Friday, October 14, 2005

from the book

this book

"because the economy has become global, the commons now encompasses the entire planet....Quantitatively, the average US citizen consumes the same resources as ten average world citizens or twenty-five residents of india. Our continued economic development coexists in some tension with a corollary of the archetype of progress: the notion that America's cause is the cause of all humankind. Thus our economic leadership is very different from our political leadership. Politically, we can hope other nations will put in place our forms of democracy and respect for civil liberties. Economically, we can only hope other nations will never achieve our standard of living, for if they did, the earth would become a desert. economically, we are the bane, not the hope of the world. since the planet is finite, as we expand our economy we make it less likely that less developed nations can expand theirs."

now, there are some things i disagree with here. like, american democracy and civil rights should be the hope of the world. i find it difficult reading that from loewen, even, given the rest of the book and the lack of democracy and civil rights in the US. i also don't think america's cause is the cause of all humankind--never really bought into the whole manifest destiny thing, but i know most americans (unconsciously or not) do.

BUT, i do like this rebuttal to the capitalist/libertarian thinking that economic growth and commercialism will make the third world raise up to our standard of living. i mean, we've already seen it not work the last 50years or so. but here is a bit of (socialist?) theory to buttress the point.


At 8:55 AM GMT-5, Blogger dlamming said...

I was thinking yesterday that having a parlimentary system would be an improvement - aside from the possible greater participation of minor parties, it might also make the executive be held more responsible to the people. It seems to me that the process for removing the executive is far too cumbersome-and members of congress are far to loathe to use it.

Not a cure all by any means, of course, but perhaps a minor improvement.

At 9:00 AM GMT-5, Blogger gtfhwzk said...

Hmm... He makes a good point, but - and I'm just arguing here for the sake of arguing, not because I disagree with him on this point - he assumes that our current estimates of the amount of resources we have are in fact real and static. For example, at least hypothetically although I am pessimistic about this, we could develop alternate energy sources.

This might mean that we would have a lot more resources than anyone currently believes, meaning that other countries could catch up with us in terms of wealth, lifestyle, etc... and it may turn out that there is plenty to go around.

Now is Loewen wrong to make this assumption? I have no idea. I guess it's the safe assumption and when we are talking about the fate of the world it probably pays to play it safe. However, it is still an assumption which he should make explicit and perhaps he does in another part of his argument.

At 9:09 AM GMT-5, Blogger catswym said...

i agree, and have agreed for quite awhile, that parliamentary systems would be a great improvement over what we have. not that it would hold the executive more responsible, but i do think it would take power out of that branch. giving the increasing power of the executive, i think that is a good idea.

i also agree that it would (thankfully) allow the destruction of the two party system.

but, as we see in the UK and germany, it is not without its problems.

At 9:21 AM GMT-5, Blogger catswym said...

he does talk about the fact that we do not know what resources are limited or what technology will provide us with in the future.

however, we have seen over the last 50-100 years that our efforts at "improving" what nature will 'naturally' give us are pretty disastrous. factory farming, pesticides, fish farms, nuclear power (i'm waiting for the attacks, dlamming!), etc.

he also makes the point that americans use more and more power over people in 'third world' countries than they used to. so, even with more resources, they are not going to the people who need them, but to the people who already have them.

in the end, we need to become less reliant on energy sources and more conservationist with all resources.

but no one wants to do that.

At 9:32 AM GMT-5, Blogger gtfhwzk said...

Well, we wouldn't necessarily have to improve on nature, but rather find ways to use what nature has given us in better ways.

Sadly, though, I think you are right. In the end people will have to start conserving and that is the last thing on the average person's mind.

Have you seen the new jib jab video? Funny jab at walmart.

At 9:46 AM GMT-5, Blogger dlamming said...

I'm not going to attack you. :) Factory farming, pesticides, fish farms, and yes, even nuclear power have their drawbacks. Part of the problem is that we're learning as we go; in a hypothetical utopian society of the future founded from scratch, we can probably bet that they'd skip the fission power and pesticides on their way up the technology tree.

Joe Haldeman's book Forever Peace (available on dlamming's book shelf) is sci-fi, but it's a moderately good exploration of these issues. Basically America and the EU are at perpetual war with the third-world countries, completely controlling their access to high technoology and resources... even though these resources have become abundent and basically free. :(

At 9:54 AM GMT-5, Blogger dlamming said...

And the jib jab video is pretty good. Sad, very sad, but good.

At 9:58 AM GMT-5, Blogger gtfhwzk said...

I used to love sci fi! Haven't had much time to read, lately. Anyway, facory farming has more than a few drawbacks. I don't know much about nuclear power, though. I always think of 3 mile island and chernobyl... But that might not be fair.


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