I have come across some commonly shared assumptions regarding responsible societal behavior. Some are sound; some are not so sound (irresponsible fairy tales). I thought to list a few and critique a few.
The learned experience of a society changes things much faster than natural selection.
The notion that animals have the same rights as humans is nonsense.
Everyone is owed a fair share. This might work if everyone saw fairness the same way. The free market, where one is rewarded according to what one contributes, as judged by one’s fellows, does it best. Best doesn’t mean equal.
It is a mistake to believe natural resources will ever run out. Doomsayers always compare current consumption with proven reserves. In any market a shortage of a good leads to a price rise, which leads to three things, consumption falling, substitutes being used, and improved technology (increased reserves). And yes, our earth is finite but our sun will be a red giant before we use up the natural resources of the earth, most of which, with the possible exception of fossil fuels, are recyclable. And if our fuels are not fossil, but were formed with the earth they will undoubtedly last until our world approaches the red giant stage.
Man is blamed for endangering the ecological system and bio-diversity. It is true that in the short run we have made some messes, but wealthy societies clean them up. It is hubristic to believe man can upset ecological stability in the long run; or maintain complete biodiversity in any run.
It is unnecessarily cruel the way we raise chickens and fatten hogs and cattle.
It is wrong to see global warming as a danger. There is probably nothing to do except cope with it when and if it arrives. We cannot guess whether its impact will be good or bad.
Pesticides are dangerous. This is wrong. Today most are biodegradable, and we cannot get along without them.
The earth is becoming crowded with people. This is nonsense. Count the people you meet driving from Albany to Buffalo NY. Population growth is a problem. More nonsense. The growth rate is falling today and world population will stabilize at about 11 billion, better clothed and fed than ever. Scientists share the blame for us not having a rational debate about this. Science must be involved but scientists must recognize that they cannot be ethically neutral, and ought to be very careful about being trapped in a politically correct paradigm.
It is wrong to claim that in a free society many of the most effective political levers are fiscal. In a free society decisions are made or discovered in the market. In any case, thanks to the influence of our intellectuals, the West no longer has a free society. To think that “scientific” solutions existed for political problems, was unrealistic, more correctly, hopelessly unrealistic, then it was further mistaken to believe that a society could be managed from the top for the benefit of all or even managed from the top at all. This has been a superstitious era. It has brought us great material advancement, a murderous century and alienated and disconnected people.
The good news is that societies can turn around. Chance, providence, or individual strong wills may alter their direction. If we recognize free market competition as the co-operative system that it is, then cooperate in competing, do not become pushovers, never initiate aggression, do not expect the worst, but do not be surprised by it, the success of our societies can be assured. Otherwise . . . .
George Crispin [send him mail] is a retired businessman who heads a Catholic homeschooling cooperative in Auburn, Alabama.