Mod?rn th?orists and writ?rs hav? mad? num?rous att?mpts to incor¬porat? sci?ntifically valid m?asur?s of th? damag? don? to th? ?cosyst?m by ?conomic activiti?s into th? fram?work of mod?rn ?conomics. Scholarship in this disciplin? is also r?pl?t? with car?fully d?v?lop?d and docum?nt?d r?asons why gov?rnm?nt th?ory fails to account for th? costs of doing busin?ss in th? global ?nvironm?nt.
Giv?n th? ?normous ?xt?nt to which assumptions about ?conomic r?al¬ity in this th?ory contribut? to th? crisis in th? global ?nvironm?nt and frustrat? its r?solution, th?r? is obviously nothing unr?asonabl? about this pr?sumption. But th? fact that th?r? has b??n virtually no dialogu? b?tw??n ?cological ?conomists and politicians cl?arly indi¬cat?s that th? form?r is saying som?thing that th? latt?r simply do?s wish to ?nt?rtain. Part of what politicians cl?arly do not wish to consid?r is th? prosp?ct of d?stroying th? whol? ?co syst?m of th? Unit?d Stat?s with th? curr?nt laws on natur?. Th?r? is, how?v?r, a much mor? fundam?ntal r?ason why politicians hav? b??n unwilling to ?ngag? in this dialogu?. This pap?r, by analyzing th? book by Rob?rt F. K?nn?dy Jr. titl?d Crim?s against natur?: how G?org? W. Bush and his corporat? pals ar? plund?ring th? country and high-jacking our d?mocracy, critically r?vi?ws th? ?nvironm?ntal laws and polici?s initiat?d und?r G?org? W. Bush’s administration, and supports th? author’s vi?ws that form?r Pr?sid?nt Bush ?ndang?r?d th? ?nvironm?ntal h?alth of th? whol? nation, sacrificing Am?rican valu?s of fr??dom and d?mocracy in r?turn for political pow?r and mon?tary gains.
Introducing K?nn?dy’s opinion on Bush and his polici?s
In his book, Rob?rt F. K?nn?dy Jr. writ?s “Und?r th? Whit? Hous?’s guidanc?, th? v?ry ag?nci?s ?ntrust?d to prot?ct Am?ricans from pollut?rs ar? laboring to d?stroy ?nvironm?ntal laws. Or th?y’v? simply stopp?d ?nforcing th?m” (2-3).
K?nn?dy r?minds his r?ad?rs why th? m?dia has not cov?r?d ?nvironm?ntal stori?s to any ?xt?nt - on?, th? stori?s ar? not fast-br?aking in th? words of a TV ?x?cutiv?; and two, with mor? m?rg?rs of m?dia outl?ts, th? l?ss th?r? is obj?ctivity in broadcasting. Stori?s criticizing th? par?nt or subsidiary compani?s of th? company who own?d th? TV station would pull such stori?s and/or fir? th? r?ports who pr?par?d th?m, s?nding out a cl?ar m?ssag? for th? r?st of th? r?port?rs. Do what w? say, ?v?n if it m?ans lying to th? public about it, or you will not hav? a job. H? m?ntions that if you want r?al n?ws, you hav? to go to th? BBC for it.
K?nn?dy mak?s two corr?lations in his Crim?s Against Natur? book b?tw??n Am?rican gov?rnm?nt as it is b?ing run now and (1) fascism and (2) Hitl?r’s G?rmany, which s??m v?ry shocking at first but ar? compl?t?ly apt for th? way th? Am?rican gov?rnm?nt has b??n run by Bush.
In Chapt?r II, “R?claiming Am?rica”, K?nn?dy stat?s: “Whil? communism is th? control of busin?ss by gov?rnm?nt, fascism is th? control of gov?rnm?nt by busin?ss”. Th? Am?rican H?ritag? Dictionary d?fin?s fascism as a “syst?m of gov?rnm?nt that ?x?rcis?s a dictatorship of th? ?xtr?m? right, typically through th? m?rging of stat? and busin?ss l?ad?rship tog?th?r with b?llig?r?nt nationalism”.
Continuing with th? topic of th? ris? in fascism in th? 1930s in Spain, G?rmany and Italy, K?nn?dy writ?s:
Industrialists forg?d unholy allianc?s with right-wing radicals and th?ir charismatic l?ad?rs to win ?l?ctions in Italy and G?rmany, and th?n flood?d th? ministri?s, running th?m for th?ir own profit, pouring gov?rnm?nt mon?y into corporat? coff?rs, and awarding lucrativ? contracts to pros?cut? wars and build infrastructur?. B?nito Mussalini’s insid? vi?w of th? proc?ss l?d him to complain that "fascism should mor? appropriat?ly b? call?d ‘corporatism’ b?caus? it is th? m?rg?r of stat? and corporat? pow?r (67-68).
Anoth?r ?xc?rpt worth citing from Crim?s Against Natur? mak?s a comparison b?tw??n th? curr?nt Am?rican r?gim? with th? comm?nts from H?rmann Go?ring:
Th?s? fascist ?l?ct?d gov?rnm?nts us?d th? provocation of t?rrorist attacks, continual wars, and invocations of patriotism and hom?
Special offer for new customers!
Get 15% OFF
your first order
land s?curity to privatiz? th? commons, tam? th? pr?ss, muzzl? criticism by oppon?nts, and turn gov?rnm?nt ov?r to corporat? control. “It is always a simpl? matt?r to drag th? p?opl? along,” not?d Hitl?r’s sid?kick, H?rmann Go?ring, “wh?th?r it is a d?mocracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliam?nt, or a communist dictatorship” (94-95).
It is a book for both D?mocrats and R?publicans, p?opl? lik? th? traditionally cons?rvativ? farm?rs and fish?rm?n K?nn?dy r?pr?s?nts in lawsuits against pollut?rs. “Without ?xc?ption,” h? writ?s, “th?s? p?opl? s?? th? curr?nt administration as th? gr?at?st thr?at not just to th?ir liv?lihoods but to th?ir valu?s, th?ir s?ns? of community, and th?ir id?a of what it m?ans to b? Am?rican” (5).
Taking th? d?finit? stand against th? administration
In this pow?rful and far-r?aching indictm?nt of G?org? W. Bush’s Whit? Hous?, Rob?rt F. K?nn?dy charg?s that this administration has tak?n corporat? cronyism to such unpr?c?d?nt?d h?ights that it now thr?at?ns our h?alth, our national s?curity, and d?mocracy as w? know it. In a h?adlong pursuit of privat? profit and p?rsonal pow?r, K?nn?dy writ?s, G?org? Bush and his administration hav? ?visc?rat?d th? laws that hav? prot?ct?d our nation’s air, wat?r, public lands, and wildlif? for th? past thirty y?ars, ?nriching th? pr?sid?nt’s political contributors whil? low?ring th? quality of lif? for th? r?st of us.
K?nn?dy lifts th? v?il on how th? administration has orch?strat?d th?s? rollbacks almost ?ntir?ly outsid? of public scrutiny -- and in tand?m with th? v?ry industri?s that our laws ar? m?ant to r?gulat?, th? country’s most notorious pollut?rs. H? writ?s of how it has d?c?iv?d th? public by manipulating and suppr?ssing sci?ntific data, intimidat?d ?nforc?m?nt officials and oth?r civil s?rvants, and mask?d its ag?nda with Orw?llian doubl?sp?ak. H? r?ports on how th? Whit? Hous? dol?s out lavish subsidi?s and tax br?aks to th? ?n?rgy barons whil? ?xcusing industry from providing ad?quat? s?curity at th? mor? than 15,000 ch?mical and nucl?ar faciliti?s that ar? prim? targ?ts for t?rrorist attacks. K?nn?dy r?v?als an administration whos? polici?s hav? “squand?r?d our Tr?asury, ?ntangl?d us in for?ign wars, diminish?d our int?rnational pr?stig?, mad? us a targ?t for t?rrorist attacks, and incr?as?d our r?lianc? on p?tty Middl? ?ast?rn dictators who d?spis? d?mocracy and ar? hat?d by th?ir own p?opl?” (21).
Crim?s Against Natur? is ultimat?ly about th? corrosiv? ?ff?ct of corporat? corruption on our cor? Am?rican valu?s -- fr??-mark?t capitalism and d?mocracy. It is about an administration, th? author argu?s, that has sacrific?d r?sp?ct for th? law, public h?alth, sci?ntific int?grity, and long-t?rm ?conomic vitality on th? altar of corporat? gr??d.
Linking K?nn?dy’s book and Bush’s r?al polici?s
B?caus? ?cologists ar? typically acquaint?d with r?s?arch in ?nvironm?ntal sci?nc?, th?y b?li?v? that country rul?rs would pay significant att?ntion to natur? and ?nvironm?nt. How?v?r, th? pr?sumption that politicians such as G?org? W. Bush would b? willing to r?vis? th?s? assumptions ar? unr?alistic b?caus? th?y ar? not wiling to sacrific? th?ir gains, K?nn?dy argu?s. As th? author d?monstrat?s, any propos?d ?conomic solutions to ?nvironm?ntal probl?ms that r?quir? ?v?n a slight modification of th?s? assumptions thr?at?ns to und?rmin? th? pr?sum?d ?fficacy of mod?rn gov?rnm?ntal th?ory b?caus? th? validity of this th?ory is ?ntir?ly d?p?nd?nt on th? absolut? validity of th? assumptions.
?v?n a slight chang? in th? assumptions would forc? politicians to r?d?fin? initial conditions in th? ?quations of ?conomics in ways that would r?quir? th? introduction of n?w s?ts of compl?x variabl?s. This would not only play chaos with th? n?at symm?try in th?s? ?quations b?tw??n consumption and production and produc? r?sults that d?scrib? v?ry diff?r?nt outcom?s, but it would also ?ff?ctiv?ly und?rmin? th? pr?sumption that th? ?conomic proc?ss ?xists in a s?parat? and distinct domain of r?
Get 24/7 Free consulting
ality in which d?cisions of ?conomic actors ar? a function of lawful or law-lik? m?chanisms that op?rat? only within this domain.
K?nn?dy shows that in ord?r to ?nlarg? th? fram?work of mod?rn political th?ory in ways advocat?d by th? ?cological ?conomists, politicians would not only b? oblig?d to admit that assumptions about parts and whol?s in that th?ory ar? arbitrarily conc?iv?d constructs that do not d?scrib? th? r?al of actual charact?r of th? ?conomic proc?ss, but th?y would also b? forc?d to conc?d? that th?s? assumptions pr?clud? th? prosp?ct that many th?ori?s can r?alistically account for th? costs of doing busin?ss in th? US ?nvironm?nt. B?caus? this would amount to an op?n admission that mod?rn political th?ory is m?r?ly a h?uristic that d?scrib?s t?nd?nci?s-to-occur in mark?t syst?ms with w?ll-d?v?lop?d institutional practic?s and fram?works, G?org? W. Bush and his t?am hav? b??n r?luctant to s?riously consid?r th? proposals of th? ?cological ?conomists.
To continu?, in th? curr?nt ?ra of globalization, ?cological ?conomists hav? b?com? incr?asingly conc?rn?d with th? trag?dy of th? commons. A commons is any ar?a wh?r? prop?rty-rights r?gim?s do not apply and us?rs hav? op?n acc?ss to its ?xploitation. It is possibl? to us? th? ?xampl? of a common grazing land wh?r? ?ach cattl? own?r continu?s to ?nlarg? his or h?r h?rd as long as doing so incr?as?s his incom?. B?caus? ?ach own?r d?riv?s all th? ?conomic b?n?fits from th? sal? of his cattl?, and b?caus? th? loss of grazing r?sourc?s consum?d by his or h?r cattl? is born? by all th? oth?r own?rs, th? trag?dy is that all own?rs will incr?as? th? numb?rs in th?ir h?rds to th? point at which th? grazing capacity of th? land is utt?rly d?pl?t?d or d?stroy?d.
Anoth?r ?xampl? includ?s fish?ri?s. As long as fish?rman can ?arn a profit, th?y continu? to catch fish to th? point at which ov?r-fishing occurs. If a particular sp?ci?s of fish is valuabl?, which oft?n corr?lat?s with scarcity, fish?rman t?nd to d?v?lop mor? t?chnologically ?ffici?nt m?ans of catching th?s? fish and this oft?n thr?at?ns this sp?ci?s with ?xtinction. Th? probl?m h?r? is that ?xploit?rs of common r?sourc?s hav? littl? inc?ntiv? to cons?rv? th?m and a gr?at d?al of inc?ntiv? to r?ckl?ssly ?xploit th?m b?for? oth?rs can do so, and this appli?s to th? global commons of oc?ans, froz?n pol?s, for?sts, and th? ?ntir? g?n?tic r?s?rv?.
Anoth?r r?lat?d probl?m that G?org? W. Bush fail?d to addr?ss, as a numb?r of ?cological ?conomists hav? point?d out, is ?cological fairn?ss. Th? usual way that politicians coming from G?org? W. Bush’s circl? addr?ss this probl?m is by discounting b?n?fits to futur? g?n?rations. Discounting is pr?mis?d on th? b?li?f that b?caus? lif? is unc?rtain and th? futur? is unpr?dictabl?, a b?n?fit or loss in th? pr?s?nt is mor? important than in th? futur?. On? probl?m with discounting is that it r?fl?cts th? valu? that th? pr?s?nt g?n?ration plac?s on th? natural ?nvironm?nt without consulting futur? g?n?rations. Anoth?r is that th? n?ar futur? is assum?d to hav? mor? worth than th? distant futur? and at som? point in th? futur? that worth b?com?s n?gligibl?.
Politicians normally discount th? futur? valu? of ?nvironm?ntal ass?ts by th? pr?s?nt rat? of int?r?st, a practic? that t?nds to favor whol?sal? ?xploitation of natural r?sourc?s. For ?xampl?, if th? discount rat? is 5 p?rc?nt, sixty-on? c?nts at compound int?r?st would b? worth a dollar in t?n y?ars, and sixty-on? c?nts b?com?s th? pr?s?nt valu? factor for th? t?n-y?ar p?riod. If th? discount rat? is high?r and th? tim? horizon is long?r, th? pr?s?nt valu? factor typically b?com?s low?r. High?r discount rat?s may discourag? d?v?lopm?nt proj?cts with larg? capital r?quir?m?nts, such as dams, and pr?s?rv? larg? ar?as in th?ir ?xisting stat?. Th? usual r?sult, how?v?r, is that th? ?conomic d?sir?s of thos? in th? pr?s?nt ar? satisfi?d at th? gr?at ?xp?ns? of futur? g?n?rations.
Rob?rt F. K?nn?dy mad? a convincing cas? that th? us? of traditional discount rat?s to balanc? pr?s?nt and futur? valu?s is fundam?ntally flaw?d b?caus? discounting bas?d on curr?nt comm?rcial int?r?st rat?s massiv?ly compromis?s th? int?r?sts of futur? g?n?rations. If, for ?xampl?, th? comm?rcial int?r?st rat? is 6 p?rc?nt, costs and b?n?fits will b? discount?d by a factor of four in tw?nty-fiv? y?ars and by a factor of ?ight??n in fifty y?ars. B?caus? th? us? of curr?nt int?r?st rat?s assigns virtually all rights ov?r r?sourc?s to th? curr?nt g?n?ration, K?nn?dy argu?s that discounting sch?m?s should b? bas?d on th? assumption that futur? g?n?rations hav? ?qual rights ov?r r?sourc? allocation. But valuing th?s? r?sourc?s from th? p?rsp?ctiv? of futur? g?n?rations would r?quir? a much improv?d und?rstanding of long-t?rm r?sourc? allocation and associat?d ?nvironm?ntal impacts.
In r?c?nt y?ars, th? disciplin? of ?cological ?conomists has b??n incr?asingly mor? fragm?nt?d in a vari?ty of diff?r?nt, oft?n contradictory, approach?s and th?r? is no singl? ?conomic paradigm that ?ncompass?s th?s? approach?s. On on? sid? th?r? ar? thos? who tak? th? mor? traditional approach and argu? that ?cological crit?ria for sustainability should s?rv? as th? basis for making policy r?comm?ndations. On th? oth?r sid? th?r? ar? thos? who ar? att?mpting to r?d?fin? th? disciplin? as a sci?nc? of social chang? that is committ?d to d?v?loping institutional fram?works that f?atur? sustainabl? production and consumption patt?rns. This inability to ?volv? a s?t of assumptions that could s?rv? as th? basis for a commonly shar?d ?conomic paradigm also ?xplains why many ?cological ?cologists hav? migrat?d toward solutions d?riv?d from mor? humanistic disciplin?s in th? social sci?nc?s, such as public policy, psychology, and sociology.
Killing th? d?mocracy by killing th? ?nvironm?nt
K?nn?dy argu?s that d?spit? its d?clar?d policy of supporting human rights, th? Bush administration in fighting t?rrorism and in addr?ssing th? numb?r of dom?stic issu?s such as Katrina disast?r r?fus?s to b? bound by human rights standards. D?spit? a U.S. tradition at hom? of gov?rnm?nt und?r law, th? administration r?j?cts l?gal constraints, ?sp?cially wh?n acting abroad. D?spit? a constitutional ord?r that is pr?mis?d on th? n??d to impos? ch?cks and balanc?s, th? U.S. gov?rnm?nt s??ms to want an int?rnational ord?r that plac?s no limits on its own actions. Th?s? attitud?s ar? j?opardizing th? campaign against t?rrorism. Th?y ar? also putting at risk th? human rights id?al. This is not to say that th? Unit?d Stat?s is among th? worst human rights off?nd?rs. But b?caus? of Am?rica’s ?xtraordinary influ?nc?, th? Bush administration’s willingn?ss to compromis? human rights to fight t?rrorism s?ts a dang?rous pr?c?d?nt. B?caus? of th? l?ad?rship rol? that th? U.S. gov?rnm?nt so oft?n has play?d in promoting human rights, th? w?ak?ning of its voic? w?ighs h?avily, particularly in som? of th? frontlin? countri?s in th? war against t?rrorism, wh?r? th? n??d for a vigorous d?f?ns? of human rights is gr?at. This d?grading of int?rnational standards thr?at?ns to com? back to haunt th? Unit?d Stat?s.
K?nn?dy not?s that sp?aking about th? dom?stic issu?s, on? can’t but r?f?r to th? Katrina disast?r. First, th? gov?rnm?nt fail?d to ad?quat?ly ass?ss th? s?riousn?ss of th? hurrican? and its cons?qu?nc?s. S?cond, by placing th? priority on t?rrorism-r?lat?d ?m?rg?nci?s, th? F?d?ral gov?rnm?nt limit?d its r?sponsiv?n?ss and ?ff?ctiv?n?ss in oth?r typ?s of probl?ms such as Katrina hurrican?. Third, th? g?n?ral r?spons? of th? gov?rnm?nt is s??n to b? slow and inad?quat? (p?opl? sp?nd two days in isolation b?for? any r?al h?lp was off?r?d; this situation incr?as?d th? numb?r of victims). T?rrorism cannot b? d?f?at?d from afar. Curbing t?rrorism r?quir?s th? support of p?opl? in th? countri?s wh?r? t?rrorists r?sid?. Th?y ar? th? p?opl? who must coop?rat? with polic? inquiri?s rath?r than shi?ld t?rrorist activity. Th?y ar? th? p?opl? who must tak? th? l?ad in dissuading would-b? t?rrorists—not th? Osama bin Lad?ns of th? world, but th?ir pot?
ntial r?cruits. But p?opl? will hardly b? inclin?d to h?lp th? anti-t?rror caus? if th?y s?? Washington ?mbracing th? gov?rnm?nts that r?pr?ss th?ir human rights. Th?ir r?luctanc? only incr?as?s if th?ir ?ntir? community is vi?w?d as susp?ct, as many young mal? Middl? ?ast?rn?rs and North Africans f??l sinc? S?pt?mb?r 11.
Rob?rt F. K?nn?dy shows that cl?arly th? Unit?d Stat?s n??ds to tak? ?xtra s?curity m?asur?s. But th? U.S. gov?rnm?nt must also pay att?ntion to th? pathology of t?rrorism—th? s?t of b?li?fs that l?ads som? p?opl? to join in attacking civilians, to claim that th? ?nds justify th? m?ans. A strong human rights cultur? is an antidot? to this pathology. Human rights and s?curity ar? mutually r?inforcing, y?t too oft?n th? administration tr?ats th?m as a z?ro-sum gam?.
Pr?sid?nt Ronald R?agan at th? h?ight of th? Cold War und?rstood th? n??d for a positiv? vision. H? und?rstood that th? Unit?d Stat?s could not afford to b? only against communism. It had to stand for d?mocracy, ?v?n if at tim?s his support was no mor? than rh?torical. Similarly, it will not work for th? Bush administration today to b? only against t?rrorism. Th? administration will hav? to stand for th? valu?s that ?xplain what is wrong with attacking civilians—nam?ly, th? valu?s of human rights.
At tim?s th?r? hav? b??n hints of such a positiv? vision: in promin?nt parts of a sp??ch that Pr?sid?nt Bush gav? at W?st Point in Jun? 2002; in part of his administration’s National S?curity Strat?gy r?l?as?d in S?pt?mb?r 2002; and in th? conditions for disbursing incr?as?d int?rnational assistanc? (th? Mill?nnium Chall?ng? Account), announc?d in Nov?mb?r 2002. But this rh?torical ?mbrac? of human rights has translat?d only inconsist?ntly into U.S. conduct and for?ign policy. For much of th? past half-c?ntury, th? Unit?d Stat?s was oft?n a driving forc? for str?ngth?ning th? human rights id?al. It took th? l?ad in drafting th? Univ?rsal D?claration of Human Rights, building th? int?rnational human rights syst?m, and l?nding its voic? and influ?nc? on b?half of human rights in many parts of th? world. Oft?n this support for human rights was inconsist?nt—t?mp?r?d by strat?gic conc?rns and a d??p r?sistanc? to applying int?rnational law at hom?. Y?t th? U.S. gov?rnm?nt could still b? found at th? for?front of many human rights battl?s, and it contribut?d significantly to building a global cons?nsus about th? importanc? of human rights as a r?straint on l?gitimat? gov?rnm?ntal conduct.
In s?v?ral k?y countri?s involv?d in th? campaign against t?rrorism, such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, ?v?n rh?torical U.S. support for human rights has b??n sparing—oft?n nothing mor? than th? Stat? D?partm?nt’s onc?-a-y?ar pronounc?m?nts in its global human rights r?port. Th? administration also has shown littl? inclination to confront such influ?ntial gov?rnm?nts as Russia, China, and Isra?l that hav? us?d th? fight against t?rrorism to cloak or int?nsify r?pr?ssion aim?d at s?paratist, dissid?nt, or nationalist mov?m?nts that ar? th?ms?lv?s oft?n abusiv?.
As not?d and prov?d by Rob?rt F. K?nn?dy, cl?arly, th? tim? has com? wh?n w? must proc??d with d?lib?rat? sp??d to d?v?lop and impl?m?nt an ?nvironm?ntally r?sponsibl? ?conomic th?ory. This th?ory must obviously b? pr?mis?d on th? assumption, as th? ?cological ?conomists hav? consist?ntly argu?d, that mark?ts ar? op?n syst?ms that ?xist in ?mb?dd?d and int?ractiv? r?lationship with th? global ?nvironm?nt. It must also mirror or r?fl?ct in ?conomic t?rms th? dynamic r?lationship b?tw??n th? activiti?s of th? parts (production and distribution syst?ms) and th? stat? of th? whol? (global ?cosyst?m) in ?mpirical t?rms. Our curr?nt und?rstanding of part-whol? r?lationships in biology and physics is quit? compl?x, but it is not n?c?ssary, for our purpos?s, to ?xplor? th? full rang? of this compl?xity. If, how?v?r, w? ar? to consid?r how this n?w und?rstanding could b? w?d to an ?nvironm?ntally r?sponsibl? ?conomic th?ory that r?tains most of th? substantiv? b?n?fits of fr?? mark?ts, som? familiarity with th? dynamics of th?s? r?lationships is r?quir?d.