Thursday, April 13, 2006

Scheer, Vidal, Permanent War Economy

In Gore Vidal’s introduction to Robert Scheer’s new book “Playing President,” Vidal writes of the World War II era: “It was through war and a militarized economy that we became prosperous with full employment.”

This is part and parcel of the vision problem. It's not enough to stop the Iraq War and bring the troops home, or short circuit the imminent invasion of Iran. It's not enough because the entire U.S. economy is permeated by war and built around a framework of war: without war, the economy collapses, which is, in turn, why the end of the Cold War couldn't precede an actual drawdown of military expenditures.

What gives some hope is the precariousness of the edifice. It reminds me of some of the essays in scholarly right-wing journals like the National Review: huge, towering edifices of big words and grand ideas balanced, in the end, on tiny little toothpick assumptions that can be blown out with one deep breath.

Being so utterly dependent on destruction abroad for "prosperity" at home - as George Orwell described so clearly in 1984 - just sets us up for a similar collapse, and come the collapse, from the rubble, we pacifists had better have a better idea about how to build something on stronger foundations, and more flexible.

The outlines have already taken shape. Economies of the future will be smaller scale and much more local, and so will decision-making, because transportation will be much more expensive. See, for example, the writings of Hazel Henderson. http://www.hazelhenderson.com/

Most importantly, the principle underlying political and economic decisions will be the principle of sustainability - taking no more out of the resource pool than necessary, processing food and shelter resources minimally, and disposing only clean, non-toxic processed materials. Our guides, however little we deserve their wisdom, will be the indigenous tribes of the past and present, who learned to live in balance over centuries of practice. http://www.ic.org/pnp/cdir/1995/30morris.php


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