Are We Entitled to Our Standard of Living?

This may be the real reason we invaded Iraq. The best laid plans….

Senator Charles ("Chuck") Grassley (Republican senator from Iowa; chairman of the Senate Finance Committee) recently made his feelings known:

You know what? What makes our economy grow is energy. And Americans are used to going to the gas tank (sic), and when they put that hose in their, uh, tank, and when I do it, I wanna get gas out of it. And when I turn the light switch on, I want the lights to go on, and I don’t want somebody to tell me I gotta change my way of living to satisfy them. Because this is America, and this is something we’ve worked our way into, and the American people are entitled to it, and if we’re going improve (sic) our standard of living, you have to consume more energy.

Reflecting on the assumptions underlying Grassley’s words, Jim Kunstler asks some Tough Questions:

Instead of preparing the public for changing circumstances that will inexorably require different behavior on our part, our leaders are setting the public up to defend a way of living that can’t continue for practical reasons. The question remains: are our leaders doing this out of cynicism or stupidity, or some other reason that is hard to determine?

Cynicism would mean that they know exactly what the score is with the global energy situation and our predicament in relation to it, and don’t trust the public to deal with the truth.

While I doubt that the President and his posse are too dim to comprehend the energy trap we’re in, there certainly is plenty of plain stupidity in the rest of our elected leadership, of which Senator Grassley’s remarks are Exhibit A. To be more precise, actually, Grassley’s statement displays something closer to childishness than sheer stupidity. It comprises a set of beliefs or expectations that are unfortunately widespread in our culture, namely, that we should demand a particular outcome because we want it to be so.

What I wonder is: when will my fellow citizens discover that their thinking and their behavior are unworthy of their history?  That we are entering a time when these things simply aren’t good enough, aren’t enough to meet the challenges that reality now presents. Or are we too far gone? It’s possible that we are. After all, life is tragic, meaning that happy outcomes are not guaranteed and that people who forget that usually come to grief.