Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Operating Manual For Spaceship Earth

As a rule, politicians aren’t thinkers. As a result, Republican politicians aren’t usually very good at articulating what’s wrong with the liberal agenda. Before you can articulate what’s wrong with the liberal agenda, you have to take it apart.

Unlike the Ten Commandments, liberal ideology isn’t ready-made. Liberals have to decide what they are supposed to believe. So liberal ideology evolves over time. There are different influences feeding into liberal ideology. The ideology is often contradictory. But in my observation, these are the basics:

1. Fairness

Liberals have a simplistic notion of fairness. All things being equal, we ought to treat everyone equally. However, what this means is that we ought to treat like situations alike and unlike situations unalike. But liberals typically disregard that key qualification. This results in coercive equality. As Robert Bork puts it:

Egalitarianism requires hierarchy because equality of condition cannot be achieved or approximated without coercion. The coercers will be bureaucrats and politicians who will, and already do, form a new elite class. Political and governmental authority replace the authorities of family, church, profession, and business. The project is to sap the strength of these latter institutions so that individuals stand bare before the state, which, liberals assume with considerable justification, they will administer. We will be coerced into virtue, as modern liberals define virtue: a ruthlessly egalitarian society. This agenda is, of course, already well advanced.
Both diminished performance and personal injustice are accomplished through radically egalitarian measures. Quotas and affirmative action, for example, are common and increasing not only in the workplace but in university admissions, faculty hiring, and promotion. The excuse is past discrimination, but the result is that individuals who have never been discriminated against are preferred to individuals who have never discriminated, regardless of their respective achievements. Predictably, the result is anger on both sides and an increasingly polarized society. After years of struggle to emplace the principle of reward according to achievement, the achievement principle is being jettisoned for one of reward according to birth once more.
Remarkably little thought attends this process. The demand is always for more equality, but no egalitarian ever specifies how much equality will be enough.
In their final stages, radical egalitarianism becomes tyranny and radical individualism descends into hedonism. These translate as bread and circuses. Government grows larger and more intrusive in order to direct the distribution of goods and services in an ever more equal fashion, while people are diverted, led to believe that their freedoms are increasing, by a great variety of entertainments featuring violence and sex. David Frum argues that the root of our trouble is big government, but the root of big government is the egalitarian passion, which intimidates even many conservatives. So long as that passion persists, government is likely only to get bigger and more intrusive.

2. The Mommy Party

As Jude Wanniski puts it,

The Democratic party is the Mommy Party in that it represents security, which must be pessimistic, just as mother and wife as traditional keepers of hearth and home are risk averse. Republicans represent growth, which results from risk-taking, which requires optimism...Republicans become Republicans because they think more about maintaining standards of behavior than Democrats do. Their focus is the individual while the Democratic focus is the community...Democrats think about giving people another chance, and wonder about rules that force men to operate in lockstep...Mommies dote on their own children, but not necessarily the neighbors’ children, while Daddies have to rely on the neighbor boys when the community needs a force to form a posse, fight a battle, or kill a moose for dinner.

I think this formulation could be refined. But it’s a useful approximation.

The Mommy Party perspective has consequences for jurisprudence and public education. To take a few examples:

Far more common than Margaret Thatcher’s rationality was the emotionality of the women jurors in the Menendez brothers' trials. All six women jurors in the Erik Menendez trial voted to acquit him of the murder of his father (all six males voted guilty of murder). A virtually identical breakdown by sex took place in the Lyle Menendez trial for the murder of their mother. The women all had compassion for the brothers despite their confessions to the shotgun murders of their parents.
To say that the human race needs masculine and feminine characteristics is to state the obvious. But each sex comes with prices. Men can too easily lack compassion, reduce sex to animal behavior and become violent. And women’s emotionality, when unchecked, can wreak havoc on those closest to these women and on society as a whole–when emotions and compassion dominate in making public policy.

Every society confronts the problem of civilizing its young males. The traditional approach is through character education: Develop the young man's sense of honor. Help him become a considerate, conscientious human being. Turn him into a gentleman. This approach respects boys’ masculine nature; it is time-tested, and it works. Even today, despite several decades of moral confusion, most young men understand the term “gentleman” and approve of the ideals it connotes.
What Gilligan and her followers are proposing is quite different: civilize boys by diminishing their masculinity. “Raise boys like we raise girls” is Gloria Steinem’s advice. This approach is deeply disrespectful of boys. It is meddlesome, abusive, and quite beyond what educators in a free society are mandated to do.

Many schools now discourage or prohibit competitive games such as tag or dodge ball. The rationale: too many hurt feelings. In May 2002, for example, the principal of Franklin Elementary School in Santa Monica, Calif., sent a newsletter to parents informing them that children could no longer play tag during the lunch recess. As she explained, “In this game, there is a ‘victim’ or ‘It,’ which creates a self-esteem issue.”
Which games are deemed safe and self-affirming? The National PTA recommends a cooperative alternative to the fiercely competitive "tug of war" called "tug of peace."

3. Spaceship Earth

Following the lead of Buckminster Fuller, liberals increasingly adopt a spaceship earth perspective. On a spaceship, there are limited supplies of air, food, and water. This pans into global warmist hysteria.

The spaceship earth perspective results in an increasingly regimented, totalitarian existence. But it also gives liberals a vicarious sense of purpose. They are dutiful foot soldiers in a moral cause.

Compare this with a libertarian perspective. For instance, some consumers choose a high carb diet. They know that’s probably bad for them in the long run, but they take a calculated risk. They figure that we’re all going to die some day, so they’d rather eat what they like, even if that shaves a few years off their lifespan, than deny themselves.

But on a spaceship earth perspective, their individualism is unacceptable. If we have universal healthcare, then high-risk patients are a drain on the system. Hence, liberals dispatch the food police to dictate to restaurants menu items and menu portions. For instance:

Unlimited growth on a finite planet cannot be sustained.
Land use practices must be founded on stewardship of the Earth, to honor the interconnected and interdependent nature of all life, to respect ecosystems and other species, while at the same time providing for human needs in a responsible and sustainable way.
Humans have a unique responsibility for stewardship of the Earth.  No species, especially on the upper end of the food chain, can have unchecked exponential growth without depleting the Earth's carrying capacity–human population expands at the expense of other species.
Limiting the discussion to population numbers and birthrates diverts attention from over-consumption in the industrial world and historic patterns of exploitation of developing countries. Consumption-oriented lifestyles that have evolved in the industrial world have resulted in a minority of people consuming a majority of resources. This is as significant a threat to the Earth’s carrying capacity as the high birth rates in low-consumption countries.
Current global demographics demonstrate that economic well-being promotes low birthrates.
Insist that every property right has an implied responsibility to provide for the common good of people, places and the planet.
Climate change is the gravest environmental, social and economic peril that humanity has ever met. Across the world, it is causing vanishing polar ice, melting glaciers, growing deserts, stronger storms, rising oceans, less biodiversity, deepening droughts, as well as more disease, hunger, strife and human misery. It is a tragedy unfolding in slow motion. Greenhouse gases warm the Earth by trapping heat in the atmosphere.
We have an ambitious plan to make drastic changes quickly to avert global catastrophe. We will expend maximum effort to preserve a planet friendly to life as we know it by curtailing greenhouse gas emissions and actively removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
Discourage unnecessary auto use by eliminating free parking in non-residential areas well served by mass transit, and establish preferential parking rates for HOV.
Substantially increase the taxes on gasoline, but allow some compensation for low-income drivers.
A waste-free society is essential to public health and the integrity and sustainability of the biosphere. Natural ecosystems are self-sustaining and generate no waste. We humans are a part of these ecosystems, and while we obtain resources from them, we have a responsibility to return only those things that can be re-absorbed without detriment. Waste is not an inevitable part of production and consumption, as it is viewed in the current economic model.
Support and implement the precautionary principle: “When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically. In this context the proponent of an activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof. The process of applying the precautionary principle must be open, informed and democratic and must include potentially affected parties. It must also involve an examination of the full range of alternatives, including no action.”
Ecological systems are diverse and interlocking, and nature's survival strategy can best be found in the adaptability that comes as a result of biological diversity. All policies concerning human settlement, food, energy, natural resources, water, coastal development, and industrialization should be formulated to prevent further disruption of the non-human ecosystems' ability to maintain themselves.

Welcome to the City of Seattle's Carbon Calculator. This tool will help you identify your individual or household carbon footprint as well as highlight action steps that you can take to reduce your footprint.
If every resident in Seattle committed to making a significant reduction in their carbon footprint, we would easily meet our goal of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions to 7% below our 1990 emissions, or 7.28 million tons. By 2012, we hope to reduce that number to 6.77 million tons. Even with more people, businesses and buildings in the city, we can reduce our carbon footprint!
Starting in the fall of 2011, the Office of Sustainability & Environment will be updating the Seattle Climate Action Plan. The Seattle Climate Action Plan will lay out a roadmap for how Seattle can become a carbon neutral city by the year 2050 and be prepared for the impacts of climate change. The plan will include strategies identifying how we can reduce our greenhouse gases in the transportation, building energy and waste sectors.

Preparing for Climate Change Impacts
Climate change will affect Seattle even though we are lowering emissions. Some of the ways that climate change may affect Seattle include hotter, drier summers, a decrease in the amount of snow that falls in the mountains, and an increase in the intensity and frequency of storms. In addition, sea level is expected to rise, which could lead to an increase in flooding along Seattle’s waterfront. The City is working to plan for these potential impacts, particularly on the City’s capital projects and existing infrastructure, such as buildings, roads, and drainage systems, as well as on things like our water supply and ecosystem health.

Bath & Laundry 
Bathrooms today are both refuge and a place for utilitarian tasks, such as washing the family dog. They also use large amounts of water and energy (used to heat that water and warm, light, and ventilate the space). Use our Bath & Laundry Guide to help make important decisions on fixtures, flooring, and more.
The kitchen is the heart of the home. As a room subjected to daily heavy use, careful consideration during your remodeling project can ensure it's durable, efficient and safe as well as welcoming and comfortable. The Kitchen Guide examines everything from countertops to cabinetry, including the kitchen sink.
A new coat of paint can enliven tired walls and protect surfaces. But the wrong paint can compromise air quality indoors or cause smog outside, and paint projects can release health hazards, such as leaded paint dust. In our Painting Guide you'll learn to choose paints that accomplish these goals along with protecting air quality and reducing exposure to toxic hazards.
Lighting is a crucial component of a comfortable, safe, attractive and efficient home. Yet all too often, even in “green” homes, little consideration is given to lighting design. Misconceptions regarding the inferiority of efficient lighting are still common. In our Lighting Guide you'll learn efficient lighting comes in a diversity of styles and functionalities which helps to create flexibility for the discerning designer and homeowner.
Landscape Materials
Your landscape is an essential part of the way your home presents itself to the world. Selecting materials that are low-maintenance, nontoxic, and kind on people and the planet is one way to tell your neighborhood how you feel about it. The Landscape Materials Guide provides selection tips on landscape elements from pathways to pergolas.
Managing Rainwater
Stormwater runoff is the greatest threat to the health of Puget Sound. Homeowners can make a big difference by managing rainwater on their individual properties – a variety of techniques add beauty and interest to homes while reducing runoff. Trees, soil management, rain gardens, and green roofs are some of the practices addressed in the Managing Rainwater Guide.
A roof provides essential protection to the rest of your housing investment in this rainy Seattle environment. But beyond shielding your home from the elements, choices made when replacing your roof can help protect the environment and your pocketbook. Learn how in our Roofing Guide.

4. Darwinism

The spaceship earth perspective dovetails with Darwinism. On this view, there’s a distinction between human animals and nonhuman animals, but we’re all a bunch of animals, and humans don’t have special rights. Indeed, human animals pose a clear and present danger to the survival of other species. For instance:

We should educate ourselves about animal behaviors to overcome our culture’s irrational fear of wildlife, and learn techniques of co-existence with other species.
We reject the belief that our species is the center of creation, and that other life forms exist only for our use and enjoyment. Our species does not have the right to exploit and inflict violence on other creatures simply because we have the desire and power to do so. Our ethic upholds not only the value of biological diversity and the integrity and continuity of species, but also the value of individual lives and the interest of individual animals.
The Green Party advocates humane treatment of animals with the following policies:
Redirect the funds that are disbursed annually by the National Institutes of Health away from animal experiments and more towards direct health care, preventive medicine, and biomedical research using non-animal procedures such as clinical, epidemiological, and cell culture research.
Phase-out the use of animals for consumer product testing, tobacco and alcohol testing, psychological testing, classroom demonstrations and dissections, weapons development and other military programs.

Mind you, this objection doesn’t make sense even on Darwinian grounds. As the alpha predator, there’s no reason human animals should defer to lower animals. And nature doesn’t care about the survival of species. Consider all the mass extinctions.


  1. I remember the day that Voyager turned its camera back toward earth and revealed that all we are is a pale blue dot :'-(

  2. This is a good post. A handy collection and light synthesis of ideas.

  3. I agree w. Fosi: good stuff. You should become a strategist/speech writer for the Republicans until after November. :)

  4. Hans Kung actually has put together something like this. I'm not sure about the level of acceptance he has received:


  5. It seems to me that people generally promote discipline in those areas they consider fundamental to morality and they promote liberty otherwise.

    Political conservatives hold to traditional values and leave everything else up to personal responsibility as a matter of some liberty. Rebelling against traditional values, political liberals have declared liberty in those areas while developing a different set of moral strictures otherwise.

    Both general schools of moral thought are arbitrary when untethered from biblical revelation, even where they happen to be similar to it.