Did I miss the point? Do we need to change? Or What?

Note: this was posted in 1997 to an early internet experiment.
For more, please see my page The Hyperforum on Sustainability.

a sustainable, global world -- the Earth As I reread your note and my response in the cold light of morning, it seems to me I was quite dense. The crux is your remark, “these are the attributes of those Californian infant-terribles we all love to hate.”

The reason we hate them is that they seem to slash and burn everything in sight merely for their private profit. But maybe that’s our problem: we need to “completely [change] our notions of how to do business”? Right now, after the infant-terribles pass, the rest of us are jobless. Could we construct a world in which this activity was nondestructive? A world in which everyone’s lide had continuity, but was vastly more efficient? (Do we have a choice?) In some ways, this actually seems attractive. Efficiency might mean that everyone could have enough without despoiling the earth or his neighbors. Also, if we stopped thinking of ourselves as needing permanent monuments to our present arrangements, we might be less invasive.

Still, overall, the idea seems scary. It’s conventional for socialists to demand that wealth be shared, but, like Andrew Carnegie in the probably mythical anecdote, I’ve always had difficulty believing that sharing the static wealth of the rich could bring any large long-term improvement to the poor. It’s probably not how much the rich have that’s the problem but rather how much the rich destroy in order to get what they have. The infant-terribles exemplify this in an explicit way that makes it clearer to the the public imagination than the robber barons like Carnegie did. The rich warp for their private ends institutions that are in their very nature public, including markets, so that they produce less, far less, in the aggregate than they could, and then others are left to lives of hopelessness.

The fact that I hate the infant-terribles for doing this doesn’t by itself mean that an equitable version of the free-floating, dynamically structured, tribal world you describe couldn’t be constructed. But for the moment, I’m somewhat puzzled.

Wed, 26 Feb 1997 16:18:35 GMT

For more, please see The Hyperforum on Sustainability.

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