Saturday, May 14, 2011
Friday, May 6, 2011
I agree with his overall point: that the founding principles of the U.S. protect our ability to pursue happiness. While Greeley tends to focus on consumption such as collecting figurines, joining a clogging troupe and taking road trips (these are his examples) he misses another aspect: creating values. Our Constitution protects both enjoying values and creating them.
Towards the end of his article Greeley says: “We humans follow base and pedestrian needs.” Unfortunately, whether he means it or not, I think this choice of words plays into the hands of those who think we should be committed to a “higher” purpose, such as serving others. There is a strong sentiment here in our own country to compel us to serve others whether we want to or not.
To me there is nothing base or pedestrian about fulfilling our needs. Yes, I don’t deny there are some activities (like watching Jersey Shore) which are base or pedestrian. At least I think they are and don’t partake in them; I also don’t recommend outlawing them.
I think it’s a mistake both philosophically and strategically to label activities that satisfy our wants or needs as merely “base” or “pedestrian”. Our ability to pursue these wants reflects the success of our approach: that we can transcend basic survival needs to pursue other desires that represent our individual needs, interests, wants and desires. We have the luxury of, say, collecting figurines, joining a clogging troupe and taking road trips precisely because of the spectacular and envied (or despised depending on your viewpoint) success of our system of limited government and the free market. This success rests on our freedom to create, enjoy and express values within a market and culture protected by laws based (in general) on individual rights. In other words our riches rest on our ability to pursue our own self-interest as long as we don’t violate the self-interest of others. We collect figurines, clog or travel because we feel they enrich our lives. We don’t feel the need to justify our existence by serving some “larger” purpose such as serving God, others or Allah. Nor should we.
With all of the above in mind I nonetheless highly recommend reading Greeley's article.
Thursday, May 5, 2011
And that is why the Ruling Class establishment cannot bring itself to ignore her any longer. The sheer volume and intensity of their intemperate mockery gives the lie to their claims that her ideas aren't worth bothering about. They are bothered, all right -- as they should be -- about a looming philosophic menace to their shaky hold on our culture.
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Walter Russell Mead reports in Top Green Admits: “We Are Lost!” “George Monbiot of the left-leaning British newspaper has a must-read column in which he admits that because of a whole series of intellectual mistakes, the global green movement’s policy prescriptions are hopelessly flawed.”
Greens like to have it both ways. They warn darkly about “peak oil” and global resource shortages that will destroy our industrial economy in its tracks — but also warn that runaway economic growth will destroy the planet through the uncontrolled effects of mass industrial productions. Both doomsday scenarios cannot be true; one cannot simultaneously die of both starvation and gluttony.
As Monbiot says in his The Lost World.
You think you’re discussing technologies, you quickly discover that you’re discussing belief systems. The battle among environmentalists over how or whether our future energy is supplied is a cipher for something much bigger: who we are, who we want to be, how we want society to evolve. Beside these concerns, technical matters – parts per million, costs per megawatt hour, cancers per sievert – carry little weight. We choose our technology – or absence of technology – according to a set of deep beliefs; beliefs which in some cases remain unexamined.
Although Monbiot gets close to the truth, I believe Robert Bidinotto gets even closer in his Environmentalism or Individualism?
Capitalism and science are values only to people who want to achieve material progress; they rest implicitly on the idea that self-interest is good. Yet this clashes with age-old moral teachings, which hold that goodness consists of "service to others"--and that self-interest is evil.
This explains why economic and scientific arguments have failed to inoculate the public against environmentalism. By and large, people want to do the right thing. But if they've been taught to equate "the right thing" with self-sacrifice, and evil with selfishness--if they've been taught "Paradise" is Eden, that perfect Garden in which Man is a humble steward of the "natural balance"--then how can they possibly remain sympathetic to the enterprises of science and free market economics?
As I wrote in an earlier post on climate change:
I think the following quote from the former Canadian Environment Minister Christine Stewart sheds light on their motive.
“No matter if the science is all phony, there are collateral environmental benefits…. Climate change [provides] the greatest chance to bring about justice and equality in the world.” Source: Calgary Herald, 14 December 1998.
It all comes down to a new way to make us (the U.S. in particular and the West in general) feel guilty for our material success in order to soften us for their solutions of taxing emissions, changing our life style and bringing us down to the level of countries that don’t suffer from these “problems,” thanks to their policies of punitive taxation, heavy regulation and government control (or strangling) of their economies.