Sunday, June 06, 2010

Disaster Politics

As we watch the Deepwater Horizon disaster unfold there is a chorus that this should be a lesson learned; that this is the perfect opportunity to leverage a new energy policy. I’m pretty sure that this is the very worst time to do such a thing.

Naomi Klein wrote an entire book, entitled “Shock Doctrine” if I recall correctly, about capitalism’s policy of using natural and man-made disasters to change government policies, and entire governments, to benefit the corporate culture. I read the book, and some of it struck me as hyperbole, but there was enough solid fact in it to keep me alert to the aftermath of disaster today.

Even before reading the book, though, I have tended to disfavor passing laws in the immediate aftermath of horrible events, at times when the emotions of lawmakers and the public are running high and hot. It tends to lead to over-reaction and bad laws. It leads to laws which remove a judge’s discretion in labeling for life as a sexual predator an 18-year-old who had consensual sex with a girl one month shy of the age of consent. It leads to “three strikes” which sends a youngster to prison for life without parole for stealing, metaphorically, a loaf of bread because it is his third felony.

Using disaster for the pursuit of policy enactment is no better merely because a significant sector, or even majority, of the population considers the policy to be generically good. The aforementioned examples were well meaning; they are over-reactions to what was and is a real problem. They do not solve the problem. Passed when emotion ruled, they made the problem, in some ways, worse.

Now may not be the best time to consider energy policy. Emotions are too high. Feelings are such that policy passed now could shut off resources that might be better reduced or modified rather than eliminated. Policy passed now might well tax resource production punitively rather than in a manner protective of the environment.

Naomi Klein made a very valid point; people and organizations should not be using disaster to serve their own ends. That principle should be universal, applying to causes as well as corporations.

No comments:

Post a Comment