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doggie, convinced Congress that the SST's disadvantages outweighed its very questionable advantages, and the U.S. program was killed in 1971. In 1975 the debate began anew when rights to land in the United States were requested for the AngloFrench SST, Concorde. The issue is still in doubt, but several things are apparent— the Concorde is extremely noisy, fuel-inefficient, and probably uneconomical. If it remains in service, it will be as a monument to government stupidity and the momentum of technological circuses. Government Planning The fragmentation of responsibility among government agencies in the United States makes a reasonable response to problems extremely difficult and planning to avert them virtually impossible. The lack of overall control of environmental matters and the virtual sibility of dealing with problems in any coordinated way are illustrated by the area of urban affairs, aspects of whirh now crime nnder rhp pirisdirtions of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, as well as the Departments of Labor, Commerce, Interior, Justice, and Transportation, to name just the major ones. It is clear that the executive branch of me federal government badly needs reorganizing. Such coordinated planning as takes place in die federal government is largely confined to the preparation and review of the annual federal budget. It is fair to say diat the time horizons considered in this process are typically short and the emphasis on conventional economic indicators heavy. Resource and environmental matters accordingly receive less attention than they deserve.1 "a Some detailed suggestions on reforming the political structure of the United States to make it more responsive to the requirements of die population-resource-environment situation may be found in the bookHr^T/F12 We
'' '"A sense of the planning inputs to and implications of the federal budgeting process is conveyed in the series of volumes, Setting national priorities, published annually by the Brookings Institution since 1970. The 1976 volume, edited by Henry Owen and Charles L. Schultze, takes a longer-range perspective (10 years) on issues raised by the budget, and examines the problems of coordinated long-range planning in a government of divided powers. 2 " PiragcsandEhrlich.
discuss only one such reform here: die institutionalization of government planning. pie Center for the Study of Dpmnf-raric Institutions^ has an Ongoing prnjprf under the rfirertion nf ^ G Tugwell, designed to produce a modern constitution for __ the United States. The proposed constitution, now in its tfairty-diird draft^. deserves wide circulation and study. One of the features of the Tugwell constitution is a planning branch of die government, with the mission of • doing long-range planning. As should be apparent from Ct ft/T''M " the preceding discussion, without planning we believe diere is little chance of saving civilization from a downward spiral of deepening social and environmental disruptions and political conflicts. Human societies have shown little aptitude for planning so far, but it is a skill mat must soon be developed. "2a A private organization, California Tomorrow, sponsored a group of planners who produced a document that might serve as a preliminary model for the kind of planning that can be done. The California tomorrow plan: A first sketch presents a skeletal plan for the future of the^ state of California.''3 It describes "California zero," the California of today, and two alternative futures: California I is a "current-trends-continue" projection; California II is a projection in which various alternative courses of action are followed. The plan considers twenty-two major problem areas, including population growtii and various kinds of environmental deterioration, and looks at both the causes of the problems and policies to ameliorate them. California I is compared with California II, and suggestions for phasing into the California II projection are given. The details of the plan need not concern us here, but the subjects of concern in the plan are roughly those of this book. What is encouraging is that a private organization could put together a comprehensive vision of the future of one of the largest political entities in the world, proving that intelligent, broad-spectrum planning can be done.
"J"A series of important books on the tools and prospects for comprehensive governmental planning appeared in 1976 and 1977 under the authorship of social scientist and modeler Peter W. House and colleagues: House, The quest far completeness; House and Williams, The carrying capacity of a nation; House and McLeod, Large scale models for poltcv evaluation; House, Trading-off environment, economics, and energy. 5 ''Alfred Heller, ed., The California tomorrow plan.
858 / THE HUMAN PREDICAMENT: FINDING A WAY OUT
The next question is, how can "USA Zero" be started. toward "USA II"? It may well be necessary to form a new political party founded on the principles of population control, environmental quality, a stabilized economv, and dedication f<? careful Inng-rangp planning
SOME TARGETS FOR EARLY CHANGE
Institutions are shaped by issues, and issues in turn are shaped and evolve in response to the character of the institutions that identify and grapple with them. Accordingly, our discussion of American institutions so far has been framed in the context of the broad issues in population and environment that we believe are central to the human predicament. It is useful now to arlrl tp the _discussion some rather more specific problem areas— pnergv policy, transportation and communications. and land use,—which need early attention, which will test tfae_ ability of institutional change to redirect technology and_ social energies in pursuit of saner ends, and which, in _ being grappled with, may serve to reshape further the institutions themselves. Along with population policy and pollution control, which have already received detailed attention in this and the preceding chapters, we view these problems as high-priority targets for early change. Energy Policy I Who should make energy policy? _How should it be carried out? What should be its goals? These are the principal questions on the policy side of energy, and they are interdependent. As unfortunately sometimes is forgotten, it is fruitless to try to answer the first two questions without already having some semblance of an answer for the third. The United States had an energy policy during the first two-thirds of the twentieth century, but it was rarely articulated in public. In any event, the public was not paying much attention. The policy was the result of the goals of two groups—a few interested politicians and their appointees, whose goal was to see that energy was made available as cheaply as possible to meet whatever demand might materialize, and the owners and operators of energy companies (oil companies, coal companies, energy-equipment manufacturers, electric utilities, and so on), whose goal was to expand their businesses and their profits as rapidly as possible. The goals of the two groups coincided nicely. That the interests of private enterprise and of public
ajjartv should be national and intf matronal in k orientation, rather than basing its power on parochial issues as the current parties do. In 1854 the Republican party was created de novo, founded on the platform of opposition to the extension of slavery. It seems probable that in the 1980s and 1990s the environmental issue will become even more prominent than the slavery issue was in the 1850s, and a powerful new ecology party might be established, as has occurred in several other countries. It could, indeed, grow out of such political organizations as Zero Population Growth and Friends of the Earth. Obviously, such changes as those briefly proposed above will threaten not only numerous politicians of both major parties, but many economic institutions and practices. They are likely to be opposed by vast segments of the industrial state: by much of the oil and petrochemical industry, the steel industry, the automobile industry, the nuclear power industry, the construction industry, and by some labor unions, land developers, the Army Corps of Engineers, the USDA, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the chambers of commerce, to name only a few. Even a cursory knowledge of the pervasiveness of and the degree of political control by these interests leads to the conclusion that the necessary changes in attitudes and behavior are extremely unlikely to occur among the individuals and organizations where it would be most helpful. But what is at stake is survival of a society and a— way of life_If these are to be preserved in recognizable form, cooperation of all elements of society, regardless of personal interests, will be required. Some social scientists believe such cooperation can be obtained by the systematic application of social and political sanctions.U3a We tend to agree, but doubt that even sanctions will work unless there is also a common goal—a realistic view of a desirable and attainable future—that all can strive toward.
"**L. D. Nelson and ]. A. Honnold, Planning for resource scarcity.
Diversification in the Oil Industry (involvement of oil companies with other fuels) policy coincide is not necessarily a bad thing. As Adam Smith expounded the idea in his famous metaphor of the invisible hand, this is the way a free-market economy full of entrepreneurs is supposed to work. Unfortunately, the history of U.S. energy policy is one of the most telling available examples of what can go wrong with this ideal situation: the consolidation of economic interests into oligopoly and monopoly; the tightening influence of the economic interests over the policy-makers and regulators, and indeed the infiltration of the latter by the former; the resulting vigorous pursuit of policies that still serve private interests but have long since lost their relevance to the public interest. This complicated set of issues has been the focus of many analyses much more extensive than we can provide here.114 What follows is a brief overview of some of the most important topics: the character of the U.S. energy industry, government activity in energy, and energy prices and the poor. International aspects of energy policy are considered in Chapter 15. U.S. energy industry. The energy industry is an important sector of the U.S. economy by any measure: according to one tabulation, it accounts for 3 percent of the total employment, 4 percent of the national income, and 27 percent of the annual business investment in new plants and equipment.115 A different way of counting, which includes taxes and other items missed in the figures just given, is to add up all the money spent on energy by consumers. Such a tabulation must include both direct purchases (gasoline, electricity, natural gas, heating oil) and indirect purchases of energy (for example, the fraction of an airline ticket's price that pays for jet fuel, the part of the price of an automobile that pays for the energy needed to build it, the energy to run the hair drier at the beauty parlor, and so forth). The total
"^Especially recommended as introductions to the subject are: David Freeman et al, A time to choose: The report of the Energy Policy Project of the Ford Foundation, chapters 5-7, 9-11; J. Steinhart and C. Steinhart, Energy, chapters 13 and 14; N. Medvin, The energy cartel; Resources for the Future, U.S. energy policies: An agenda for research. "'David Freeman et al., A time to choose, p. 142. Included are production and processing of coal, oil, and natural gas, gas and electric utilities, pipeline transport, and wholesale and retail trade. Not included are manufacturers of energy-handling equipment, such as electricity generators and nuclear reactors.
Petroleum company Standard Oil of New Jersey (Exxon) Texaco Gulf Mobil Standard Oil of California Standard Oil of Indiana Shell Atlantic Richfield Phillips Petroleum Continental Oil
Rank in assets
Oil Gas shale
Tar Coal Uranium sands
X X X X
X _ —
X X — X
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
X X X X X X X
_ — x x
X X X X
Source: N. Medvin, The energy cartel
computed this way was around 10 percent of the gross national product at pre-embargo (1973) energy prices. The greatest concentration of economic and pnHt power in the energy industry is found in the large oiL companies. Ten of the top twenty companies on Fortune magazine's 1975 list of the largest industrial corporations in the United States were oil companies, and the assets of those ten alone topped $154 billion. Their 1974 sales were $116 billion."6 Those companies have become large both by vertical integration and by diversification. The first term means that a single company is involved in many stages of processing an energy source—for example, exploration, production, refining, marketing. Diversification refers to involvement of a single company with several different resources—for example, oil, coal, uranium, oil shale. (Naturally, diversification can go beyond energy resources—some oil companies own movie theaters, for example.) A glance at Table 14-1 reveals tfaat_ the major oil companies are really energy companies, as aTl of them are involved with three or more different resources. As big as the major energy companies are, me concentration of the energy business in the few largest organizations does not quite qualify for the label anticompetitive under the usual rule of thumb, which is that 70 percent of the business be concentrated in the largest eight firms.117 The degree of concentration in various sectors of the U.S. energy industry is shown in Table
' "Fortune directory of the 500 largest industrial corporations, Fortune, vol. 91, no. 5 (May 1975), pp. 210-211. 11 'Freeman et al., A time to choose, p. 231.
Concentration in the United States Energy Industries (around 1970)
Percentage of total activity
in 8 largest firms
52 43 40 79 100
Gasoline sales Interstate natural gas sales Coal production Uranium mining and milling Electric generating equipment
Source: David Freeman et al.,A time to choose, p. 231.
14-2. The effective degree of concentration is probably higher than the figures reflect, however, because of the large number of joint ventures linking the major companies in collaborative enterprises. These include jointly owned or operated oil fields, pipelines, refineries, and a bewildering variety of other arrangements. Among the ten or fifteen largest oil companies, almost all of the possible two-company combinations in joint ventures are actually in existence.118 The political power of the major energy companies in practice is reflected in the special treatment by the government they have gained and largely preserved for themselves in the forms of the depletion allowance, foreign tax credits, and other tax dodges.1183 (The depletion allowance for all but the smallest producers was at last repealed in 1975.) Between 1962 and 1971 the five largest U.S. oil companies paid an average of 5.2 percent income tax on their profits, compared to an average corporate income tax for all industries of about 42 percent. The diiference could be regarded as a raid on the U.S. Treasury by those five companies in the amount of about $17 billion.119 (These five companies were all in the top ten U.S. corporations in profitability in 1976. Their after-tax profits totalled $6.2 billion.'19a) It may be argued, of course, that developing and marketing energy resources is an increasingly complicated and expensive business that only very large and financially vigorous corporations can handle. Indeed, this is precisely what the energy companies do argue. Yet it is not entirely clear what the American people as a whole gain by leaving those very profitable and also very
' Sec Medvin, The energy cartel, chapter 5 and Appendix 1. "'"See, for example, A. ]. Lichtenberg and R. D. Norgaard, Energy policy' and the taxation of oil and gas income. "'The figures are from Steinhart and Steinhart, Energy, p, 282. i isaMiit Moskowitz, The top ten money earners, San Francisco ChranicJe, April 2, 1977, p. 31.
crucial activities in the hands of private enterprise. Increasingly, the same corporations that swear by the free-market system in some respects have shown themselves more than willing to abandon it selectively, campaigning for all manner of special subsidies, tax incentives, and privileges, while expecting the government to undertake the riskiest and most difficult parts of the energy enterprise. Thus the federal government finds itself providing most of the liability insurance for nuclear reactors, trying (without much success as of 1976) to persuade private industry to get into the uraniumenrichment business, underwriting most of the cost of a demonstration breeder reactor for the utilities, paying to bring the technology of sulfur control for coal and oil to a state of development deemed economically viable by the utilities, and so on. On the other hand, the idea of letting the government take over the energy business entirely is not particularly appetizing. The experiences of other nations where the energy industry has been nationalized shows that this is no guarantee against bungling and exploitation, as does the U.S. experience with government enterprises in other fields. At the same time, it seems clear that the goals of the energy companies have become increasingly removed from the public interest in the 1970s. More energy for its own sake (or for profit's sake) can no longer serve as the goal of national energy policy, and it is apparent that much tighter control over the energy industry by government is the minimum prescription for steering away from this outmoded view. Government's role. The response of government to the growing complexity of energy issues over the past few decades has been piecemeal and uncoordinated. Each emerging set of problems, it seems, has led to creation of a new agency or assignment of responsibility to an existing one, without regard for the way pieces of the energy problem interaa with each other. The result is overlapping jurisdiction in some cases—in which conflicts arise among federal, state and local governmental entities—and no jurisdiction at all in others^ Some of the principal federal agencies involved in energy are listed in Box 14-4, along with synopses of their responsibilities that suggest some of the potential conflicts and ambiguities. Operating sometimes in collaboration with,
, Some Federal Agencies Involved in Energy Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) • Consults with other federal agencies on environmental impacts of their actions • Receives and evaluates environmental impact statements on energy facilities Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA) • Develops and demonstrates new sources of energy supply • Analyzes and encourages eneigy conservation • Makes forecasts of energy needs and proposes strategies to meet them • Operates certain energy facilities (such as uranium-enrichment plants) Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) • Devises and enforces standards for air and water quality, bearing on operation of power plants and automobiles Department of Commerce (DOC) • Devises and implements programs and standards for industrial energy conservation Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) • Devises and implements standards for energy conservation in buildings Department of the Interior (DOT) • Controls energy development (for example, oil drilling, coal mining) on federal lands, including offshore • Maintains statistics on reserves and production of mineral energy resources • Produces and markets electric power through four regional administrations (Bonneville, Alaska, Southwest, Southeast) Federal Energy Administration (FEA) • Collects and verifies information about availability of energy to consumers • Regulates the mix of products from refineries • Allocates energy supplies in times of shortage • Makes forecasts and devises strategies Federal Power Commission (FPC) • Controls prices and standards of service for sales of electricity and natural gas across state lines • Licenses hydropower facilities on navigable waterways Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) • Regulates interstate oil and coal-slurry pipelines Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) • Devises and enforces standards for safety of nuclear-energy facilities Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) • Regulates management practices of electric utilities
sometimes at odds with these agencies is a host of congressional committees, themselves engaged in almost continuous jockeying with each other for jurisdiction and influence. In early 1977 President Carter proposed a sweeping reorganization of energy-related functions in the Executive Branch, centered around a new Department of Energy equal in status to Commerce, Interior, Treasury, and so on^Upon approval by Congress, the Department of Energy will replace the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Federal Power Commission, as well as assuming most of the energy-related responsibilities of the Department of Interior, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Interstate Commerce Commission,
and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Two new administrations would bp created wjthin th ment: the Energy Information Administration n and distributing information about energy suppljes and uses, and the Energy Regulatory Commission, covering economic regulation only. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Council on Environmental Quality would retain their powers as listed in Box 14-4. The confusion in Washington /which one may hope the Carter reorganization will reduce) is compounded, of course, by the existence of public utilities commissions in forty-six of the fifty states, with widely varying responsibilities in the energy field. About half of them control both public and investor-owned utilities (electricity and
862 / THE HUMAN PREDICAMENT: FINDING A WAY OUT
natural gas, plus nonenergy activities); the other half control only the investor-owned utilities. Most set the rates charged for electricity and gas, to protect the consumer from the monopoly that the nature of distribution systems for gas and electricity makes almost inevitable. They are also generally responsible for assuring the safety of systems under their jurisdiction, one of several overlaps with other agencies. Jjovernment action in the energy field is not only encumbered by this enormous organizational cnmp|ex-_ ity, but it has often been enfeebled as well by internal conflicts of interest. These have arisen from the standard problem of infiltration of regulatory agencies by committed representatives of the regulated organizations, and also sometimes from the incorporation of promotional and regulatory functions within the same agencies. Perhaps the most visible example of the pitfalls of the latter situation was the Atomic Energy Commission,, which from its creation in 1946 was empowered both to_ regulate and to promote the peaceful and military^ applications of nuclear energy. Some of the difficulties that nuclear fission as an energy source faces in the late 1970s can be attributed to mistakes that arose from this inherent conflict and from the cozy relationship that evolved between the AEG and its supposed congressional watchdog, the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, (JCAE).120 The AEC-JCAE combination for many years was the most active and visible agency connected with energy in Washington, and its vigorous promotion of nuclear fission to the near-exclusion of research on other energy sources left the United States in the 1970s with far fewer energy options than it could and should have had. The AEG was split in late 1974 into the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, on the one hand, and several divisions of the Energy Research and Development Administration on the other (see Box 14-4). The JCAE was stripped of its power in a Congressional committee reorganization in early 1977. Energy prices and the poor.. If it is obvious that energy in the United States has been underpriced,
120 Good critical histories are R. Lewis, The nuclear power rebellion: Citizens versus the atomic industrial establishment; P. Metzger, The atomic establishment.
encouraging overexploitation and waste, it is equally apparent that sharp price increases cause a disproportionate burden on the poor. The poor spend a larger fraction of their incomes on direct energy purchases than do higher-income groups, they are less able to cut back on energy consumption because a larger part of their consumption is for essential rather than discretionary uses, and they are less able to im'est money in insulation and other improvements that will reduce energy expenditures in the long run. 121 Increases in energy prices are not quite as regressive as they seem at first glance, however, because total energy expenditures (for direct purchases plus the "indirect" energy embodied in other goods and services) increase almost in direct proportion to income.122 Even so, the plight of the poor requires that special measures be taken to reduce the impact of higher energy prices on them. Such measures should include changing the rate structure for purchases of electricity and natural gas, so that small users pay less per unit of energy rather than more (compared with large users), as is now generally the case. Subsidies for the purchase of insulation and similar improvements could easily be paid for out of increased taxes on the profits of energy companies. It would not be difficult to design an energy tax and rebate system that actually served as an income redistribution device favoring the poor while discouraging heavy energy consumption in higher-income groups. In short, the special problems of the poor must be taken into account as energy prices rise, and they can be. Indeed, the nation would have to face up to the problems of the poor whether energy prices were rising or not. It would be doubly absurd if the government were to take the position, having failed to deal adequately with the problem of poverty directly, that its energy policy must revolve around holding energy prices low for everyone in order to deal with poverty indirectly. At the same time, there is no reason whatever that higher prices for energy, which are needed to help promote conservation and to pay for ameliorating energy's environmental damages,
m According to Freeman et al., chapter 5, poor Americans spent 15 percent of their income on natural gas, electricity, and gasoline in the early 1970s, compared to 7 percent, 6 percent, and 4 percent for the lower middle class, upper middle class, and the well-off segments of the population. I32 R. Herendeen, Energy and affluence.
CHANGING AMERICAN INSTITUTIONS / 863
must mean higher profits for the energy companies. Preventing this is a straightforward matter of tax policy. Directions for a rational energy policy. The main questions that energy policy must confront can be summarized: (1) How much energy should be supplied? (2) With what technologies should it be supplied? (3) Who should pay the associated costs? At issue under the first question are the costs and benefits to society of various levels of energy consumption and various rates of change in those levels (growth or decline). The second question—which should be viewed not as a search for the ideal energy source but as a search for the least undesirable mixture of sources—is important regardless of the answer to the first; a stabilized or even a reduced level of energy use would not absolve society from making difficult choices about how best to supply that level. Similarly, the third question-involving how prices, taxes, and regulation are employed to distribute the direct and indirect costs of energy use—is crucial no matter how the first two questions are answered. Still, the three questions are far from independent. If the answer to the question "How much?" is a great deal, the range of choice under "What technology?" diminishes; society may have to choose all the options at once, at great expense. And the greater the costs, the trickier is the question "Who pays?" On the question of how much should be supplied^ pur view is that the United States is threatened far more bv^ foe-hazards of too much energy, too soon, than by the. hazards of too little, too late. That the contrary view is so widely held seems to be the result of two factors: (1) The economic, environmental, and social costs of today's level of energy use, and of rapid growth in this level, have been seriously underestimated by most observers. (2) The economic and social costs of slower growth have been just as seriously overestimated. The underpinnings for these assertions are found in Chapters 8, 10, and 11. i "a T$e reiterate here in capsule form the relevant conclusions that we draw from that material.122b
122a A particularly cogent and eloquent formulation of the arguments for both points was recently published by Amory Lovins, Energy Strategy: The road not taken. I22b These arguments were first published in slightly abbreviated form in John P. Holdren, Too much energy, too soon, New York Times, Op-Ed page, July 23, 1975.
Rapid growth in energy use fosters expensive mistakes. Especially where the existing level of energy use is already high, rapid growth forces exploitation of highcost energy sources as well as low-cost ones, it strains available supplies of investment capital, and it encourages gambles on inadequately tested technologies. The pressure of growth favors streamlining of assessment and licensing processes, further enlarging the probability that some of the gambles will fail—at great economic, environmental, or social cost. Even at slower growth rates, increases in energy use may do more harm than good. While the productive application of energy fosters prosperity through the operation of the economic system, the environmental and social effects of the same energy flows undermine prosperity by means of direct damage to health, property, and human values, and by disrupting "public-service" functions of natural systems. Clearly, the benefits to well-being obtained through the economic side of the relationship by means of increased energy use could in some circumstances be completely cancelled by the associated damage to wellbeing through the environmental side. Not only has this outcome probably already occurred for some energy sources in some locations, but under continued growth it is eventually inevitable overall, irrespective of the energy sources chosen. Conservation of energy means doing better, not doing without. Fortunately, the slowing of energy growth, and even the eventual reduction of the total level of energy use, need not mean a life of economic privation for the public. The essence of conservation is the art of extracting more well-being out of each gallon of fuel and each kilowatt hour of electricity. Much progress in this direction can be made through changes that increase efficiency in industrial processes and electricity generation, and in energy-consuming devices in homes, commerce, and transportation. Of course, some kinds of energy conservation will require changes in individual behavior, and critics of conservation are quick to suggest that this implies a return to primitive existence. In a society whose members use 5000-pound automobiles for half-mile round trips to the market to fetch six-packs of beer, consume the beer in underinsulated buildings that are overcooled in summer and overheated in winter, and then throw the aluminum cans away at an energy loss
864 / THE HUMAN PREDICAMENT: FINDING A WAY OUT
equivalent to one-third of a gallon of gasoline per six-pack, the primitive-existence argument strikes us as the most offensive kind of nonsense. Saving a barrel of oil is generally cheaper than producing a barrel. Slowing the growth of energy consumption by means of rational conservation measures can actually save a great deal of money. For, although technological improvements to increase energy efficiency often require some additional capital investment over conventional practice, this investment is usually less than the investment that would be needed to produce from new sources (offshore oil, nuclear fission, geothermal development) an amount of energy equal to that saved. In this sense, conservation is the cheapest new energy source. The money saved by conservation, of course, would in principle be available for some of this country's many other pressing needs. Less energy can mean more employment. The energyproducing industries comprise the most capital-intensive and least labor-intensive major sector of the U.S. economy. Accordingly, each dollar of investment capital taken out of energy production and invested in another activity, and each dollar saved by an individual by reduced energy use and spent elsewhere in the economy, is likely to benefit employment. We conclude therefore that the high rates of growth of energy use and electricity generation traditionally anticipated for the period between 1975 and 2000 are neither desirable nor necessary. They are not desirable because the economic, environmental, and social costs of such growth are likely to be severe; they are not necessary because the application of a modicum of technological and economic ingenuity can produce continued—indeed, growing—prosperity without them. Both in the short term and thereafter, then, the mainstay of a rational energy policy for this country should be learning to do more with less. Some efforts at more efficient use of energy will come about automatically through the impact of higher energy prices. Even without industry price-gouging, these are inevitable because of the technical intractability, in various respects, of the energy sources that remain. Price is likely not to be a sufficient incentive to wring from the socioeconomic system all the increased efficiency that is
possible and desirable, however, primarily because of certain differences in perceived interests of industries and consumers; regulations such as efficiency standards for appliances, automobiles, and buildings should therefore be used to supplement the price mechanism. And "lifeline" rates and other subsidies to the poor should be instituted to alleviate the impact of higher prices on those least able to make energy-saving adjustments. Knvirnnmentally1 the first step is to clean up the _ mainstays of the present energy budget, the fo°«j| Special attention must be given to finding environmentally tolerable ways to exploit the abundant resources of coal and possibly of oil shale. The environmental and social risks of fission, including the threat of terrorism and sabotage, either at the facilities or elsewhere by using stolen nuclear materials, deserve the most searching reevaluation before a national commitment is made to expand reliance on this source. In our own view, the threat posed by fission power to the fabric of the social and political system through the spread of radiological and explosive nuclear weapons— a threat that is a virtually inevitable concomitant of this energy technology— is qualitatively different from the risks of other energy technologies, and indeed a price not worth paying for the benefits of fission power. But the choice is more a social and political one than a technical one, and it should be made not by scientists but by the broader public. The many forms of solar energy deserve vigorous investigation to find the ones most benign environmentally and most practical technically. Attention should be focused not merely on centralized electric power stations but on the myriad possibilities for dispersed applications. Fusion and geothermal power also deserve further investigation to learn whether they can meet, in a practical way and at an affordable price, the conditions of low environmental impact so essential in any long-term energy source. It should be recognized by now that there is value in diversity in technological systems as well as in biological ones. Diversity is insurance against uncertainty, and for insurance one should be prepared to pay something. Society should not build only the cheapest energy technologies, nor even only the ones that seem on today's analysis most benign environmentally. If threats over-
CHANGING AMERICAN INSTITUTIONS / 865
looked or underrated today turn out to be important, altering a mix of energy technologies will be easier and less disruptive than abandoning a monoculture. At the same time, one should not conclude from an exaggerated preoccupation with diversity that society must develop all possibilities; the very value of diversity is to secure the flexibility to say no to those possibilities that clearly are unsuitable. Transportation Fuel burned for transportation in industrial nations accounts for 15 to 25 percent of all energy used by such countries. Including the energy used to manufacture and maintain the transportation systems would raise that figure to 25 to 40 percent of the total energy use (refer to Chapter 8 for details). Transportation's contribution to pollution may be taken at a first approximation to be proportional to its share of energy use; its impact on nonfuel resources is also large. Perhaps most important, transportation systems are major forces in determining the use of land and shaping the human environment. What have been the forces that have influenced this system, and how might they be changed for the better? The automobile. The introduction of annual automobile model changes by General Motors in 1923 quickly pushed most competitors out of business, reducing the number of automobile manufacturers in the United States from eighty-eight in 1921 to ten in 1935. Only four of any economic significance remain today. A few companies therefore have been able to manipulate both demand and quality in a way that has resulted in a continual high output of overpowered, overstyled, underengineered, quickly obsolescent, and relatively fragile automobiles. These characteristics of the automobile, together with the dominance of this form of personal mobility over many more sensible alternatives, are responsible for a remarkable array of demands on resources and environmental problems. For example, immediate relief from a major portion of our air-pollution problems and a substantial reduction in the demand for steel, lead, glass, rubber, and other materials would result from the replacement of existing automobiles with small, low-
horsepower, long-lasting cars designed for recycling. And, of course, the savings in petroleum would be spectacular. If the average size of the American cars on the road in 1970 were reduced to that of European cars, the gasoline saved would have run the cars of Europe for that year! To facilitate a shift to smaller cars, the U.S. government might remove tariffs and import restrictions on automobiles that meet strict exhaust-emission standards, so that small foreign cars would become even more attractive to American buyers. Heavy excise taxes on large Detroit products and reduced taxes on small, gas-economical ones would help shift buying habits in the domestic market. Gasoline consumption, exhaust emissions, and the components of air pollution produced by the wear of tires on asphalt and from the asbestos of brake linings would all be reduced by the use of smaller, lighter cars. Recycling old automobiles and building longer-lasting ones would reduce both the consumption and the environmental impact of obtaining resources, as well as reducing the pollution directly associated with automobile production. The rewards of such a program would not be limited to pollution abatement and the saving of petroleum and other resources. Because small cars need less room on the highway and in parking lots, transportation would through that change alone become pleasanter, safer, and more efficient. Of course, there would be several adverse consequences of even such a mild program of "automobile control." Between 10 and 20 percent of the American population derives its living directly or indirectly from the automobile: its construction, fueling, servicing, selling, and the provision of roads and other facilities for it. Not all of these jobs would be affected by conversion to smaller, more durable automobiles and to other forms of transportation, but many would be. In the long run, workers displaced from auto production could be employed in ways that would reduce reliance on environmentally destructive technological processes in other industries. Unless there were careful planning to ameliorate the consequences, such a conversion could have extremely disruptive effects on the national economy. The economy, however, is demonstrably capable of accommodat-
868 / THE HUMAN PREDICAMENT: FINDING A WAY OUT
systems may make it simpler for the wealthy to live outside decaying cities; Amtrak makes it less desirable to live and work in small towns and rural areas. Such patchwork solutions will not work; the planning of our national transportation system must be comprehensive because of the massive social impact of that system. Stimuli for change. Despite the obviously growing need for an overhaul of the transport system in the United States, it seems unlikely it will be changed significantly for the better until the public becomes sufficiently fed up with smog, noise, delays, and danger that it is willing to forego further growth in both the automobile population and the gross national product. Emissions from automobiles have been lowered and certainly will be reduced even further, but until the public rebels against cars, their numbers will probably increase rapidly enough to keep the overall smog level dangerously high and gas consumption rising, as more and more land disappears under freeways. The problem is worst in the United States, but a similar trend exists in other DCs. (growing energy problems may eventually provide the needed catalyst for a rebellion against cars. One cheering sign by the mid-1970s was a dramatic increase in bicyling, leading even to the designation of bike lanes in the streets of some municipalities. Whatever can be done to stimulate a bicycle cult to rival die big-car cult should be done. If and when a transition can be made to a nongrowing population and economy, both the need for business travel and the pressure to build more vehicles and more goods should be reduced; perhaps then a rational and comprehensive land, air, and water transport129 system for the nation can be developed. The kinds of transport problems that now plague the DCs (the United States in particular) can (and we hope will) be totally avoided in most LDCs, where there is still an opportunity to build systems based primarily on a mix of low-cost mass transit and bicycles.130
1M In some areas, canals and other inland waterways can be very efficient in moving freight. See M. G. Miller, The case for water transport. ""See Ivan Illich, Energy and equity; and Allan K. Meier, Becafcs, bemos, lambros, and productive pandemonium, Technology Review, Jan. 1977, pp. 56-63.
Communications Unlike most other institutions, the communications system may have great potential for instituting positive change in individual attitudes and the direction of society.131 Television and radio seem to have universal appeal and with relatively little expenditure could have virtually universal coverage. If human problems are to be solved on a worldwide basis, some means of intercommunication among the peoples of the world must be employed. One possibility is for the DCs to supply LDCs with large numbers of small, transistorized TV sets for communal viewing in villages. Such sets could provide the information channels for reaching the largely rural populations of the less developed world. These channels could provide both a route for supplying technical aid and a means of reinforcing the idea that the people are members of a global community. Such a project is already underway in Indonesia,132 and a satellitebeamed program was used experimentally with great success in India until the satellite service was terminated in 1977.132a Isaac Asimov has described the potentialities of electronic communications as a "fourth revolution" on a par_ with rtje developments of speech, writing, and print-^ ing.133 Considering the enormous influence of radio and television in Western countries, their future impact in largely illiterate societies can hardly fail to be even greater. But that revolution will not realize its full potential nrrpl plpqfnnir communications are as wide-
viewing public into the communications network. Communications satellites. The first small commercial communications satellite station was launched in 1965, with one channel for television and 240 relays for voice transmissions. A much more sophisticated system, INTELSAT IV, was initiated in 1971 with the launch131 Scientific American, September 1973, was a special issue on communications that included several articles pertinent to this discussion. 2 " Cynthia Parsons, Indonesia studies best use of TV, Honolulu Advertiser, March 11, 1975. 1J2a India, however, planned to continue much of the rural program using ground stations (Yash Pal, A visitor to the village, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, January 1977, pp. 55—56). '"The fourth revolution.
CHANGING AMERICAN INSTITUTIONS / 869
ing of two satellites. By 1975 the INTELSAT IV system was complete with seven satellites in place, three over the Atlantic Ocean and two each over the Pacific and Indian oceans. Eighty-six member nations were being served by 80 Earth stations with 103 antennas in 58 countries.134 The system has permitted a number of countries that previously had had virtually no contact to communicate with each other by satellite. An interesting example is Chile and Argentina; the Andes were once too great a barrier. INTELSAT transmits data, transoceanic telephone and teletype messages, television broadcasts, and facsimilies of letters, newspapers, or photographs. Distributional satellites are also being established to relay messages within countries as a supplement to the international INTELSATs. Eventually, the hope is to develop a system for broadcasting directly to each home. This is not expected to become a reality before the 1980s, however, and even then many think it will be limited to the sort of service described above—programs beamed to schools, community centers, and villages, especially in LDCs. The potential for creating a true rglobal village" through such a communications network should not be ignored. Even apart from the opportunity to bring diverse peoples together for exchange of ideas and information, there is a great opportunity for a general lowering of hostilities. Familiarity breeds friendship far more often than contempt. ( Programming and propaganda. There remains, of^ course, the substantial ganger that a worldwide communications network will not be used for the humanity or will further erode cultural diversity. If, like the television system in the United States, it is employed to promote the ideas and interests of a controlling^, minority, the world would be better off without it.135 If it is used to create a global desire for plastic junk and thg Los Angelization of Earth, it would be a catastrophe. Concerns over this and related programming problems, have already been raised at the United Nations. One
"'Information on INTELSAT is from Hughes Aircraft Company, Intelsat IV case history: vol. 2, The international satellite communications system: Intelsat IV, Hughes Aircraft Company, El Segundo, Calif., December 1974. A more recent source is Burton I. Edelson, Global satellite communications. Scientific American, February 1977, pp. 58-73. '"Pirages and Ehrlich, Ark H, pp. 200ff.
delegate, for instance, correctly pointed out that "Films considered the acme of art in one country [might be] judged pornographic in another."136 The problems of supplying channels for information are thus easily solved in comparison with the problems of determining what information should flow along those channels and in what format. Much programming ought to be informational, even if presented as entertainment. People in the LDCs need help in increasing agricultural production and improving public health, as well as information on the need for population control and the ways it may be achieved. Programming should be carefully designed by social scientists and communications experts thoroughly familiar with the needs and attitudes of the audiences in each country or locality. This is particularly important in the LDCs, where it will be especially difficult because of the lack of trained people and the radical change in attitudes that is required. Control of the communications media obviously should be public, with maximum safeguard against abuses and against the problems of "cultural homogenization." The problem of controlling "Big Brother" will be ever present in all societies. Educating people in the developed nations to the problems of population and environment is not too difficult, assuming time and space can be obtained in the media. Material can be more straightforward, since in most DCs there is already rather widespread awareness of many environmental problems. In the United States a great step could be taken merely by requiring that both radio and television assign some of their commercial time to short public-service "spots" calling attention to the problems of population, resources, and environment. This could be justified under the equal-time doctrine that put the antismoking message sponsored by the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society on TV (see "Advertising" section). The FCC might be empowered to require that networks donate time for ads to awaken people to the population-resource-environment crisis. Such spots, sponsored by voluntary organizations like Planned Parenthood, ZPG, and the Sierra Club, have been moderately eifective in drawing public
"'Paul Hofmann, Curb on world TV is debated at UN, New York Times, November 3, 1974.
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attention to the problems. Unfortunately, the advertising budgets available to these groups are puny compared to those of General Motors or Exxon. Long documentary specials, whether prepared by the networks or by educational stations, seem relatively ineffective in initiating awareness of a problem, although they are useful in providing detailed information. For the most part, they reach only those who are already aware that a particular problem exists. Most people want to be entertained; they do not want to hear bad news. Moving information instead of people. In the longer term, more ambitious exploitation of the potentialof communications systems may help to relieve pressure on energy supplies and other resources,. Specifically, it is far less costly in terms of energy to move information than to move people and things. Computer terminals coupled to television sets (for graphic display and face-to-face conversations) and to telephone lines (for data transmission) could eliminate the need for commuting to and from work in many kinds of jobs. Newspapers, which today are responsible for the consumption of great quantities of wood pulp, could be displayed a page at a time, under the control of the reader, on the computertelevision hookup. Scientific and business meetings, each of which now entails hundreds of thousands of passenger miles of fuel-gobbling jet travel, could be managed on closed-circuit television for a tiny fraction of the impact on resources. Of course, there are problems to be surmounted before such schemes can be implemented, not the least of which is the protection of privacy and confidential communications. Such difficulties can, in principle, be solved, and it seems clear that the communication-informationprocessing area is one field in which technological innovation can make important contributions to alleviating the resource-environment crunch.
compelling social and environmental issues of the day are tied rather directly to how the land is used. Urban decay, the existence of ghettos, lack of access to decent low-cost housing, and the problem of busing of schoolchildren can all be viewed as interrelated consequences of prevailing patterns of urban land use. Another aspect of the pattern is suburbanization and the energy-intensive long commutes to work that go with it. The loss of prime agricultural land and recreational open space under settlements, industrial parks, transportation systems, and energy facilities is yet another dimension. And certainly the conflict of development of land versus continued provision of essential services by natural and lightly exploited ecosystems (perhaps most strikingly apparent today in the destruction of estuaries and wetlands) is a central ingredient of the human predicament in the long term. Increasingly, the opinions of thoughtful policymakers and observers are converging on the view that the resolution of the problems just enumerated will require a degree of comprehensiveness in land-use planning that exceeds anything contemplated previously in the United States. (Some other Western countries—the United Kingdom and Sweden, for example—have been flirting with comprehensive planning for longer.'37) Here comprehensive means integrating systematically society's social and environmental goals with the pattern of land use on regional and national scales. It is clear, of course, that such comprehensive planning, even if successful, is not a sufficient condition for the solution of social and environmental problems, but a strong case can be made that it is a necessary one. In the remainder of this section of text, we first discuss some goals of land-use planning and policy and, second, the tools for pursuing those goals and the obstacles that make the task a difficult one. CjGoalsTjThe planner's easiest task is setting down desirable goals (easy, at least as long as one does not inquire too closely about making them all compatible with each other). Here is our own partial list.
137 Peter Heimburger, Land policy in Sweden, Ministry of Housing and Physical Planning, Stockholm, 1976. On this and many other points raised here, see also the excellent book by William H. Whyte, The last landscape, Doubleday, Garden City, N.Y., 1970.
Land Use Land use has become a catch phrase in the contemporary environmental debate, but the term calls forth very different images and priorities in the minds of different groups of people. This is so because so many of the
CHANGING AMERICAN INSTITUTIONS / 871
1. Central cities should be restored to attractiveness and economic viability. In respect to location, absence of competing uses, value of existing structures, and potential for cultural and racial integration, they are much too valuable to waste. 2. Housing developments should be planned in ways that integrate low-cost and higher-cost units and that provide for community open space and resourceconserving community recreational facilities (instead of private)—swimming pools, workshops, darkrooms, and so on. 3. Settlement patterns and transportation systems should be integrated in ways that minimize commuting distances and reliance on the private automobile. 4. Construction of settlements should avoid areas especially prone to flood, fire, landslide, and earthquake. 5. Prime agricultural land should be defended absolutely against encroachment by all other potential uses. The world food situation and the high environmental impact of bringing marginal land under cultivation dictate this highest priority for good land already under agricultural use. 6. Land areas that have remained in wilderness or near-wilderness condition until now should be preserved as such, permitting them to serve aesthetic and ecological functions inconsistent with exploitation or development. More intelligent and efficient use of land already being exploited is preferable to further encroachments on wilderness. 7. Nonwilderness areas where ecological processes perform particularly crucial services in support of civilization should be identified, the extent and value of their services clarified, and the land withdrawn from uses of lesser value that are incompatible with the continued provision of the natural services. Filling of wetlands and estuaries for residential development is an example where even on present knowledge a complete prohibition clearly is justified. Tools and obstacles. On the assumption that the foregoing or some other set of goals were agreed upon by policy-makers, the question would remain what tools are available with which the goals might effectively be pursued. Among those that have been used or con-
templated for land-use management in the United States are: zoning ordinances; preferential tax assessment of different types of land; government purchases of open space; selective siting of facilities owned or substantially supported by government; control of building permits to establish local growth ceilings, moratoria, or timed development contingent on meeting specified conditions; use of the environmental impact statement to force consideration of adverse impacts and alternatives; and government-funded urban renewal projects.138 The use of zoning as a tool for land-use planning and management has suffered from three difficulties. The ffirs^ is fragmentation among the decision-making entities, rendering comprehensive planning or results impossible. In California alone, more than 1400 government entities are involved in zoning.139 Special-purpose agencies dealing with housing, air pollution, water pollution, energy development, and fish and game (to continue with the California example) separately pursue interests that should influence zoning decisions, but there is no general mechanism for exerting such influence and no effective machinery for coordinating the goals of the agencies. The result of this partial vacuum is fragmented control of zoning by local communities, most of which do so in pursuit of a perceived interest in local growth.140 Afseconcfrdifficulty with the zoning tool is the questionable constitutionality of zoning ordinances that are discriminatory in practice? even if not in intent. Keeping density down by zoning the land remaining in a community for single-family dwellings on two-acre lots may succeed in preserving a status quo that the current inhabitants cherish, but it excludes low-income people and thus preserves a residential stratification that is undesirable for society as a whole. The likelihood that zoning ordinances having this effect will eventually be found unconstitutional places in jeopardy other, more
118 A more extensive discussion of these tools than space permits here can he found in CEQ. Enrinmmental quality-1974. See also Elaine Moss, ed., Land use controls in the United States. 139 On this and other aspects of land-use planning in California, see the very useful study by the Planning and Conservation Foundation, The California land: Planning for people, Kaufmann, Los Altos, Calif., 1975. u °The dynamics of this process and the fallacies underlying the belief that such growth necessarily will be beneficial are examined perceptively by Harvey L. Molotch, The urban growth machine, in Environment, William Murdoch, ed., Sinauer, Sunderland, Mass., 1975.
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enlightened uses of the zoning tool, as well perhaps as other land-use controls.14' C A third difficultjhvith zoning that also carries over into the other forms of control is the question of what forms of regulation really are legally a "taking," requiring compensation of the landowner. Involved here is the basic conflict between the rights of a holder of private property—one of the most cherished American traditions—and the public's interest in sound and coordinated management of land.142 Close to zoning in influence on land use is taxation, although the influence of taxes on use may be inadvertent more often than it is used as a tool. Certainly one of the major driving forces behind the development of prime agricultural land in the United States has been the almost universal practice of assessing land for taxation on the basis of the land's most valuable potential use. Unfortunately, agricultural land has lower market value than developed land. Thus the spread of suburbs has led to assessment of adjacent agricultural land at the value it would have if subdivided for residential or commercial development. This leads of course to taxes that the agricultural revenues from the land cannot support and forces the farmer to sell out. In this way, assessment of the land as a potential subdivision leads inevitably to realization of the potential. Some states have begun to experiment with legislation permitting agricultural lands to escape such discriminatory and crippling taxation. California's Williamson Act, one of the more widely publicized examples, has proven too narrow and restrictive to be of great value, however, and more comprehensive measures are needed.143 The imposition of ceilings or moratoria on local growth by a few communities around the United States—Petaluma and Pleasanton, California, and Mount Laurel, New Jersey, for example—has attracted much attention. These decisions have been implemented through control of building permits, made contingent in
u! Some recent court decisions are described in CEQ, Environmental Quality, 1975, pp. 186-187. i42 An extended discussion of this point is found in Planning and Conservation Foundation, The California land. '"Planning and Conservation Foundation, The California land, p. 49. For a more general discussion, see CEQ, The impact of differential assessment of farm and open land, Government Printing Office. Washington, D.C., 1976.
some cases upon achieving in the community some specified level of adequacy of sewage systems, schools, water supply, or other factors. Like zoning practices, this approach has come under sharp legal scrutiny to determine its constitutionality.144 Possibly as important as all the tools that have been used by policy-makers to influence patterns of land use intentionally have been the inadvertent effects of government investments in certain kinds of growth-shaping facilities. Transportation systems—most notably the interstate highway system, but also airports, ports, and mass-transit systems—have been especially influential. So have water projects, sewage lines, and watertreatment plants, and centers of government research and bureaucracies.145 Unless these influences are thoroughly understood and taken into account deliberately and comprehensively, other approaches to land-use planning have little chance to succeed. All of the foregoing difficulties underline the necessity for a more coordinated approach to land use in the United States than any that has been implemented up until now. Balancing priorities among competing uses is at the core of the problem, and this can only be done in a sensible way on a regional (collections of counties or a state or states) or national level. An example of what might be accomplished if the political obstacles were overcome is offered by the remarkable California tomorrow plan, already discussed.146 The plan describes how trends now underway in California would lead, if unchecked, to significant disruptions in the well-being of the people of the state before the year 2000, and it describes a more sensible alternative future based upon a state zoning plan. The goals of the land-use plan are very similar to those listed above. Perhaps the most comprehensive approach to planning that has a reasonable chance of being enacted in the near future is the California Coastal Plan, produced on the mandate of a statewide ballot initiative in 1972 and delivered to the legislature in December 1975. The plan covers the 1600-kilometer California coastline in a strip extending inland to the coastal mountains, an average
'"See, for example, CEQ, Environmental quality, 1975, and Molotch. The urban growth machine. M5 CEQ, The growth shapers: Land-use impacts of infrastructure investments. Government Printing Office. Washington, D.C.. 1976. '•"Alfred Heller, ed., The California tomorrow plan.
CHANGING AMERICAN INSTITUTIONS / 873
width of perhaps 8 kilometers. It takes account of the competing pressures of energy development, residential use, transportation, recreation, and ecological values, and offers guidelines and machinery for resolving the conflicts in a systematic way. As with all ambitious undertakings, it is no doubt possible to find flaws in the California tomorrow plan and in the much more detailed California Coastal Plan. The question, however, is not whether they are flawed but whether they represent a substantial improvement over the status quo. We believe that they do, and indeed that they are illustrative of the sort of thoughtful and systematic approach that must find application around the country if planning for the rational use of land is to emerge from the disarray that has characterized land use in the United States until now.
A QUESTION OF GOALS It is fitting to close this chapter with some reflections on the long-range goals of Western society. Can they be, as English economist Wilfred Beckerman apparently thinks, economic growth for the next 2500 years?147 Beckerman reasons that since growth has occurred since "the days of Pericles," there is "no reason to suppose that it cannot continue for another 2500 years." It turns out that he is wrong on both counts. Careful studies of economic conditions in England for the past 600 years or so, for example, show average growth rates on the order of 0.5 percent per year—one-tenth of the 5 percent envisioned by most growthmen for "healthy" economies. Social scientist Jack Parsons has done some interesting extrapolations that put long-continued economic growth in perspective. He extrapolated economic growth in England backward at the conservative rate of 1 percent per year. At the time of Pericles (490-424 B.C.), at that rate the annual income of the average household would have been 1.5 ten-millionths of a penny. Hence, even Beckerman's history is bad—growth cannot have gone on since the time of Pericles at even the "low" rate of 1 percent per annum. Careful historical analysis indicates
'Beckerman's views are cited by Jack Parsons in The economic transition, from which most of our figures on growth, past and future, are taken.
that fluctuation rather than constant growth has been the fundamental characteristic of Western culture's economic history. The purchasing power of builders' wages in southern England reached a peak between 1450 and 1500 that was not attained again until the late years of the nineteenth century.148 Economic boom clearly is not and cannot be a long-term phenomenon. Until about 1950, economic growth rates of more than 2 percent per annum were very unusual. The 4, 5, or even 6 percent growth rates that economists now seem to regard as the norm are in fact a phenomenon in which a few countries are exploiting much more than could conceivably be considered their fair share of the planet's resources over a time span of a quarter of a century. Assuming conservatively that human beings have had a 1-million-year tenure on Earth, it is clear that human societies have existed in what Beckerman would undoubtedly consider economic stagnation for 99.99 percent of that tenure. Economic growth—that is, per-capita increases in the availability of goods and services—throughout recorded history has been engendered by two sets of circumstances and/or a combination of them. The first such set is the development of widescale economic integration, which allows for the development of more efficient organization of resources, human and natural. The Hellenistic world, from Alexander the Great until the birth of Christ, was an example of such a set.149 So were the uniting of former British colonies into the United States and, later, the European Economic Community. The second and more common set of circumstances has been one in which some group on the periphery of a central cultural zone has managed to gain control over the exploitation of some vast hinterland and then serve as the broker between that resource-rich frontier and the high-consuming metropolis. For example, the rich and attractive Minoan culture on the island of Crete controlled the trade from Egypt and western Asia to the Greek lands to the north in the middle of the second millennium B.C. The Hanseatic League of the high Middle Ages had outposts from London to Novgorod
148 Phelps Brown and J. Hopkins, Seven centuries of the prices of consumables, compared with builders' wage rates, Ecanomica, NS vol. 23 (1956). November, pp. 296-314. I49 See Mikhail Rostovtzeff, Social and economic history of the Hellenistic world.
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that plucked herring, furs, lumber, and all manner of resources from the North Sea and Baltic basins and sold them to medieval Europeans, while ornamenting the cities of Hamburg, Bremen, and Liibeck with an elegance and prestige still visible. The Dutch monopoly on the spice trade in the seventeenth century supported the artistic flowering that is best known to us in the work of Rembrandt van Rijn. Finally, the race for empire of recent centuries, characterized above all by British majesty and wealth before 1945, sponsored the most recent expansion, which allowed the citizens of the DCs to enjoy a now-declining affluence.150 Systems of economic integration are always very fragile, and the pattern of economic growth based on the hegemony of exploiters over the resource-rich frontier seems to carry the seeds of its own destruction. In order to exploit an area, it is necessary to organize it, either by organizing the indigenous population or by sending forth emigrants from the metropolis. What starts out as an organization for economic exploitation consistently tends to become an organization for political resistance to the metropolis and finally a cadre for political and economic independence. The Ariadne legend in Greek literature, retold in a sagacious reconstruction of its historical context by Mary Renault in The King Must Die, tells a story of the Greeks breaking the economic hold of the Minoans on their culture. The Iliad was probably the story of a postdecolonization war fought over control of the pottery trade, rather than over the beautiful Helen. The disintegration of the British Empire and the other European overseas empires of the recent past began even before the empires were fully formed. The loss of mastery over an erstwhile dependency does not necessarily mean that the resources of that area are lost to the metropolis as a whole. But it usually does mean comparatively hard times for the previous proprietors of the resources and a better deal for the new owners. Minoan culture was completely obscured until its rediscovery in the early years of this century. The development of Baltic powers reduced Hamburg, Bremen, and Liibeck to places of only local significance as Europe
""For a masterful account of the impact of the West's most recent resource capture, see Walter Prescott Webb, The great frontier. The historical discussion in this section owes much to historian D. L. Bilderback.
moved into the modern period. Casual perusal of current daily newspapers will illustrate the cost to Britain of inflexibility in the face of change. Economic growth since the days of Pericles has been spastic and dependent rather than inexorable and selfgenerating as Beckerman would have it. When a society has achieved a transient economic integration or gained control over some neglected bonanza, its economy has grown. The bonanzas of our planet have pretty well been found by now, and those remaining are slipping ever more surely into the hands of proprietors resident in the lands where they occur—the OPEC nations, for example. Americans and Europeans will have to settle down to a lifestyle set against the background of a declining resource base. While today's technological sophistication may put us in a better position to ameliorate the effects of the end of the boom than were, say, the Minoans, it also gives us the means to destroy civilization in the process of squabbling over the tail end of the resources. Furthermore, those past booms did not end with the entire planet overpopulated and severe ecological constraints limiting what new technologies could be adopted—something invariably ignored by economic Pollyannas whose "historical perspective" rarely extends beyond the beginnings of the most recent boom.151 What are the prospects for the future? Setting aside the physical and biological constraints that were already beginning to limit growth by the mid-1970s, could sustained growth reasonably be expected for the next 2500 years? A simple calculation by Parsons shows Beckerman's view of the future to be as preposterous as his view of the past is fallacious. Again Parsons uses a modest 1 percent per annum growth rate. This gives a doubling time of 70 years—a lifespan—so that on the average each person is about twice as well off at death as at birth. At this rate a person's wages for an hour of work reach 1 million pounds (about $2 million) an hour in a little more than 1500 years, and at the end of Beckerman's 2500 years of growth, "a small child's pocket money, at say, 0.5 percent of the GNP per capita per week (one shilling and sixpence a week in 1970) would be five thousand million pounds."
'"For example, see Glenn Hueckel, A historical approach to future economic growth. Hueckel's "historical" perspective extends about 200 years, not even to the beginning of the Western boom. Needless to say, the article shows a characteristically blissful ignorance of ecology.
CHANGING AMERICAN INSTITUTIONS / 875
To emphasize the absurdity of there being 2500 more years of economic growth in England, Parsons describes what he calls the "millionaire barrier." At the 1 percent growth rate, the average person would have the living standard of a millionaire (income of £100,000 per year) just before 2400 A.D. At a "normal" growth rate of 5 percent per year, the millionaire barrier would be reached in 85 years. Parsons then asks the logical question: once everyone is a millionaire, who will generate the goods and services that everybody wants to consume? Our long-range goal, then, cannot be continued economic growth. Indeed, the main justifications for growth given by economists—that it will generate the economic power needed to "clean up the environment" and improve the lot of the poor—imply that the consequences of growth in the future will be precisely the opposite of what they have been in the past. We have already described the devastating effects of economic growth on the environment and the continuing efforts of growthmanic politicians and industrialists to destroy it with ever more energy use and ever more "development." The case for improving the lot of the poor through growth is equally preposterous. Although there has been considerable material improvement in the lot of the poor in industrial nations during the last century, the gap between poor and rich has not closed appreciably; indeed, in most countries (including the United States) it has widened over the past two decades.152 And, since poverty is a relative concept and there has been a revolution of rising expectations, "in the minds of persons with low incomes . . . a $4000 income for a family of four might be less tolerable in today's society than the pittance received by the poor in sixteenth-century England."153 Furthermore, the gap between rich and poor nations has grown during the recent period of rapid economic growth in the DCs. This gap is even greater than that indicated by national per-capita GNP statistics because the gap between the rich and the poor within LDCs has been growing very rapidly in many of those nations showing the most "development." Thus between 1950 and 1970 the ratio between the average income of the
'"Pirages and Ehriich, Ark II, pp. 270-274. '"Ibid, p. 272.
richest 20 percent of the Brazilian population and that of the poorest 20 percent increased from 15/1 to 25/1.154 Similar increases in inequity of income distribution have occurred alongside economic growth in Mexico, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Ghana, to name a few. What, then, if not growth, should the long-range goals of society be? Haven't the economists explained that the opposite of growth is stagnation? The answer, of course, is that in noncancerous biological systems the opposite of growth is maturity. What a mature society should be like ought to be (but is not) a matter of wide discussion, and we are willing to make some suggestions. It will have a "dynamic equilibrium economy"155 in which pressures on nonrenewable resources will be very nearly nonexistent, and, of course, the population will be essentially stationary. Some mechanism will have been found to escape from bigness—perhaps through decentralization of government and industry or political fragmentation or reduction in population size or some combination of these. There seems to be a growing consensus that bigness is basic to our problems—that Americans may have gone to the point of social diseconomies of scale as well as material ones.156 According to some observers, hunting and gathering societies could be counted as truly affluent because individuals could fully supply their simple needs with a few hours of work each day.15? But, perhaps more important, groups were small enough that each member of a hunting-and-gathering society was a repository for virtually all the nongenetic information—the culture—of that society. Each person knew who he or she was and where he or she fit in society. Alienation was not a problem. Work was not an onerous diversion from pleasure, but a fulfilling part of life itself. In our conception of a mature society, there would be a considerably more equitable distribution of wealth and income than is found in most contemporary societies. Possibly this would be achieved by some formal mechanism.15S On the other hand, perhaps it could be achieved
154 James P. Grant, Development: The end of trickle down? Foreign Policy, fall 1973. 155 The term (though not the idea) was invented by Emile Benoit. '"Pirages and Ehriich, Ark II, p. 59. 157 For example, Marshall Sahlins, Stone age economics. 15s Such as the national council for the regulation of differential wages proposed by Wilfred Brown in The earnings conflict, Halsted Press, New York, 1973.
876 / THE HUMAN PREDICAMENT: FINDING A WAY OUT
automatically as the society shifted away from the pursuit of bigness and the maximization of various indices developed by economists suffering from "physics envy," and moved toward maximizing things not amenable to statistical treatment, such as individual satisfaction and the quality of life. In a mature society the economic problem would in essence be solved. Can a transition to a mature society be achieved in the United States? The question is obviously open. But we
reiterate that a central question is that of scak. Can society escape the modern massiveness that threatens both the human environment and the human psyche today? It is probably no coincidence that the most intellectually stimulating book written by an economist in the 1970s was entitled Small is beautiful.1™
Recommended for Further Reading
BofTey, P. 1975. The brain bank of America. McGraw-Hill, New York. Critique of the National Academy of Sciences. Slightly too negative, but generally accurate. Bonjean, Charles M., ed. 1976. Scarcity and society, Social science quarterly, vol. 57, no. 2, September. This collection of essays by social scientists contains many articles pertinent to the issues raised in this chapter. Boulding, Kenneth E. 1966. The economics of the coming Spaceship Earth. In Environmental quality in a growing economy, H. Jarrett, ed. Johns Hopkins Press, Baltimore. A superb article about making the transition from a cowboy economy to a spaceman economy. Daly, Herman, ed. 1973. Toward a steady-state economy. W. H. Freeman and Company, San Francisco. A fine collection—see especially Daly's contributions. Ehrlich, Paul R., and Anne H. Ehrlich. 1974. The end of affluence. Ballantine, New York. Discusses many facets of the ending of economic growth. Hardin, Garrett. 1968. The tragedy of the commons. Science, vol. 162 (December 13), pp. 1243-1248. A classic article. Heilbroner, R. L. 1974. An inquiry into the human prospect. Norton, New York. A distinguished economist looks at the human predicament, with special emphasis on political implications. Brief and highly recommended. Hirsch, Fred. 1976. Social limits to growth. Harvard Press, Cambridge, Mass. Argues that affluence breeds social dissatisfaction, generating socio-political limits on economic growth. Note especially the treatment of positional goals. Thought provoking. Holdren, John P. 1976. The nuclear controversy and the limitations of decision-making by experts. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, March, pp. 20-22. What to do when expert consensus is impossible. Illich, Ivan. 1971. Deschooling society, Harper and Row, New York. A provocative book of interest to all those concerned with the future of the educational system.
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