02 June 2014

Jobs, the environment, and resposibility to adapt

New federal rules designed to reduce carbon emissions over a 16-year period are predictably being criticized as job-killers, and not only by predictable Republicans but also by Democratic candidates in coal states who fear that the new policy will be a personal job-killer for them. Of course, you can also find environmentalists to complain that the new rules still aren't adequate to the climate crisis, but it isn't part of an activist's job to be satisfied. In any event, the activist and the candidate have different interests to calculate, the employer and employee others still. How do we sort out all their contradictory claims on government? Two observations might guide us. First, the survival of the environment, objectively speaking, shouldn't be subject to votes if we understand its survival as a fundamental imperative of government. This point is negatively conceded by those who oppose regulation by denying a crisis. Life is not to be sacrificed to "freedom;" government exists in the first place to regulate freedom for the sake of life, if government is anything but the rule of one clique or class over others. Are jobs not to be sacrificed? The self-styled pro-business party tells us so. They mean that government is not to sacrifice private-sector jobs for any so-called public purpose. Business itself, of course, may sacrifice jobs for any reason it pleases, and if anyone protests business blames government. Let's agree that, in the present theoretical case, someone -- public or private sector -- should take responsibility for retraining and finding new work for anyone who might be unemployed by the new regulations. It would be more than many private employers do when they decide that jobs must be sacrificed to the bottom line. When that happens, the unemployed are told that they must adapt in order to compete in the global economy. Their economics obliges us to adapt to people's ambitions, but denies any imperative to adapt to climate change until a way can be found to do it profitably. Until then they deny the need to adapt -- but nature isn't subject to a vote, and for all the big talk about a natural right to do business, nature isn't likely to respect it in the long run. Why should we?


Anonymous said...

The easy answer is that for the nation to prosper and thrive, everyone must put the good of the nation at the forefront. Which means putting the welfare of the citizens of the nation at the forefront. Anyone who is more interested in improving their personal lot at the expense of the nation in general should be shown the border.

Samuel Wilson said...

Many Americans equate the good of the nation with the sum total of the "personal lots" of individuals and families and assume that the nation will be its best when everyone takes "personal responsibility" for maximizing his own and his family's lot. What's missing is a sense of mutual responsibility without which there really is, as some right-wingers claim, no such thing as society. And that mutual responsibility has to go beyond leaving each other alone if a nation is ever to be more than the sum of its parts.

Anonymous said...

There is limited resources. There is finite wealth. For "individuals" to feel they have a right or obligation or freedom to take everything they can get - whether they have need or use for it - only makes certain that those who do need it won't have access to it. The good of the individual is NOT the good of the nation. The good of the nation is the good of ALL individuals living in that nation.

Those who put their personal freedom above the needs of the nation deserve death.