I'm continuing my reporting on the next installment from Conservative Estimate, the new website that is devoted to demolishing Conservatism. Today, Alfred George begins to show why the fear of scarcity, a fundamental motivation of conservative thinking, is misplaced.
Just traipse past the orange loopy curl . . .
Yesterday's installment introduced the seven Major Myths of Conservatism, the first of which was the Myth of Scarcity. Today, George questions whether scarcity is really anything that we need to fear.
The Myth of Scarcity goes something like this: We need to fear running out of resources, and we need to fear other people, who will harm or kill us in order to steal our resources.After pointing out that this Myth actually treats two fears—fear of shortages and fear of others—George decides to leave the discussion of fearing other people for later, and to begin looking at the fear of shortages today.
If we look at the things that people most fear losing, it would seem that we don’t need to worry much about scarcity. Is there really a scarcity of food? Or a scarcity of water? Or a scarcity of land, energy, or money? Today, let’s just look at scarcity of food, water, and land.What shortages there are do not stem from lack, but from poor distribution systems.
Food is not scarce
There is no scarcity of food. The World Hunger Education Service reports that in 2011 the combined agricultural product of the planet created enough food to provide everyone on earth with 2720 calories per day—more than enough nutrition for the average adult. This per capita production is seventeen per cent greater now than it was in 1971, even though world population has increased seventy per cent in the intervening thirty years. (See these facts about food production.) The world is doing a fantastic job of keeping food production ahead of population growth.
Water is not scarceObviously, there are things we can do to prevent water shortages. But that isn't all. It turns out that land is not in short supply either.
Water is not scarce. It is true, however, that the world is headed for a major water crisis if humans continue using and wasting water at current rates. But the two statements are not incompatible.
The World Resources Institute projects that by 2025, forty-eight percent of the world’s population will live in water-stressed river basins. (See the report “Will There Be Enough Water?”) Almost half of the world’s people will be having trouble getting enough water to support the normal activities of life.
But this projection assumes that the world will continue to treat water as carelessly as we do today. There is no necessity to stay on this path.
Land is not scarceGeorge then points out that land, like water, only appears to be a dwindling resource because of the mindlessly wasteful ways we use it.
In 1974, the biologist Francis P. Felice showed that everyone on earth could be moved to roomy American houses in an area the size Texas, at a population density about that of most major cities. World population has increased since then, but recalculating for contemporary numbers shows that the entire world could still live in an area the size of Texas: each family could easily inhabit a home of approximately 1500 square feet. (See Jacqueline Kasun, The War Against Population: The Economics and Ideology of World Population [San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1999], 45.)
So Conservatism, which has a very basic fear of short resources, is wrong to worry about scarcities of food, water, or land.
George promises to tackle scarcity of energy and money in Monday's installment.
Take a look at the whole post.
I'll be reporting back each day as a new installment appears. The next installment will be this coming Monday. (Mr. George apparently takes the weekend off.)