Monday, August 15, 2011

Wish Fulfillment

I am beginning to see a disturbing parallel between the neoclassical economist’s belief in the Law of Substitution…and the political activist’s belief in the sweeping powers of government.

Specifically, the economist knows beyond a shadow of doubt that if demand is strong enough, depletion of one resource won’t matter – the Market will automatically provide a substitute*.  Burned up all your high-EROEI fossil fuel?  Don’t worry!  We HAVE to drive – (it’s not negotiable) – so someone WILL invent/develop/find something else to feed our cars.  After all, it’s not like we started burning coal because we ran out of wood!

Meanwhile the activist is sure that if enough people rise up and demand a thing from their elected officials, government will provide what is wanted.  Jobs?  Green energy?  Walkable neighborhoods?  World peace?  OK, personal choices DO count for something, but government action is what REALLY matters.

Missing in action:  The conviction, “I owe.”  The commitment, “These are my duties to the commonwealth.” The expectation that 300 million ordinary people are capable of citizenship. 

*And not only that, the economist considers it likely that the substitute will be BETTER.

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