[show_avatar email@example.com]As a known and practicing True Believer in economic and social freedom, I am sometimes accused of reneging on the promise freedom gives in order to drink kool-aid with the dewey-eyed true believers whose tenets are whipped together as a frothy promise in the mirrored halls of hope rather than having been tested in the crucibles of truth that our experiences represent. The politicians’ promise to provide perpetual “growth” becomes a pyramid scheme that feeds on our ability to (1) consume on demand, (2) provide a larger population to feed the economic engine, and (3) find the raw materials to feed the engine. This represents a pyramid that only a Madoff or a pharaoh could appreciate.
Now, however, we have seen three shocks to our system in the past 50 years or so.
- The Limits to Growth (1972) is a simplistic treatment, but, although practical applications might require advanced math, basic understandings can be developed from even simple board games that reasonably depict the relationships in that math. And the lessons are clear, even with economic substitution, there are some limits that cannot be ignored.
- The realization that population demographics (at least age demographics) are undergoing a fundamental restructuring.
- The possibility that the primary consumers on the planet (that’s us) are getting nervous, with “retirement” funds suddenly gone dry, we may be seeing the demise of the consumer as king.
So what practical application do we see from this nexus of information? As a member of a local planning commission I have been pushing for continuing reality checks-based reviews of our assumptions as we plan our way into the future. In a world where we have reasons to believe that the population is leveling off, do we really want to continue to pursue the past as if it were the future?
One of the problems we face is that the Northfield city staff is still serving up that old-timey religion of “growth for its own sake” kool-aid and the machinations they are playing out on the proposed new annexation just west of town are just further examples of how a bureaucracy can blindly chase an old dream without asking the fundamental questions that can make the difference between building a city that becomes a light on a hill or merely building yet another bonfire for our vanities.
We, as concerned taxpayers, need to reign in this runaway process before it tramples our dreams and leaves us with nothing but a big bill to be paid. To paraphrase a popular movie, “the staff is writing checks that the taxpayers can’t cash!’