Social ecology and sustainability

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A few thoughts that have been stirring for a week or so:

It's fascinating to me that some of the same liberals who worry (rightfully) about the impact of massive development on the delicate interactions of physical ecosystems can be blithe about the encroachments of the monolithic state on the self-sustaining interdependencies of loyalty, love, parenthood, family, church, neighborhood, community, and commerce.

You can't build a pipeline without poisoning the earth and destroying species, but somehow government with its massive coercive powers can get involved in regulating every human interaction without destroying the intricate web that is the social fabric of a community.

We aren't happy with what nature produces on its own. There are bugs and burrs and mudholes. So we fence it, pave part of it, prune it, brushhog it, spread weedkiller and pesticide to get rid of what we don't want, and spread fertilizer to encourage what we do want. A meadow that thrived for centuries on its own terms is turned into a lawn that needs constant, expensive maintenance to keep it attractive. We find ourselves fighting against nature rather than husbanding it.

We aren't happy with what human nature produces on its own. People can be clannish, selfish, thoughtless. Even when we had a thriving, natural, social ecosystem, people in genuine need sometimes fell through the cracks. The desire to provide government assistance to those few who couldn't be helped any other way became a government program for everyone in need. Dependence enables dysfunction, which creates more dependence and more need for government intervention, which is expensive, because every intervention must be managed.

The leftist response to the problem with human nature and human society is to fence it, pave it, and try to remake it completely, trashing the social ecosystem in the process. They never succeed in changing human nature, but they use their every failure as justification for more spending and more intervention. It's the epitome of non-sustainability.

If I'm solely dependent on government for my food, housing, and job (or unemployment benefits), I don't need to calibrate my interactions with others, and I don't need to rein in my self-centeredness or my desire for instant gratification. I can be as sociopathic as I like and still get fed, clothed, housed, maybe get a free cell phone and free internet. If my sociopathy is amusingly peculiar, I might even get a degree of notoriety on reality television. My only obligation is to vote for the folks who keep spending money on me.

There was a twitterpated Twitter dust-up the other day, in which fiscal conservatives resurrected a year-old dispute and used it to trash social conservatives and wish for our disappearance from the political realm. One tweep said we should work together with groups of "conservatives" organized to promote sexual immorality in order to "destroy progressivism."

But destroying traditional Judeo-Christian views of family and sexual morality are a key part of the progressive agenda, and that part of the progressive agenda must be defeated if we also wish to turn back encroachments upon our economic liberties. A populace that has been trained to believe that their sexual appetites are paramount and must be indulged and honored by all and protected from scorn and shame is going to need and demand a big, power-hungry, money-hungry government to rescue them from the wreckage they make of their lives. They aren't going to vote for policies that encourage entrepreneurship and allow the self-disciplined to prosper. They're going to vote for politicians who will protect them from the consequences of their folly without any need to turn from their folly, much less feel ashamed of it.

SOMEWHAT RELATED, from Rod Dreher:

My sense -- and I've said this elsewhere -- is that from a traditional conservative and small-o orthodox Christian perspective, the battle has been lost because the culture has been lost, and the wisest thing we can do is to retreat to defensible positions while continuing to live out and to teach our religious and moral traditions, in hope of better times. If I'm right, then as a practical matter, the best we can hope for in the secular realm is to fight for the liberty to be left alone. This, as John Z. gets, means in practical terms embracing a libertarianism that we find philosophically objectionable, but which is probably the only option open to us.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on February 20, 2013 11:15 PM.

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