Thursday, January 19, 2012

Abundance vs Scarcity

Lots of changes these days in the Halfwise household: my wife and I have relocated, she has retired from paid employment, I am cutting back my hours, and we will bring her mother under our roof.

When we examine the trade-off of time for money, we likely come to different conclusions at different stages of our lives. When I was starting out, it was "give me all the work you can." I had lots of time, not much money, and maximizing income was what work was all about.

Since then, life has taken interesting twists and turns, some of which were lucrative and some of which were damned expensive. I have lived lean, I have lived fat. Fat feels more comfortable.

As of a few days ago we have relocated to live on an island, with arcane rules for recycling (milk cartons can go in to a compost bin with dirty kleenex and coffee grounds, but glass jars must be spotless before they go into their recycling stream). I can see how someone living here all their lives would come to believe that scarcity requires rules, imposed by an outside authority. The west coast of North America seems to spawn zealots, more than willing to impose views that nature must be protected from mankind.

To a degree, this viewpoint has merits. People can be cruel, greedy and thoughtless. Free markets do not immediately punish these behaviours (but in the fullness of time what goes around comes around).

Today is the morning after a US decision to kick the can of Keystone Pipeline approval down the road. Opponents of the development, apparently unburdened by reference to any maps of existing pipelines, predicted dire consequences of adding a pipeline to the US landscape. "No big deal" implied Canadian politicians, and turned their attention to an alternative, the Gateway Pipeline that would take oil to the west coast for export.

There is no scarcity of oil. There is a scarcity of common-sense acceptance that oil leads to wealth that is essential to society, to education, health care, highways and arts programs.

There is no scarcity of technology, that makes the transportation of oil by pipeline a manageable risk. There is a scarcity of perspective that enables the general public to recognize that risk accompanies everything we do, including choosing to delay activities that create wealth.

There is an abundance of opinion, including this trivial blog posting. But there seems to be an abundance of entitlement amongst people who are both ill-informed and unelected, that their precious opinions must be respected, not just endured.

Social progress requires the freedom to express strong opinions on all sides of issues. From the resulting debate emerges an alternative that likely would not even have been considered otherwise. This is how we advance.

Pipeline opponents, you don't need Halfwise to tell you be strong in seeking safeguards. But while you are "safeguarding" the rest of us, keep the perspective of our abundantly active society. You are part of it and benefiting every day.

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