Inel points us to a remarkable talk by Jeffrey Sachs to the Royal Society, and excellent replies to defeatist mutterings by presumably “conservative” m’luds in the audience. Get it while you can; apparently the mp3 will not be available past the end of the week.
(Such ringing language doesn’t really roll of the tongue of someone with what I take to be a “gimme-a-break” urban Chicago accent, but his message overcomes his nasal whine easily enough…)
It’s awfully cogent stuff for an economist (though he acknowledges Stern in the most effusive terms). The important point is moral. We can’t afford fatalism about “human nature”. This sort of defeatism, attachment to the insurmountability of human flaws, is a bizarre reading of what “conservatism” means. It certainly has nothing about conservation in it under present circumstances. What exactly is being conserved?
No matter how badly off we may be there is always a best outcome, and we must always strive for it. Setbacks are no excuse for surrender. There is no excuse for surrender. This is the only world we’ve got.
In short, making the best of it is pretty much the best we can make of it. It’s only slightly less a tautology to say that we must always act on our hopes, else there is little hope.
Where I think Sachs missed the boat in response to this sort of muddleheaded defeatism is this: stasis is not an option, stability is not on the table. Things will either change for the better or for the worse.
For the reasons Sachs catalogs, as well as one, exponentially increasing consumption, (which, unsurprisingly, as an economist) he explicitly eschews, the situation is fundamentally unstable.
There is no “business as usual” anymore. Something has got to give.