simply put, it is all your fault.

What's Your Consumption Factor?

People in the third world are aware of this difference in per capita consumption, although most of them couldn’t specify that it’s by a factor of 32. When they believe their chances of catching up to be hopeless, they sometimes get frustrated and angry, and some become terrorists, or tolerate or support terrorists. Since Sept. 11, 2001, it has become clear that the oceans that once protected the United States no longer do so. There will be more terrorist attacks against us and Europe, and perhaps against Japan and Australia, as long as that factorial difference of 32 in consumption rates persists.

And if the guilt and emotional blackmail over melting glaciers and shrinking polar bear genitalia wasn’t enough, now the fact that all of the world does not share our lifestyle (or conversely, we are not as poverty stricken as they are) is cause for serious self-examination and self-blame. I don’t think I can bear it. After staggering for years under the ‘white man’s burden’ for 2,000 years of colonization and exploitation of those of a darker hue, now I must shoulder the burden for causing Islamic terrorism and the devastating changes to our planet that will quickly lead to the extinction of the human race.

All because my children have clean water to drink and live in a heated home while their father drives a vehicle to work and buys his socks, toothpaste and corn flakes at a big box store. Even worse is the fact that their mother washes their clothes in a machine instead of scrubbing them clean on the rocks in the river and has the audacity to make them pop tarts once in awhile.

For that, we are to blame for the impoverishment of Kenyans, the envy of those less fortunate, the actions of fanatical suicide bombers and the waste and consumption of the world’s resources by those seeking to attain the lifestyle of the average American.

Yet such hand wringing and finger pointing essays never mention the percentage of the world’s wealth, innovation, food, and scientific and medical advances that should be rightly credited to those greedy consumers of natural resources and unfair users of electricity and air conditioning. If it wasn’t for the technological and medical breakthroughs originating in the West, there would be far fewer than 30 million Kenyans. Consumption is directly related to productivity. Those who don’t produce, don’t consume.

The ’solutions’ offered to solve this grave problem of Western over-consumption is always little more than authoritarian socialism and forced reallocation of wealth. It may be disguised as higher fuel taxes, carbon taxes, luxury or consumption taxes or be little more than manipulation of regulations to control or inhibit industry, refineries, manufacturing and drilling under the guise of environmentalism but the goal to sharply reduce the lifestyle of the average American (and Westerner) has been laid out in clear and unapologetic terms. It used to be that the goal was to raise the lifestyle and condition of the impoverished and disadvantaged. The wealthy West as spent countless billions in an attempt to improve the condition of other peoples, with very little gratitude to show for it. And now the focus has shifted away from helping those unfortunates have access to clean water, rudimentary medical care, or not be butchered or starved for political purposes, but towards attacking those in the West for daring to have a computer to blog with while corrupt governments continue to allow their citizens to dwell in dirty, crime ridden shantytowns.

So, with my eyes newly opened to the plight of those other dwellers of planet earth, I decided to take stock of what I now feel guilty for having or providing for myself, my wife, and my three young daughters. This is by no means an exhaustive list.

-Electricity for lighting my home and powering appliances (my Christmas lights were definitely unnecessary).
-Running water
-Refrigerator and deep freeze for preserving food for later use.
-Washer and dryer
-DVD players
-Stereo.
-A couple of computers.
-TV’s
-Toaster
-Dishwasher
-Stove
-Microwave
-Hot water heater
-Two cars. (My work requires one as a condition of employment, so that might be excusable).
-Store bought clothes made from synthetic fibers, undoubtedly manufactured by oppressed peoples in Sri Lanka, Mexico or China.
-And I won’t even begin to detail the unnecessary trips for a big gulp, a burger and fries or those wasteful stops at the dollar store.

My wife and I have worked very hard to achieve a semblance of a middle class lifestyle and to provide a decent and comfortable standard of living, education and medical attention for ourselves and our children. I refuse to feel guilty for managing to owning a toaster or for watching a football game once in awhile. Yet that is what we are, in effect, told to feel.

There are far greater solutions for helping to alleviate the all too true sufferings of far too great a number of the world’s population. For starters, the formation of governments that are not unbelievably corrupt, inefficient, brutal, exploitative and backwards would be a start. The reevaluation of foreign aid (by the evil West), who it is distributed to, and what it is used to purchase should be completely overhauled. Innovation will go a long ways in bringing in everything from tourist dollars to foreign investment. Responsible stewardship of funds, natural resources and the elimination of corruption would do far more to improve the lot of the 3rd world than any policies fueled by guilt or jealousy of the lifestyle and modern technological advances we have managed to achieve in the First world.

Only the village idiots truly believe that if an American threw away his television it would help a Kenyan, or that not buying some DVDs would help ease the apparent insatiable envy of the Chinese. If you really want to take a brave step towards reducing waste and eliminating something completely useless in the West, I humbly suggest you start by eliminating the New York Times and cut off Jared Diamond’s access to his computer. That would be a great start.

Posted by David M. Huntwork at January 4, 2008 5:30 AM
Comments
Comment #242125

Did you actually read the article you link to? It doesn’t blame the West for a damned thing, it says that in order for the world to meet growing demand for resources, all nations are going to have to converge on a single consumption rate significantly below our present one. It then goes on to say that such a reduction in our consumption rate need not come with a reduction in the standard of living, but rather from a more efficient use of resources, such as gas and fisheries and forests. So nobody is being asked to give up anything, save destructive and unsustainable practices with regard to the natural resources of the world.

As for your assertion that consumption is directly related to productivity, and that those who don’t produce don’t consume, I think any fisherman could dispute that statement. Who “produced” the fish he catches and consumes? Who “produced” the oil we drill for, the coal and metals we mine, the trees we cut down? You don’t need to produce a thing in order to consume. Isn’t that the core of the argument your side has been trying to make against socialism for years, that it would redistribute wealth away from the rich “producers” to people who would just consume it without giving anything back? The stereotypical welfare queen, for instance?

Posted by: Jarandhel at January 4, 2008 12:33 AM
Comment #242126

The question, Jarandhel, is did you actually read the article in question? It explicitly blames the ‘overconsumption’ of the West for terrorism and their supporters. I used that for a starting point to expound upon the growing and misguided philosphy of ‘blame America first’ that is so prevalent in certain political and ideological circles.

Posted by: David M. Huntwork at January 4, 2008 12:50 AM
Comment #242127

David,
I have to ask the same question: Did you read the op-ed by Jared Diamond?

“… We shall soon have lower consumption rates, because our present rates are unsustainable.

Real sacrifice wouldn’t be required, however, because living standards are not tightly coupled to consumption rates. Much American consumption is wasteful and contributes little or nothing to quality of life. For example, per capita oil consumption in Western Europe is about half of ours, yet Western Europe’s standard of living is higher by any reasonable criterion, including life expectancy, health, infant mortality, access to medical care, financial security after retirement, vacation time, quality of public schools and support for the arts.”

You propose a solution, advocating “the formation of governments that are not unbelievably corrupt, inefficient, brutal, exploitative and backwards…” And I’m with you on this. Let’s start by impeaching Bush and Cheney.

Posted by: phx8 at January 4, 2008 12:55 AM
Comment #242130

typical
instead of acknowledging the issue — just complain about the messenger bringing the bad tidings.

You want the benefits without the responsibilities that go with it?? tough luck dude.

Realities — a small percentage of the earth’s population is consuming a large part of the resources — it was inevitable to anyone with a brain that if the whole world tried to share our lifestyle — in the manner that we have it now, that it was unsupportable.
and anyone who has been to Europe has to question how many of those families do it
Prices are higher
Wages appear to be lower
yet their standard of living is often better
It seems there is a trick that would be useful for us to learn, rather than moaning about hearing the bad news caused by our inefficient consumption.
You individually cannot shoulder the burden, but we as a group need to.
All of us were born into this system, and like you said, did our best to succeed within this system — however, now that we know what we know, we can no longer claim ignorance to the damage being caused by the system.
So you can either pout, and hold your lifestyle close to your chest and scream “it’s mine and you can’t have it” — or you can acknowledge reality and look for ways to fix the problem.


Posted by: russ at January 4, 2008 1:22 AM
Comment #242131

look beyond the pretty scenario you present— seems innocent — I go into any big box store and look at all the useless crap that is produced and we buy (and end up putting in the landfill)
Yea — you buy socks and toothpaste, but what about all the useless gee-gaw that clutters the home for a short while before being tossed and replaced with new useless gee-gaw (a singing plastic Bass?? really??)

Posted by: Russ at January 4, 2008 1:26 AM
Comment #242133

Yes, I read the professor’s article (obviously) but I just don’t blindly swallow his conclusions and assertions. I simply suggest you don’t as well. Quoting him back to me and then asking me if I read it (meaning: don’t you buy his stereotyped, oversimplified and unsupported statements because I sure do) is ridiculous.

Posted by: David M. Huntwork at January 4, 2008 1:41 AM
Comment #242137

David:

The question, Jarandhel, is did you actually read the article in question? It explicitly blames the ‘overconsumption’ of the West for terrorism and their supporters. I used that for a starting point to expound upon the growing and misguided philosphy of ‘blame America first’ that is so prevalent in certain political and ideological circles.

Yes, I did. You, on the other hand, seem to have apparently misread a single paragraph excerpt from it and then expounded at length against a straw-man with no logical connection to the article’s actual conclusions, and which blatantly ignores those conclusions in favor of the straw-man that Americans are being told to feel guilty and give up TV and DVDS and other artifacts of middle class american living.

The excerpt you cite claims simply that the existing economic disparity between our country and developing nations is one motivation for terrorists and those who support them. It does not say this is the fault of the US, nor does it say we should change our lifestyle. It simply says the disparity exists, and that this disparity can in some cases lead to a sense of hopelessness which may promote terrorism. You can certainly argue that point, since there are many studies which have been done which seem to show poverty and terrorism are not linked. But it just does not blame anything on America the way you think it does. It could equally be interpreted as blaming the poor economic conditions in Pakistan, as blaming the good conditions here. It simply discusses the fact of the disparity and the attitudes he believes arise from it.

He then goes on to talk about other developing nations reaching towards our own level of consumption as they grow, and notes that if China (our closest competition out of all the developing world) alone did so it would be inherently unsupportable because it would nearly double the global consumption rates of oil and metal. Other nations doing the same thing would compound the problem. The author then suggests that the way to address this problem is to increase conservation of resources, lowering our consumption by decreasing the associated overhead of waste and unnecessary consumption without giving up our standard of living. He points out that Europe has a higher standard of living despite consuming almost half the amount of oil we do per person. He points out that most fisheries and forests are operated non-sustainably, when we already know how to operate them in a sustainable manner.

How can you refute these statements, and how do any of them relate to the straw-man you have constructed of “authoritarian socialism and forced reallocation of wealth” which “may be disguised as higher fuel taxes, carbon taxes, luxury or consumption taxes or be little more than manipulation of regulations to control or inhibit industry, refineries, manufacturing and drilling under the guise of environmentalism” with “the goal to sharply reduce the lifestyle of the average American (and Westerner)”?

Posted by: Jarandhel at January 4, 2008 2:32 AM
Comment #242167
If you really want to take a brave step towards reducing waste and eliminating something completely useless in the West, I humbly suggest you start by eliminating the New York Times and cut off Jared Diamond’s access to his computer. That would be a great start.

Only a very symbolic one, and one related to press freedom, not environment awareness.

Instead, I humbly suggest that every house warming/cooling be redesigned around isolation technology, not around warming/cooling technology as in the past, and that a bonus/malus tax on MPG (and/or CO2 emitted, aka Carbon Tax) let people who choose to live with too much resource consuming and polluting cars *feel* the real price of such lifestyle.

Money is the blood of our world. Don’t be surprised to see more and more bleeding when we’re wound by our own-made sharply damage on our environment.

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at January 4, 2008 11:04 AM
Comment #242169

David H.
It is not only that we “don’t blindly swallow his conclusions and assertions,” it is also that we don’t share the same lifestyle view with the “blame America” group.
They support a more European style of govt and lifestyle, while we support an American govt and lifestyle.
They are “progressives” who believe we must be more like Europe in order to progress. We are Americans who realize we must remain America if we wish to continue to be America.

That is why they agree with the article and why we do not.

Posted by: kctim at January 4, 2008 11:22 AM
Comment #242173

Kctim,
Although Jared Diamond would deny it, geographic deterministism plays a large role in his writing. He is an original, insightful, superb scholar with a fascinating point of view, and his work earned him the Pulitzer Prize for ‘Guns, Germs, and Steel,” but nevertheless, it is only one point of view. Diamond posits several major factors which ultimately determine a culture’s success or failure, such as neighbors, resources, enrvironmental change, and so on, but only one factor can be controlled by the culture itself- its adaptation to environmental change.

Diamond presents the example of the Vikings in Greenland. They were wiped out because they failed to adapt to a changing environment. They could not change their culture. It collapsed. Despite the marginal environment, the Inuit continued to do fine in Greenland in the same changing environment, even as the Vikings died. The Inuit adapted to changes.

The point of the op-ed piece is not to “blame America” or somehow become Un-American. How on earth can adapting to change be Un-American? How can adapting to change require merely assigning blame?

The Op-ed points out the obvious, that current rates of consumption are unsustainable; that a huge disparity exists between consumption in America and the developing world; and, in a multitude of ways, the failure to adapt to a changing environment ultimately threatens our culture.

Posted by: phx8 at January 4, 2008 11:48 AM
Comment #242174

“I humbly suggest you start by eliminating the New York Times and cut off Jared Diamond’s access to his computer.”

David M. Huntwork,

By all means silence any and all views that don’t agree with yours. Burn the books, imprison those who fail to fall into lockstep, and, if all else fails, give them a good dose of “shock and awe”!

Care to have a look at who you prefer to silence?

http://www.charlierose.com/guests/jared-diamond

What a horrible, despicable man, eh? How dare he look at history and try to suggest that what we do today may impact the future of our civilization and the world.

Posted by: KansasDem at January 4, 2008 11:59 AM
Comment #242181

Russ


“you buy socks and toothpaste, but what about all the useless gee-gaw that clutters the home for a short while before being tossed and replaced with new useless gee-gaw (a singing plastic Bass?? really??) “

all the useless plastic gee-gaw as you put it, is there because people want it. if they didn’t want it there would be no incentive to produce it. should we outlaw the products that you think are worthless thereby taking that choice away from the people ? i would rather let the consumer decide what sinks or swims, and keep your hand off my SINGING PLASTIC BASS, REALLY!

Posted by: dbs at January 4, 2008 12:31 PM
Comment #242183

kctim,

It is not only that we “don’t blindly swallow his conclusions and assertions,” it is also that we don’t share the same lifestyle view with the “blame America” group. They support a more European style of govt and lifestyle, while we support an American govt and lifestyle.

Regarding European lifestyle, as rightly stated in his article, it’s based on overconsumption too. Less than American, maybe a bit less wasteful, but still way too much.

What he say is that we will have to adapt, and that change will, without a new miracle technology, decrease our consumption rate, but not necessarily comfort. Contrary to capitalism culture, having is different than living, and when it comes to living standards, most of our lifestyle today is essentially about wasting resources, not using them in the most efficient way, not keeping them.

Who drives this demand, this consumerism? I can’t recall it, but I’m sure it comes with a name, and its excess is well-known and forcasted since decades already…

We can’t keep consuming like there is no tomorrow, or one day our kids will have indeed none.

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at January 4, 2008 12:48 PM
Comment #242184

I don’t know how many times I have heard so-called “progressives” talk about how the U.S. should quit using so many energy and start emulating Western Europe. These “progressives” fail to take into account some rather significant difference in the geography and population densities of the two environs.

Here is an example of what I mean:

France is 260,570 square miles, of which 213,115 sqaure miles is metropolitan areas. Texas is 268,601 square miles, of which 261,941 square miles are land areas.
The population of Texas is 23,507,783. The population of France is 61,538,322.

More than 81 percent of France is metropolitan area, as opposed to about 2.5 percent of Texas.

What does this mean? Anyone comparing the two places is comparing Strawberry, AZ to New York City, NY. It just can’t be done realistically.

In France, as well as most of densely populated Western Europe, mass transportation represents a viable and convenient option to driving. In such an area, distances are naturally compressed, making travel by rail, subways, etc. easy. With nuclear power plants providing most of the country’s energy, France requires much less infrastructure to move power from one locale to another; subsequently there is less energy loss.

Texas, on the other hand, as greatly dispersed population centers, despite having a number of large cities such as Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin, El Paso, and San Antonio. While these cities might accommodate mass transit to a greater extent, the reality remains that mass transportation is an unrealistic and enormously expensive (and energy wasteful) option in the vast majority of the state. Traveling from town to town via train is also not an option, or a losing proposition for railroads should they decide to revert to higher percentages of passenger use. This leaves only one realistic option for the general middle class of Texas — drive a car.

Now, if one looks at a map of the continental U.S., it will become immediately apparent that the overwhelming percentage of land is sparsely inhabited. That being the case, how can a “progressive” honestly and realistically expect the U.S. to live like those in Western Europe?

One last note — at last glance, more Western Europeans move to the U.S. each year than vice versa. I guess they must be the dumb ones who can’t tell how much better they have it in socialistic countries with high unemployment, high taxes, declining medical care, and social unrest by immigrants from Africa and the Middle East coming into Old Europe.

Posted by: Goomba at January 4, 2008 12:55 PM
Comment #242186

David, if some of these blogger didn’t “blindly follow conclusions and assertions”, then they wouldn’t have an opinion (for some of us to laugh at).* :-)

Posted by: rahdigly at January 4, 2008 1:00 PM
Comment #242191

Something I just thought about …

I think we should all change our consumption of goods and energy just as soon as the progressive’s guru — Honest Al Gore — tears down his house, moves into a teepee, generates his electric power from methane gas derived from his out house, makes his own clothing, and starts riding a bicycle to travel to the destinations for his speaking tours in which he criticizes the rest of us for trying to live comfortably.

Just a thought …

Posted by: Goomba at January 4, 2008 1:14 PM
Comment #242195

Phx8
He tells us one American consumes x amount more than so many Africans. He tells us we are selfish and greedy. And he tells us we should consume less, like Europe, because then we would have a better lifestyle. That, to me, is “blaming” and he is using guilt to try and get us to change to what he believes is a better lifestyle.

I agree that his point is that the world cannot continue on with its current rate of consumption, it is his, for the benefit of the world, solution and his disregard for our lifestyle differences, that makes me question his true meaning.
There is no other country such as ours. We have fought for, and continue to fight for, the life we lead and it is wrong to even suggest we lessen that in order to share and be the same as others.

And nobody said it was un-American to adapt to change. It is how we adapt to that change which would be, or not be, un-American.

Posted by: kctim at January 4, 2008 1:27 PM
Comment #242197

Goomba:

Individual citizens and their cars are far from the only sources contributing to that per-capita figure. Another aspect of it is the fuel used to deliver various products from across the country for people to consume. If we want to lower per-capita oil consumption, let’s start there. Let’s stop shipping food thousands of miles between where it is produced and where it is consumed. Let’s learn more about preserving food to last us into the off season, rather than importing things which are out of season. Let’s buy things grown here in the US rather than overseas just because they are cheaper. Let’s support and invest in the creation of more farmers markets than supermarkets, and push for supermarkets to support local farmers before importing goods from further away. All of this, and many similar actions, would help reduce the per-capita use of oil. For that matter, so would removing the plastic window on the cardboard box that holds dbs’ singing bass, while still letting him enjoy its sonorous utterances.

There’s also the simple fact that people could start moving closer together and relying more on population centers if gas prices (and other related costs) soar due to taxation or other reasons (such as supply reduction), rather than living so spread out. Suburban sprawl doesn’t have to be the model for America.

Posted by: Jarandhel at January 4, 2008 1:35 PM
Comment #242200

kctim:

He tells us one American consumes x amount more than so many Africans.

That would be a fact. We do.

He tells us we are selfish and greedy.

That would be a lie. Neither word appears in his article. You are putting them into his mouth. It is your chosen intepretation of his intent.

And he tells us we should consume less, like Europe, because then we would have a better lifestyle.

Actually he tells us we should consume less because developing countries will not rest until they consume on a par with us, and there is no way to sustain the entire world’s resources with even China consuming at our rate. If these countries rise towards our level of development, we need to reduce our consumption to meet them or else we are heading towards a resource crisis. Can you refute this?

That, to me, is “blaming” and he is using guilt to try and get us to change to what he believes is a better lifestyle.

Actually, he seems to be using reason. He makes no such appeal to guilt, and specifically says we should not have to reduce our lifestyle in order to reduce our consumption.

I agree that his point is that the world cannot continue on with its current rate of consumption, it is his, for the benefit of the world, solution and his disregard for our lifestyle differences, that makes me question his true meaning. There is no other country such as ours. We have fought for, and continue to fight for, the life we lead and it is wrong to even suggest we lessen that in order to share and be the same as others.

I can only take this to mean that you think any solution should be for the benefit of the US alone, rather than for the benefit of the world, and that we should fight to retain our lifestyle at the expense of others. This would effectively relegate all developing countries to permanent third-world status, which could only be accomplished by the use of force. Is that what you’re suggesting? If not, how would you recommend solving this problem without the US making sacrifices of any kind?

And nobody said it was un-American to adapt to change. It is how we adapt to that change which would be, or not be, un-American.

And what, exactly, about his proposal would be un-American? Last I checked, America believed all men were created equal, not just all Americans. So why should America be given a pass on the issue of lowering its consumption, if we are consuming at a level which would not be sustainable if other nations adopted it as well?

Posted by: Jarandhel at January 4, 2008 1:51 PM
Comment #242202

Maybe people wouldn’t feel blamed if the crusaders of the charge started in their own back yards first? Just a thought.

Or..

Maybe if they started in places that would actually make a huge dent in the so-called problem?
For example..
Rather than yapping heads yelling about X-mas lights…how about starting with the city of lights itself….Vegas…that sucker burns 24/7….How about TimeSquare….Oh yeah, I forgot…that is where these people fly to to whoop it up and have a good ole American Consumption time…silly me…I’ll go throw my lights out now…

Posted by: Traci at January 4, 2008 1:55 PM
Comment #242204

There were several factors contributing to the demise of the Vikings in Greenland.

phx8 asserts: “Diamond presents the example of the Vikings in Greenland. They were wiped out because they failed to adapt to a changing environment. They could not change their culture. It collapsed. Despite the marginal environment, the Inuit continued to do fine in Greenland in the same changing environment, even as the Vikings died. The Inuit adapted to changes.”

This is not entirely true. At the time that the Vikings (more realistically, the Norse) colonized southern Greenland, Earth was in a period of the dreaded global warming. Vast areas of what would be normally only marginally inhabitable warmed up and provided a more hospitable environment. The Norse established farming communities that thrived for more than 300 years. It was a center for commerce between Iceland and other Europeans.

See the Feb. 28, 2000 article in Archaeology (a publication of the Archaeological Institute of America): http://www.archaeology.org/online/features/greenland/

It should also be noted that the Norse were encumbered by more than an unwillingness to adapt. Like nearly all Europeans of the time, the Norse were Christians and as such, were warned by their clergy not to interact with the heathen Inuit, who likewise kept their distance from the Norse. The Norse were also beset by a climate that had begun to cool after about 1300 AD and there is evidence that they may have been subject to raiding parties of European pirates.

As for assertion that Inuits “adapted” to the environment, this is disingenuous because the Inuit had lived in Greenland and the polar region for eons and had adapted to it over God only knows how long. A more realistic comparison is to how well Indians adapted to their changing environment when white people began to move into the Americas.

As for the preposterous belief that Indians (including the Inuit) adapt better to changes in climate, one has only to look at the example of the Anasazi in the American Southwest in about the same time period — 1200 AD. During the course of a horrific drought, these “adaptable” Indians regressed into an utter breakdown of their civilization, were wracked by starvation and disease, descended into canibalism, and eventually disappeared as a tribal unit.

In many respects, the breakdown of the Anasazi is more relevant to the Norse situation in Greenland than trying to compare the “adaptibility” of the Inuit to the Norse.

Posted by: Goomba at January 4, 2008 2:01 PM
Comment #242208

David Huntwork-
They’re right, you didn’t really read the article. His thesis, quite reasonable, is that our current consumption-heavy lifestyle cannot be extended to the rest of the world sustainably.

We can’t even sustain it, to be quite certain. Others, though, look at our prosperity and believe they deserve the same.

Diamond, though, does not tell us that we’re doomed to a lower standard of living. We just have to change our approach. In the long run, we really don’t gain much from our wastefulness. We only manage to fritter away resources.

In his book he drew attention to the Japanese and their forests, detailing how careful cultivation helped turn their dwindling forests into a thriving national resource again. The end of the story of reducing waste is not necessarily a reduction in the quality of living, or the economy.

In fact, if you really think about it, this is about figuring out how to keep this going on a cheaper basis, getting more for our money, essentially, and getting it on a dependable basis. Efficiency is not just a virtue environmentally speaking, but also economically.

One way or another, he says, we will end up consuming less than we do now. The question is, how? By economic and/or social collapse, on account of a catastrophic failure of our system, or by ingenuity, and the successful avoidance of such resource problems?

Your choice. One way or another, though, you can’t hold on to the status quo. Change is inevitable, whether it’s with you or against you.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 4, 2008 2:25 PM
Comment #242209

Interesting comments. I wonder how many folks decried the loud, oil consuming, foul-smelling automobile when first driven down a main street American city. Did the populace cry we don’t need that damn thing, horse and buggy is best. Why have airplanes when the trains still run. Who needs TV when radios work so well. The message I am getting from some writers above is that no new technology is on the horizon which will completely change the source of our energy. They are advocates of the Jimmy Carter nonsense. Carter insisted we must retreat and live with less, consume less, hunker down and realize that we can no longer afford our American dreams. It cost him an election as Ronald Reagan promoted optimism and a can-do American virtue. Necessity is truly the mother of invention and I have considerable faith in our ability to solve problems. Liberabls are generally fear peddlers. Conservatives are generally self-reliant optimistic doers. I have been to Europe and China and other parts of the world and wouldn’t trade our American way of life for any other I have seen. We have enough oil and coal in the ground we own, and the ability to produce more nuclear power which could easily make us energy independent until the new energy technology comes online. Forget all this man-made global warming crap and get back to work.

Posted by: Jim at January 4, 2008 2:28 PM
Comment #242210

Goomba,

“During the course of a horrific drought, these “adaptable” Indians regressed into an utter breakdown of their civilization, were wracked by starvation and disease, descended into canibalism, and eventually disappeared as a tribal unit.”

I actually live in Arizona and have never heard this. In point of fact, everything that I have read about the Anasazi has been prefaced by saying that no one knows what actually happened to the Anasazi, because it appears that they just left their belongings behind, and left. Of course all of this is merely speculation, as there is no other evidence of their demise.

So, if you have other linked information that proves otherwise, please feel free to share it.

Posted by: Rocky at January 4, 2008 2:34 PM
Comment #242212

Jarandhel:

Quite a while ago I remember reading a similar article by an environmentalist about much the same ideas that you present. Similarly, those ideas skirt the boundary of realistic expectations.

For the U.S. to withdraw from the rest of the world in terms of decreasing its trade for goods and services while trying to change its overall structure to accommodate sepf-sufficiency has been attempted in the past with almost apocalyptic results for the societies that tried. I refer to the Soviet’s attempt to increase farm production by seizing peasants’ property and the Cultural Revolution in China, in which those people in the cities were forced to become farmers.

Your solutions may sound good prima facie, but when you look at the bigger picture, there are significant shortcomings. There is a massive infrastructure existing in the U.S. involved in commerce of all types, including food production, trade both domestically and internationally, and industry. The U.S. produces more food for its people and the world more economically (in terms of energy use and land needed for crops) than anywhere in the entire world. The idea of destroying this structure would mean that those overseas who currently depend upon our country for food would likely start to starve (very compassionate) and economies around the globe would descend into chaos.

At home in the U.S., take a look at where people currently live. While it’s easy to dismiss the suburbs and those who chose to live in rural areas in favor of those who inhabit the large cities, it is in fact the cities which consume the greatest amount of food and energy consumption. And how are city dwellers suppose to get food once we’ve destroyed the infrastructure currenly supplying food to the cities? Where is the food supposed to come from and who are going to farm the land to grow the crops and raise the livestock to feed those happy consumers in the cities? I guess the solution would be an All-American Cultural Revolution! With probably similar results.

Remember that when we buy foreign goods because they are cheaper than those made in America, we support millions worldwide whose livelihood depends on consumption of goods and services. What happens to them when we stop buying their goods? And why aren’t these goods being produced in America? Because our economy has adapted to a Global Marketplace in which we are one part of a larger picture.

Maybe you need to start reading about Economics and Agriculture and study geography. The world is the way that it is for a great many more reasons than simply our excessive greed and consumerism.

Posted by: Goomba at January 4, 2008 2:38 PM
Comment #242213

Goomba,
I wrote that the Vikings failed to adapt to a changing environment. You write the same, and give examples of ways their culture prevented them from adapting to the environment.

The environment changed. It became colder. Greenland cooled. This represented a change for the Inuit too, but their culture was able to adapt to the changed environment. Diamond discusses this at length.

You really should read Diamond. There is an entire chapter on the Anasazi in “Collapse”. It’s tremendously interesting, and I would highly encourage it. His books are available at the library.

Posted by: phx8 at January 4, 2008 2:43 PM
Comment #242215

Jarandhel
“there is no way we (Americans) would sacrifice our living standards for the benefit of people in the rest of the world”

That, is implying we are selfish.

“A real problem for the world is that each of us 300 million Americans consumes as much as 32 Kenyans”

That, is calling us greedy.
What I said was in no way a lie.

I am not trying to refute what he said about consuming less, he does say that, but he also says the European lifestyle is better than ours and totally ingores the vast differences between the two.

“per capita oil consumption in Western Europe is about half of ours, yet Western Europe’s standard of living is higher by any reasonable criterion”

“I can only take this to mean that you think any solution should be for the benefit of the US alone, rather than for the benefit of the world, and that we should fight to retain our lifestyle at the expense of others”

While I personally don’t have any problem with that, that is not what I was trying to say.
I believe it would be best for our country if the worlders respected the fact that our lives and lifestyles are way different than theirs. We should adapt as America needs to, not to conform to some worldly view of how we should be.

“And what, exactly, about his proposal would be un-American?”

Altering our lifestyle in order to satisfy some world view of every country being equal.

“So why should America be given a pass on the issue of lowering its consumption, if we are consuming at a level which would not be sustainable if other nations adopted it as well?”

We WILL have to lower our consumption, we just need to do it to OUR standards, not theirs.

Posted by: kctim at January 4, 2008 2:47 PM
Comment #242219

kctim:

“there is no way we (Americans) would sacrifice our living standards for the benefit of people in the rest of the world”

That, is implying we are selfish.

That’s your interpretation. He’s just stating the fact that we are not prepared to give up our standard of living, a fact that many people in this thread alone have already agreed with, including you. You said we should continue to fight for the life we lead, and should not even suggest that we lessen it in order to share with other nations. If you maintain that this position can only stem from selfishness, then thank you for giving us that insight into your motivation.

“A real problem for the world is that each of us 300 million Americans consumes as much as 32 Kenyans”

That, is calling us greedy.
What I said was in no way a lie.

Yes it was. So was this. It is not calling us greedy, it is simply a fact. We do each consume as much as 32 Kenyans. And it is a problem for the world because Kenyans and other nations seek to emulate us in this, which again is unsustainable, as you have agreed is true.

I am not trying to refute what he said about consuming less, he does say that, but he also says the European lifestyle is better than ours and totally ingores the vast differences between the two.

He compares a number of objective measures by which European lifestyle is better than ours, while consuming fewer resources. Can you refute any of his claims? As for the differences, perhaps some of those lifestyle differences represent changes in approach that we could adopt to increase our own efficiency as a nation.

“I can only take this to mean that you think any solution should be for the benefit of the US alone, rather than for the benefit of the world, and that we should fight to retain our lifestyle at the expense of others”

While I personally don’t have any problem with that, that is not what I was trying to say.
I believe it would be best for our country if the worlders respected the fact that our lives and lifestyles are way different than theirs. We should adapt as America needs to, not to conform to some worldly view of how we should be.

This article has nothing to do with the expectations of the world. It has to do with the fact that the world has limited resources, and that other nations are not going to limit their development until they have achieved parity with us, and we cannot expect them to conform to our view of how they should be if we are not willing to adhere to it ourselves.

“And what, exactly, about his proposal would be un-American?”

Altering our lifestyle in order to satisfy some world view of every country being equal.

I was under the impression that the uniquely American worldview was best summed up by these words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” How can we proclaim this ideal while holding to any worldview other than one which accepts that all people in all countries have an equal right to pursue happiness by developing into first-world countries that consume on a level equal to ourselves? Or should we consider these words to be un-American now?

“So why should America be given a pass on the issue of lowering its consumption, if we are consuming at a level which would not be sustainable if other nations adopted it as well?”

We WILL have to lower our consumption, we just need to do it to OUR standards, not theirs.

Since no one has suggested foreign standards, merely that our consumption will have to drop as theirs rises in order for global consumption to remain sustainable, this seems purely a non-sequitur.

Posted by: Jarandhel at January 4, 2008 3:14 PM
Comment #242220

Goomba:

For the U.S. to withdraw from the rest of the world in terms of decreasing its trade for goods and services while trying to change its overall structure to accommodate self-sufficiency has been attempted in the past with almost apocalyptic results for the societies that tried. I refer to the Soviet’s attempt to increase farm production by seizing peasants’ property and the Cultural Revolution in China, in which those people in the cities were forced to become farmers.

I’m afraid you’re drawing equivalencies where they do not exist. Overall self-sufficiency does not need to be the goal. It is not the case that everything that is imported need be boycotted. This is not an isolationist policy. But why are we importing garlic grown in China on the cheap, rather than buying garlic grown here at home? This infrastructure is, in many cases, already present. We just don’t use it because it is a few cents cheaper to buy the same item from overseas.

Your solutions may sound good prima facie, but when you look at the bigger picture, there are significant shortcomings. There is a massive infrastructure existing in the U.S. involved in commerce of all types, including food production, trade both domestically and internationally, and industry. The U.S. produces more food for its people and the world more economically (in terms of energy use and land needed for crops) than anywhere in the entire world. The idea of destroying this structure would mean that those overseas who currently depend upon our country for food would likely start to starve (very compassionate) and economies around the globe would descend into chaos.

So you’re suggesting that it is impossible for us, or for other countries, to adapt to change because we are too entrenched in the current system and cannot change without devastating one another? So we are locked in, and unable to work towards a more sustainable level of consumption? My outlook is not so pessemistic, and I think both we and the countries presently dependent on us can adapt to such new circumstances if we wish to and work towards that goal.

At home in the U.S., take a look at where people currently live. While it’s easy to dismiss the suburbs and those who chose to live in rural areas in favor of those who inhabit the large cities, it is in fact the cities which consume the greatest amount of food and energy consumption.

Food? Certainly, since little food is presently produced in cities. (Though this is changing, because of movements like this one: http://consciouschoice.com/2003/cc1610/urbanfarms1610.html ) Energy, on the other hand, not as much as you’d think. Living in a city automatically means you do not have to commute as far, and when you do need to commute generally public transport is available, which distributes energy use over a greater number of individuals. There is a greater energy efficiency caused by individuals living in a city, when compared to the same number of individuals living spread out over the country, even if raw usage numbers are higher due to the concentration. Energy use per capita actually goes down.

And how are city dwellers suppose to get food once we’ve destroyed the infrastructure currenly supplying food to the cities? Where is the food supposed to come from and who are going to farm the land to grow the crops and raise the livestock to feed those happy consumers in the cities? I guess the solution would be an All-American Cultural Revolution! With probably similar results.

Well, for starters I’ve already mentioned the urban farming/urban gardening movements. Another point you seem to be missing is that, by doing away with sprawling suburbs, we’d have open farmland right up to the city borders. A city could literally be encircled by farms that would support and sustain it where we have sprawling suburban lawns right now. Those are just some ideas. You’re also forgetting that the more people who are in one area, the more efficient shipping to that area becomes. If you’re shipping food all across the country because people are all sprawled out, that’s massively inefficient. If you’re shipping to one location, and relying more on freight trains than we do now rather than trucks delivering to a wide number of suburban centers, the centralization works for efficiency rather than against.

Remember that when we buy foreign goods because they are cheaper than those made in America, we support millions worldwide whose livelihood depends on consumption of goods and services. What happens to them when we stop buying their goods? And why aren’t these goods being produced in America? Because our economy has adapted to a Global Marketplace in which we are one part of a larger picture.

Generally, what happens is either they will find others to sell to or they will produce different goods. Again, why are we buying things from overseas that we do produce here?

Maybe you need to start reading about Economics and Agriculture and study geography. The world is the way that it is for a great many more reasons than simply our excessive greed and consumerism.

I don’t recall suggesting that the world was in the state it is because of anyone’s greed or consumerism. Nor did the author of the article we’re discussing. Maybe you need to start reading about logic, and the fallacy of the straw man? Just because we are not the cause, does not mean we do not need to adapt. And so will the rest of the world.

Posted by: Jarandhel at January 4, 2008 3:42 PM
Comment #242225

Rocky:

I lived in Arizona for more than 20 years. Here are few links that back what I said:

http://69.20.125.200/interactives/collapse/chacocanyon.html

http://wvwv.essortment.com/anasaziculture_rcvi.htm

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg15621025.200-decline-and-fall.html

Posted by: Goomba at January 4, 2008 4:20 PM
Comment #242226

Guess it just depends on what the definition of is, is, huh Jarandhel.
People aren’t calling me greedy when they tell me I wastefully consume more than 32 poor people, are they. And they most certainly aren’t calling me selfish when they tell me I’m unwilling to sacrifice in order to benefit others. I like that way of thinking really. In fact, the next time I see a girl I don’t like, I’m going tell her she is a nasty skank who sleeps around with hundreds of guys a month. She won’t mind that will she? I mean, its not like I called her a whore or anything, right.

“He compares a number of objective measures by which European lifestyle is better than ours, while consuming fewer resources. Can you refute any of his claims?”

Sure. His “reasonable criterion” is purely based on what he believes is the answer.
The European answer is more govt.
The American answer is less govt.
I prefer the American lifestyle.

“we cannot expect them to conform to our view of how they should be if we are not willing to adhere to it ourselves”

But its ok for them to expect us to conform to their view? No thanks.

“How can we proclaim this ideal while holding to any worldview other than one which accepts that all people in all countries have an equal right to pursue happiness…”

The same way we “proclaim” it now. We haven’t taken over Russia or China to give their people a better chance at pursuing that happiness have we? Why no we haven’t. Have we adopted their style of govt, so that everybody on earth has the same govt and the same opportunities? Um, no.
So it must be that we worry about Americans and their pursuit of happiness eh?

“Since no one has suggested foreign standards,”

Totally disregarding the vast differences between us and everybody else and stating that a foreign lifestyle is better, is not suggesting a change?

“merely that our consumption will have to drop as theirs rises in order for global consumption to remain sustainable, this seems purely a non-sequitur”

Of course it does, you are willing to drop ours so that theirs may rise. I am not. That is like saying our govt should my money and drop my standard of living so that they can give it to someone else and raise their standard of living.
Oh, wait a minute. That IS what we do now isn’t it. No wonder you guys can’t see the difference between the two lifestyles and why we should do our part, but only with our best interests in mind.

Posted by: kctim at January 4, 2008 4:28 PM
Comment #242227

The free market system, of which the U.S. is the leading example, has given the world great wealth and brought most of the world’s people out of misery.

In 1750 almost everybody in the world lived in misery. Most (not some) children died before they reached puberty. Even prosperous people expected to suffer famine. Almost everybody had been a personal participant in war. Despots ruled everywhere. A peasant in Europe of Asia lived about as his ancestors had 2000 years ago. Life was nasty, brutish and short.

The question we need to ask is not why some people in the world are still poor, but rather why so many are NOT. What happened that allowed so many people to progress? After we answer that question, maybe it is easier to understand why others continued to live in misery so much longer.

It is hard for many people to understand that wealth is all created by human effort. Natural resources are only potential wealth. In 1750, ALL the wealth owned by the entire human population was not enough to raise them to the level of an American living at the poverty line.

Thomas Malthus was just the first in a long line of pessimists who proved “scientifically” that humans would soon be in misery. He wrote more than 200 years ago. People like this do not understand the nature of wealth creation.

We create it. In my lifetime, billions of people have become richer w/o taking that wealth away from anybody else. This is remarkable.

Posted by: Jack at January 4, 2008 4:47 PM
Comment #242240

I think the Republicans and others on the right have it wrong. We are not the pessimists, they are, at least where it counts.

The question that counts is whether they believe that America can preserve a high standard of living while preserving the environment, reducing carbon emissions, and levelling economic inequalities within our country and with the rest of the world.

The answer that the Republicans tend to give as a party is this: No.

That is not to say that everybody will keep the job they currently have. Change is not painless that way. However, they do not oppose many other changes on those grounds, changes that have demonstrably deprived people of jobs.

They are pessimists about government regulation, so even when the need presents itself, they dilly-dally around on the matter.

They are unwilling to depart from the side of the big companies, and they’ve done their best to shift the political consensus towards serving those interests.

David Huntwork’s original post evidences great anger at the notion that Jared Diamond might think we’re at fault for social and environmental problems relating to our economic position, but it neglects the basic question: are we guilty of such waste? If we are, then it’s just whining and buck-passing, a refusal to embrace responsibility for what we really have done, and are doing. Is this virtue? Is this right?

No. It’s time to stop arrogantly assuming that we are entitled to be wasteful. Or rather, we should reflect on the fact that the luxury of waste and inefficiency eventually becomes a vicious kind of poverty, which we’d be well-advised to avoid.

Jack-
Wealth is an emergent property of society, of what it’s capable of.

The Wealthy man of the 1700s was poor by comparison to ourselves, but we were not around to make that comparison then, nor are they here now to gawk at our stupendous riches.

I wrote an essay a while back on just how Alien today’s world is, but I think I can sum up one of the major differences this way: We have replaced labor with energy and knowledge.

Somebody used to have to bust their ass to do much of the work we have machines do. Even mental labor has been optimized in this ever-recursive process.

That means, though, that there are limits along different lines, at least if we want to keep things nice and prosperous.

People will want something approximating a first-world lifestyle, for obvious reasons. The question is, how do six billion people maintain such a lifestyle on the resources that we have at hand, and will have at hand?

The advancements we make towards greater efficiency, because of the nature of the knowledge economy, can be passed on to anybody in the third-world who wants to take advantage of it. We assume that they have to recapitulate our progress, evolving towards our status, but this is bull. These people are every bit as smart as us. It’s only world economics that keeps them working with obsolete technology.

The question becomes whether we adapt to these facts before or after certain limits make things difficult. Necessity may be the mother of invention, but there’s nothing wrong with forseeing necessity, rather than having it smack us in the face first.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 4, 2008 6:28 PM
Comment #242249

Frankly I have always enjoyed Jared Diamond’s looks at the world. He’s always a little goofy, but if you’re not enticed to think by what he’s pointing out you’re not using your brain at all. We do use a lot more resources than others in the world. That is only possible because of the leverage our greater access to knowledge and education provides for us. If you live in the U.S. THAT is the part that should give you pause, because as our benefit gained by access to knowledge has increased our appreciation for the crucial nature of that knowledge has been allowed to wither.

My brother, currently grinding his way through grad school in a good program in organic chemistry, is surrounded almost exclusively by students from overseas. His graduate advisor even admitted to him that his undergraduate education at the same university was wholly inadequate to preparing him for the lab work of the graduate program because for the most part the American students weren’t sufficiently motivated for the rigor of “hard” sciences. It simply wasn’t worth it to spend the money to educate them fully when Indian and Asian students would come to the graduate program fully prepared and would then receive the same funding from the state as American students.

If you can read at the level assumed in this forum you should be able to spot the logical flaw in what is happening at this Texas university’s Department of Chemistry. Unfortunately Texas legislators do not.

We are not sufficiently cherishing education in the eyes of our children. That means that Mr. Huntwick may be able to look forward to the day when people are no longer blaming the middle class in America for how far above the rest of the world we can number our factors of consumption. Instead, those among us who can actually count to 32 will be seeing such factors of consumption describing economies elsewhere. And we will have spent our own tax dollars to educate the people who exported our knowledge away from us. See, we are really a more generous people than we are being given credit for being.

One day we’ll be poor and get to look up to those big consumers. That will be a proper reward those of us who accomplished the really despicable act of convincing our children there would be no real consequences for not knowing more than how to operate a video game.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at January 4, 2008 7:58 PM
Comment #242264

Lee,

What you are speaking about has actually been going on for a few years.
I was in China in ‘95 and worked with a physics grad from UConn that got his education funded by Connecticut.

On the video game thing, don’t you realize we are training our troops of the future?
Haven’t you ever read “Ender’s Game”?

Posted by: Rocky at January 4, 2008 10:34 PM
Comment #242267

“It is hard for many people to understand that wealth is all created by human effort”

Jack,

Do you truly believe that?

Posted by: KansasDem at January 4, 2008 11:05 PM
Comment #242276

Kansas

yes.


Raw materials are potential wealth. They do not become real wealth until they are processed into useful products AND wealth is defined culturally. We create resouces.

You may have heard of the famous bet between Elich, the author of “Population Bomb” and an economist named Simon. the bet was that resouces would be more plentiful (defined by the price you would have to pay to get them) in the future. Simon bet they would be and he won. A resource must be put in the context of culture and technologies.

Consider the two of us. We are creating what we both (and some others) consider value by writing and distributing our product. This is simple to do now. The distribtion would have been impossible a few years ago.

Or take the software we are using. Software is a multibillion dollar industry. Most of my software came over the cable lines. Creating it required almost no “natural” resources and distributing it used even less, yet it is the kind of weath we highly value. It is almost entirely a human creation.

Posted by: Jack at January 5, 2008 12:32 AM
Comment #242296

You have it wrong Jack. All wealth is created by the government and is owned by the government to be given as bribes to big business.

Posted by: BOHICA at January 5, 2008 8:33 AM
Comment #242307
Guess it just depends on what the definition of is, is, huh Jarandhel.

No, it depends on not making straw-man arguments about things the author did not say, based on your own interpretation of what he must have meant, plain and simple.

People aren’t calling me greedy when they tell me I wastefully consume more than 32 poor people, are they.

They are simply telling you that you do consume more than 32 poor people. If you find that greedy, then do something about it. They did not call you greedy, you are calling yourself that.

And they most certainly aren’t calling me selfish when they tell me I’m unwilling to sacrifice in order to benefit others.

Again, they are simply telling you that you are unwilling to sacrifice in order to benefit others. A fact which you have affirmed multiple times in the course of this discussion. If you find that selfish, do something about it. You are the one calling yourself that, not them.

I like that way of thinking really. In fact, the next time I see a girl I don’t like, I’m going tell her she is a nasty skank who sleeps around with hundreds of guys a month. She won’t mind that will she? I mean, its not like I called her a whore or anything, right.

The question is, does she sleep around with hundreds of guys a month? The things the author said about Americans are facts, not simply made up. Also, unlike your “nasty skank” analogy, he made no value judgments about those facts, he left that to the readers. If you told a girl who *does* sleep around with hundreds of guys a month the fact that continuing this practice is unsafe and will pose serious hazards to her in the future, would that be equivalent to calling her a whore?

“He compares a number of objective measures by which European lifestyle is better than ours, while consuming fewer resources. Can you refute any of his claims?”

Sure. His “reasonable criterion” is purely based on what he believes is the answer.

Really? Life expectancy, health, infant mortality, access to medical care, financial security after retirement, vacation time, quality of public schools and support for the arts are not objective criterion? How so?

The European answer is more govt. The American answer is less govt. I prefer the American lifestyle.

Your personal preference does not refute any of the objective measures given.

“we cannot expect them to conform to our view of how they should be if we are not willing to adhere to it ourselves”

But its ok for them to expect us to conform to their view? No thanks.

No one is asking us to conform to anyone else’s view. This article was written by an American, for an American audience. Please, stop making straw-man arguments.

“How can we proclaim this ideal while holding to any worldview other than one which accepts that all people in all countries have an equal right to pursue happiness…”

The same way we “proclaim” it now. We haven’t taken over Russia or China to give their people a better chance at pursuing that happiness have we? Why no we haven’t. Have we adopted their style of govt, so that everybody on earth has the same govt and the same opportunities? Um, no.
So it must be that we worry about Americans and their pursuit of happiness eh?

But in order to continue to worry only about Americans and the American pursuit of happiness, and do not reduce our consumption as developing nations consume more, we WILL have to invade Russia and China. Not to liberate their people, but to suppress them and keep them from developing into nations which consume the same amount of resources we do. Because, quite simply, there are only so many natural resources. It is a zero sum game.

“Since no one has suggested foreign standards,”

Totally disregarding the vast differences between us and everybody else and stating that a foreign lifestyle is better, is not suggesting a change?

A change yes. Other nations setting the standards, no. An American has suggested that we should emulate the positive results of other nations in this effort. He is suggesting that we need to raise our own standards, because we have fallen behind other nations in this area.

“merely that our consumption will have to drop as theirs rises in order for global consumption to remain sustainable, this seems purely a non-sequitur”

Of course it does, you are willing to drop ours so that theirs may rise. I am not. That is like saying our govt should my money and drop my standard of living so that they can give it to someone else and raise their standard of living.
Oh, wait a minute. That IS what we do now isn’t it. No wonder you guys can’t see the difference between the two lifestyles and why we should do our part, but only with our best interests in mind.

The only way that we can sustain ours at the present level is by preventing theirs from ever rising. Are you prepared to go to war, to conquer and subjugate other nations, just so you can waste all the resources you want rather than trying to work to limit our consumption through measures which will not reduce our lifestyle in any objective measure? It’s incredible ironic that you rail against supposedly being labelled as “selfish” or unwilling to sacrifice for others, when you are so adamant in the position that we should not have to give up anything for other nations.

Posted by: Jarandhel at January 5, 2008 11:46 AM
Comment #242308

Jarandhel,
Read Jack’s comments just above yours. They are not a specific refutation of what you are saying, but they represent a clearer understanding of economics. For example, in many areas our consumption of resources has declined in the last eight years even as our economic output has increased tremendously. America’s emissions of CO2 have decreased by about four percent in that time because our mastery of the information that makes increased efficiency possible and our economic market preferences caused us to use less fuel. That happened in spite of the fact that our population grew by somewhere between four and six percent in the same time.

What does this mean? We are using far less “resource” per unit of economic output than we did in the 1960s when America used more than half of the natural resources placed into economic use in the world. Even so, with the rest of the world rapidly catching up to us, we Americans live far more richly than we did in the 60s.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at January 5, 2008 12:09 PM
Comment #242309

Lee:

I don’t see Jack’s comments as a refutation at all. They are in complete agreement with both my statements and the premise of Jared Diamond’s article. We CAN reduce our consumption of resources WITHOUT reducing our lifestyle. That’s exactly what Diamond said: “Real sacrifice wouldn’t be required, however, because living standards are not tightly coupled to consumption rates.” Our living standards have gone up as our consumption has gone down. Jared is calling on us to consciously work to continue that trend. This does not, however, obviate the fact that there are limited natural resources in the world and that our consumption does need to go down further if the consumption of others is increasing, in order to maintain a sustainable balance.

Posted by: Jarandhel at January 5, 2008 12:27 PM
Comment #242331

I would just like to thank phx8, Jarandhel, Jack and Lee for turning this post into an intelligent conversation from what started out as a lame attack on “wealthy liberals are continually blaming the American middle class for global warming, terrorism, and pretty much all of the world’s problems.” as Mr. Huntwork refers to Mr. Diamond.

Posted by: j2t2 at January 5, 2008 4:03 PM
Comment #242405

Why do we try force people to make the “right” decisions? It is your money. Spend it on whatever you want. If you waste it, then that is your choice and others shouldn’t try to stop you.

If people are making poor choices, inform them of the consequences, but do not force them to change habits (like fat foods for example). After you have informed them of the consequences of their actions- if the consequences only affect them- and they continue to make those choices, let them suffer. Do not waste your time with people like that.

Posted by: stubborn conservative at January 6, 2008 4:50 PM
Comment #242440

stubborn conservative-
Because we can suffer from the consequences of bad decisions. Of course, nobody can legislate simple error out of the equation, but sometimes, you don’t need to. Sometimes there are situation where a discernable relationship between certain practices and certain outcomes is present.

That’s why we have fire codes, for instance. We could let people puzzle things out, but the ultimate result of that would be a bunch of dumb mistakes repeated.

Same thing with financial regulations, which once prevented conflicts of interest concerning selling stocks and handling corporate finance. Used to be, a company couldn’t do both, because naturally, if you sold somebody’s stock, you might be tempted not to devalue that stock by downgrading their credit, or at the very least, you might not dig to deep. And naturally, if you held the note on somebody’s debt, you’d want them to pay up. So you might not tell your clients to invest elsewhere, lest you have problems collecting on the debt.

Of course, Republicans and Conservatives saw all this as a restriction on free enterprise. Same thing with accounting rules that required more reality in the book-keeping, less trickery.

The real trouble is, government is necessary. It can be overdone, but society can’t function well at the levels we expect it to if cheaters are allowed to cheat, speculators are allowed to overprice things, if dangerous and unhealthy practices go unchecked. I mean, the whole lead in children’s toys thing speaks volumes to that.

There’s no problem in leaving room for people to make mistakes, to innovate. The problem comes when we let dysfunctional behavior slide in order to provide that room, when we let the powerful pick on the weak, the rich gain more and more while everybody else falls further and further behind. The point of government is not to help the elite, in hopes that they will help everybody else, but to help the public at large, and to step in where necessary to keep the interest of the few and the interest of the many from conflicting too problematically.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 7, 2008 8:49 AM
Comment #242447

Stephen:
I believe in total capitalism. Everyone should be able to go as far as their talents will let them. Government hinders this with taxes and unions. The government’s only purpose is to provide military protection and keep societal order. Their job is not to keep people above the poverty line. That is where churches and charities come into play.

Posted by: stubborn conservative at January 7, 2008 10:13 AM
Comment #242451

Jarandhel
“But in order to continue to worry only about Americans and the American pursuit of happiness, and do not reduce our consumption as developing nations consume more, we WILL have to invade Russia and China”

Placing American interests before others, does not mean we are worrying only about Americans.
Placing American interests and our lifestyle before others, does not mean we will not reduce our consumption.
Going back to my initial post, you and the author believe emulating the European lifestyle is the answer and those who hold the opposite view, believe we can cut back our consumption where needed and still hold onto our American lifestyle.

Playing word-games and screaming “straw-man” to all opinions different than your own, does nothing to bridge the divide between the two lines of belief.

You cannot force Americans to slow down their consumption so that another country can consume more, and not expect people to get pissed off.

We don’t need to become more like them so that they may become more like us.

Posted by: kctim at January 7, 2008 11:24 AM
Comment #242459
Placing American interests before others, does not mean we are worrying only about Americans.

Actually, by definition, it does. Because in order to automatically put our interests first, we have to categorically not be concerned about the interests of others.

Placing American interests and our lifestyle before others, does not mean we will not reduce our consumption.

It would seem to imply that when you are arguing that we should not have to reduce our consumption so that others can rise.

Going back to my initial post, you and the author believe emulating the European lifestyle is the answer and those who hold the opposite view, believe we can cut back our consumption where needed and still hold onto our American lifestyle.

Exactly what about the European “lifestyle” (ie, using less oil per capita) is so antithetical to the American lifestyle? I’ve been under the impression that the American lifestyle comes from our system of government and the values enshrined in our constitution, not how many singing bass we buy or how far we truck our food around the country before eating it.

Playing word-games and screaming “straw-man” to all opinions different than your own, does nothing to bridge the divide between the two lines of belief.

Nor does continually making such straw men. You keep talking about people wanting to make us emulate a European lifestyle, when it’s not their lifestyle but their consumption that we want to emulate. The entire point of this article has been that we can reduce our consumption without affecting our lifestyle, without lowering our standard of living. Your arguments have repeatedly ignored that and conflated consumption with lifestyle time and again. If anyone is playing word games, you are with this symantic bait and switch.

You cannot force Americans to slow down their consumption so that another country can consume more, and not expect people to get pissed off.

Why not? There are a limited number of resources in the world. We are capable of reducing our consumption of those resources without reducing either our standard of living or our lifestyle. Other people in the world ARE consuming more. Us consuming less does not “allow” them to consume more, they will do that anyway, it merely makes sure that total consumption will remain at a level we can sustain, allowing us to continue our consumption into the future rather than forcing us into a situation where the resources will be devastated and we will all run out. This is beneficial to us all.

We don’t need to become more like them so that they may become more like us.

Once again, you are making straw man arguments. No one is suggesting that we become “more like” developing nations.

Posted by: Jarandhel at January 7, 2008 12:24 PM
Comment #242461

Pardon, that should have read semantic rather than symantic.

Posted by: Jarandhel at January 7, 2008 12:30 PM
Comment #242477

Goombo
“It should also be noted that the Norse were encumbered by more than an unwillingness to adapt. Like nearly all Europeans of the time, the Norse were Christians and as such, were warned by their clergy not to interact with the heathen Inuit, who likewise kept their distance from the Norse. The Norse were also beset by a climate that had begun to cool after about 1300 AD and there is evidence that they may have been subject to raiding parties of European pirates.”

Aren’t their religious and cultural views part of their culture? If they could have learned from the Inuit how to survive but didn’t because they were heathens that must be avoided, how is that any different from, avoiding dealing with climate change because the Bible doesn’t mention it, or because spending government money on it would violate the free market? Their views and culture prevented them from changing. Likewise it appears for many having large amounts of cheap toxic goods from China is more important than the future of the planet, and if we continue like this we’ll probably end up like the Norse in Greenland. However, as Diamond’s article points out, we wouldn’t have to reduce our living standards or live like the inuit to reduce our consumption. Just get our heads out of the sand.

Posted by: mark at January 7, 2008 2:13 PM
Comment #242478

kctim,

Just out of curiosity what does having an American lifestyle mean to you, as opposed to a European lifestyle? I’m not trying to demean your views just trying to understand where you’re coming from better.

Posted by: mark at January 7, 2008 2:16 PM
Comment #242489

That is a fair question Mark.
I have lived in Europe and all over the US and one of the biggest differences in our lifestyles is our individualism. Granted, many Americans have chosen to be lazy and have freely given up much of their individualism, but it is something I cherish as much as our founders did.
I do not believe the wishes of society trump the rights of the individual.

Our individualism also means we have a larger need for energy, food, recreation etc…
We are not all urban dwellers. We have needs for energy in large areas without large populations. Those areas want food, which takes fuel, special transportation and special packaging. And most Americans enjoy their toys. Whether it is a four wheeler, a RC vehicle, RV, XBox or even a dumb trinket, the ability to go out on a whim and buy these things or to enjoy them, is all part of our American lifestyle.

Adopting a European lifestyle would be reducing our living standards. Sure, that doesn’t mean we would have to live like the inuit, but it does mean we are no longer living like Americans.

I honestly can see Jarandhel and Diamonds point about slowing our consumption, I just don’t agree with how they wish to do it.

Posted by: kctim at January 7, 2008 4:00 PM
Comment #242501

kctim:

So how would you do it? You expressly want the ability to go out on a whim and buy any kind of trinket, whenever you want, and to have any kind of item or energy delivered to areas, however remote, because some individuals might choose to live there. This is your definition of “individualism”… the freedom to consume what you want, whenever and wherever you want it. How, in this scenario, would you reduce consumption? It is implicitly endorsing consumption as the very definition of what it is to be an individual. Wouldn’t true individualism have more to do with being able to supply one’s needs on one’s own, using one’s own resources? What you describe sounds to me more like consumerism than individualism. It also sounds like it has very little to do with living standards. It has far more to do with the impulse buy.

Posted by: Jarandhel at January 7, 2008 5:11 PM
Comment #242504

Jarandhel
I do not know what the best way to it is, but I have been thinking about it non-stop since.
How do we convince Americans they don’t need the 08 Escort, their 04 Escort is fine? How do we convince Americans they don’t need year round air conditioning? How do we convince them they don’t need that singing bass somebody mentioned earlier?
Since I do not believe in dictating how another person lives their personal life, I have to admit that I am stumped on this.

I do believe that our consumption would fall IF people had a reason to save their own money, but with govt encouraging wasteful spending and providing excuses for people not to save, I think the only answers are for us to return to a true Constitutional Republic or to proceed on our current path and become a full-fledged socialist-democracy.

Posted by: kctim at January 7, 2008 5:28 PM
Comment #242509

Considering the prevalence of the credit industry, I’m not sure how a return to what you feel is a “strict” constitutional republic would discourage consumerism. If the government doesn’t provide welfare, private industry surely will on a for-profit basis, in the name of acquiring debt. We’ve had this in the past as well, in this country. You may remember it as “the company store” of the truck system. Debt bondage. Bonded labor. Someone kept in debt all the way till they go to the grave, forced to keep working their whole life to pay off debts which are being inflated by usurious interest rates. Such systems promote consumerism, because they promote the individual getting deeper in debt till they can’t work their way out again. At that point, the company who owns your debt owns you. This would only increase the problem of consumption, not eliminate it.

Posted by: Jarandhel at January 7, 2008 9:51 PM
Comment #242510

Isnt that funny kctim, you said “I do believe that our consumption would fall IF people had a reason to save their own money, but with govt encouraging wasteful spending and providing excuses for people not to save,” and I was just looking at the rate of interest I can earn from the local bank for saving money, not even 1%. Doesnt even keep up with inflation. What do you think the government should do to get those rates up to where it makes sense to save.
Now I know you like to blame the government but do you really want them to set interest rates? I think you need to look at the private sector for those excuses not to save.

Posted by: j2t2 at January 7, 2008 9:56 PM
Comment #242534

j2t2, it’s a well known fact that the private sector want your money to sleep in your bank far more than in their…

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at January 8, 2008 5:48 AM
Comment #242545

Jarandhel
Things haven’t really changed that much then have they. We still have people who are in debt till the grave. The thing is, NOBODY can be kept in debt unless they choose to go into debt, when the private sector is offering it. But, with govt, it is forced and EVERYBODY pays until the grave.

J2
Banks should set their own rates and you should be able to decide if you wish to use them or not. Not a hard concept to grasp.
And why should one look at the private sector for excuses as to why INDIVIDUALS do not save? You are quit capable to save on your own, you know.

“Doesnt even keep up with inflation”

Ok. But, the price of a big mac or cigs or beer etc… DOES keep up with inflation doesn’t it? And yet, people still find ways to spend their money on those things don’t they.

More people saving would be less people spending on wasteful consumption. Less people spending like that would slow our consumption, which is the authors goal.

Posted by: kctim at January 8, 2008 10:05 AM
Comment #242547

kctim:

Last I checked, the government wasn’t in the practice of forcing people onto welfare, either. It’s a choice to apply for it. It also doesn’t leave you in debt to the government. Society as a whole pays for it, spreading the cost out over the population. Yes, people pay… but individually they each pay only a small fraction. If we remove social programs like welfare and social security, we return to the eleemosynary system that existed before the Great Depression. Private charity would be responsible for all welfare. Anyone rendered disabled would, rather than relying on the government and social security disability, would be at the mercy of whatever charitable individuals or organizations might take pity on them. Few people are so well off that serious illness, injury, or disability would not ruin them financially. Private insurance would take up the slack for the more well-to-do, but even now many do not have insurance and insurance rates would be certain to rise in such a system as the government would no longer finance public healthcare, even in the form of subsidising emergency room visits. Those incapable of fending for themselves, such as developmentally disabled adults, would be left to fend for themselves on the streets rather than taking part in government funded social programs to teach them life skills and get them small jobs they can be productive at. Children would move from the government run foster care system to private orphanages, outside of government oversight. In such desperate circumstances, such as existed before social welfare, do you really think many would not sell their very souls in order to get some respite from it? And, once entering into debt that they cannot get out of again, they will find they have done just that. This has repeated itself time and again in history. From Dickensian England to sharecroppers in the American South; from the truck system immortalized in the song “Sixteen Tons” to modern prostitutes (usually from Eastern Europe) who are forced to work off the “debt” they incurred by being illegal brought over the border into a Western nation. It happens again and again. In this country, we’ve made large strides away from such systems, though some do continue to practice them illegally such as in the prostitute example. But, by and large, we have changed this reality for modern Americans. A return to it would seem a great step backwards, and not a blow for individualism at all.

Posted by: Jarandhel at January 8, 2008 10:55 AM
Comment #242550

Goomba,

the reality remains that mass transportation is an unrealistic and enormously expensive (and energy wasteful) option in the vast majority of the state.

Sure, with the current outdated railways infrastructure you have, low speed and powered by fossil fuel.

But electric high-speed rails are realistic. So far, not many texan car drivers can beat a train running at around 200 mph, with a power cost per seat as low as per seat equivalent to 1.7 liters of gazoline…
When compared to aircrafts or cars, your “energy wasteful” don’t fall on the side you may think, I’m sorry to tell.

US made the bet on cheap oil since WW2, putting pretty much all emphasis on building a huge national interstate highway system and airports. Outdated, underdeveloped mass transport rail lines in US doesn’t mean modern railways can’t provide today a better solution inner and intra-states. Minds are changing regarding this topic, as seen in California’s project of a true high-speed line between LA and SF.

Now, if one looks at a map of the continental U.S., it will become immediately apparent that the overwhelming percentage of land is sparsely inhabited.

Sure.

But it doesn’t make high-speed railways between most big cities in every states an option you should drop like a dumb idea because it was considered that way 50 years ago in cheap oil era…


Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at January 8, 2008 11:18 AM
Comment #242552

kctim,

More people saving would be less people spending on wasteful consumption.

Not necessarily. People could perfectly save in order to buy these new plasma screen, or these new over-polluting shiny vehicle, but not to cover their health cost or whatever. Aren’t you for their freedom to do it anymore!?
;-)

No. More people saving would be less money flowing in Economy, less money to support investment in new technology development, like environment-friendly ones.

The issue is not that people spent their money in wasteful consumption. The issue is they get it way too cheaply, unconnected with the actual and complete manufacturing/serving price.

That’s not often, but I’m with Jack behind Carbon Tax idea: people should be free to buy whatever resource wasteful and/or polluting goodies. *But* they should pay the real price, not the cut one, like today.

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at January 8, 2008 11:31 AM
Comment #242553

“Banks should set their own rates and you should be able to decide if you wish to use them or not. Not a hard concept to grasp.”
kctim I agree. but I still disagree with “but with govt encouraging wasteful spending and providing excuses for people not to save”.


“And why should one look at the private sector for excuses as to why INDIVIDUALS do not save? You are quit capable to save on your own, you know.”
well I would guess for the same reason they would look to the Government for reasons not to save, I get the impression that your trying to say the govt. has something to gain by using these reasons on individuals while the free market does not, which I find to be opposite of the real world.

Posted by: j2t2 at January 8, 2008 11:32 AM
Comment #242556

You forgot to add “elderly dying in our streets” as one of your scare tactics, Jarandhel.

Ok, people are free to get welfare or not, it is their choice. But, in order to offer them that choice, govt must take away anothers choice and lower that persons lifestyle. Govt must also take away ones belief system in support of anothers too. Many people believe giving people everything is the way and many people believe it creates dependency. Why should one persons belief trump the beliefs of another? Why shouldn’t BOTH people be allowed to believe as they wish?
I believe we all have the right to believe as we wish and to live our life as we wish, that is why I find the answer to slowing our consumption, to be a hard one to find.

Another thing is that we are a wealthier nation than we were back then. We have more money per person than they did and because of that, we are more charitable than they were.
Something else that would help, would be for those who “say” they care, to actually do something to help, instead of wanting govt to do it for them.

When people stopped caring for themselves and others, they started having more money to spend on “consuming” wastefully.
If responsibility was placed back onto them, they would consume less, and that is the authors goal, right?

Posted by: kctim at January 8, 2008 11:44 AM
Comment #242562
You forgot to add “elderly dying in our streets” as one of your scare tactics, Jarandhel.

I don’t see how history can be seen as a scare tactic, kctim. This is the system we had before social welfare programs. If you simply eliminate social welfare programs, this is the system we go back to. Exactly what part of that is difficult to grasp?

Ok, people are free to get welfare or not, it is their choice. But, in order to offer them that choice, govt must take away anothers choice and lower that persons lifestyle.

Only in as much as government needs to do so to fund any government expenditure. Moreover, as this amount is spread out over the entire populace, at progressive rates, the actual impact on any individuals lifestyle is rather insignificant. Especially considering that it is a program which anyone might benefit from, in the course of their lives. Insurance, if you will. Or shall we count unemployment insurance as a welfare program as well and discontinue that in order to put money back in the workers pockets and raise their “lifestyles”?

Govt must also take away ones belief system in support of anothers too. Many people believe giving people everything is the way and many people believe it creates dependency. Why should one persons belief trump the beliefs of another? Why shouldn’t BOTH people be allowed to believe as they wish?

Because historically, one system has proven that it does not work to see to the needs of people, leading to great suffering, and one system has proven that it does work. We have, over time, moved to the system that worked, providing social welfare to those in need and leaving the eleemosynary in the dust bin of history. Why should Americans be expected to return to a system which did not work because some people believe in it, regardless of the evidence of history?

I believe we all have the right to believe as we wish and to live our life as we wish, that is why I find the answer to slowing our consumption, to be a hard one to find.

Yes, you seem to believe in individualist rights above all other concerns. Generally, though, civil rights come hand in hand with civic responsibilities. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase before: “Your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins”. Letting people consume however much they want, at an unsustainable rate, is not just a question of letting people live their lives as they please. It is a question of whether or not they have the right to exhaust those resources and rob future generations. Does their right to swing their fist end where our children’s and our children’s children’s collective noses begin? Do we owe nothing to the future?

Another thing is that we are a wealthier nation than we were back then. We have more money per person than they did and because of that, we are more charitable than they were.

England, at that time, was one of the wealthiest nations in the world. Just as we are now, by the standards of our time. They still had poorhouses, debtors prisons, bonded servants and the like. Individual charity never has, in the history of the world, addressed these societal ills. No matter how rich, relative to the rest of the world, a nation may have been. Our relative wealth now does not obviate the problems that come with the eleemosynary system.

Something else that would help, would be for those who “say” they care, to actually do something to help, instead of wanting govt to do it for them.

One may as well ask why government needs to provide for the common defense, if those who say they care about our nation are free to do something about it on their own and form private militias. Private groups, however well intentioned, do not have the resources nor the coordination to tackle a problem on a national scale without government involvement. You also assume that none of those who do advocate government involvement give of their own time and resources to do something to help. This seems an unwarranted assumption. The question is not an either-or.

When people stopped caring for themselves and others, they started having more money to spend on “consuming” wastefully. If responsibility was placed back onto them, they would consume less, and that is the authors goal, right?

You are ignoring history in making that claim. People did not care for themselves and others prior to welfare, there were massive problems posed by the eleemosynary system. The poorhouses and poor farms to house the infirm and elderly that you mentioned earlier are one great example of this. Where exactly were the great private expenditures that you claim people simply stopped making when social welfare programs were instituted? You appear to be advocating a return, not to the past as it actually was, but to an idealized golden age as you think the past must have been without the imagined “scourge” of social welfare and its associated taxation.

Posted by: Jarandhel at January 8, 2008 1:00 PM
Comment #242568

Jar
We are too dependent to simply eliminate social programs now. We must first ween people off the govt and then slowly, our rights and freedoms would be restored.
Your fears of a certain time are not hard to grasp at all, but your willingness to toss away your rights and freedoms in order to prevent that, are very hard to grasp.

“Only in as much as government needs to do so to fund any government expenditure.”

That is not how it works though is it. Those “expenditures” are expanded to include more and more, they are abused and politicians use them to pander. Kind of hard to vote for the person you share more beliefs with, when the other person is telling you they will give you more “freebies” than the other guy.

“Moreover, as this amount is spread out over the entire populace, at progressive rates, the actual impact on any individuals lifestyle is rather insignificant.”

First, who are you or anybody else, the judge of what is insignificant or not when it comes to how another lives their life? You are not.
EVERY dollar I earn is VERY important to me and the money stolen from me each month and given to another does nothing but lessen the way I live and plan my own life.

“Especially considering that it is a program which anyone might benefit from, in the course of their lives.”

I might get hit by a car when I cross the street, but I still want to have the choice to cross that street or not. I know best how to live my own life, not others, and I am prepared to accept that responsibility.

“Or shall we count unemployment insurance as a welfare program as well and discontinue that in order to put money back in the workers pockets and raise their “lifestyles”?”

YES we should.

“Why should Americans be expected to return to a system which did not work because some people believe in it, regardless of the evidence of history?”

Because the important part of individual rights and freedoms DID work.

“Does their right to swing their fist end where our children’s and our children’s children’s collective noses begin?”

Does your right to swing your fist end where my nose begins? Or is it possible for you to respect my beliefs as I respect yours? Why does our childrens noses mean so much when it comes to govt handouts but so little when it comes to their rights?

“England, at that time, was one of the wealthiest nations in the world”

England did not have the US Constitution protecting the rights and freedoms of its citizens. And, wealth in England at that time was far more concentrated than our wealth is now.
You may fear the evil “corporations,” more than your own govt, but I do not. When not perverted, the US Constitution protects us.

“One may as well ask why government needs to provide for the common defense”

Then one need only read the Constitution, right? That was a duty the founders believed was part of govt.

“Where exactly were the great private expenditures that you claim people simply stopped making when social welfare programs were instituted?”

They were using all their resources to provide for themselves and did not have much extra for others.
Where exactly is the success of the social welfare programs of today? We still have millions of poor don’t we? We still have millions and millions of people struggling, don’t we? Was it worth it to throw away so many rights and freedoms just to have something not quite as bad? Was it worth it to throw it all away and create a populace dependent on govt? Not to me. We could have and we still could, do a much better job at both.

As you said, it is not an either or answer. But that is the corner so many now believe we are in isn’t it. We either give up everything that makes us Americans or we become a medevil country with people dying on the streets. Well, that is pure BS.
The only either or here is: We are either the Republic of the United States and we respect the principles we were founded on, OR we model ourselves after any other democracy in the world.

Posted by: kctim at January 8, 2008 2:08 PM
Comment #242629

kctim,

I believe we all have the right to believe as we wish and to live our life as we wish, that is why I find the answer to slowing our consumption, to be a hard one to find.

Because you avoid the “until it violates others right” part.

People who wants to live a wasteful life should be free to do it, that’s (their) right, but it must comes at the real cost, as it’s more consuming precious natural and finite resources and/or polluting the environment. As their way to live hurts others right to live in a sustainable world, making it less possible, more difficult, more costly, paying the real cost should compensate for that.

Problem is prices today don’t include all the actual hidden costs.

When people stopped caring for themselves and others, they started having more money to spend on “consuming” wastefully. If responsibility was placed back onto them, they would consume less, and that is the authors goal, right?

Except that when offering between the freedom to live as they wish without taking any responsibility for it and the freedom to live as they wish *with* taking responsibility for it, practically every people will chose the former.

They avoid their lifestyle responsibility. We, westerners, all do it since too long time already.

With choice comes responsibility. Freedom *is* responsibility. It’s times we find a way that heavy environment impacting lifestyles comes with the corresponding heavy responsibility for it.

One should be free (as in speech) to live as he wish, but it should not be free (as in beer) as it used to be.

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at January 9, 2008 10:02 AM
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