Celebrating war for Christmas

In: Uncategorized

18 Dec 2007

Lester Brown, one of the doyens of environmentalism, excels himself in miserabilism in a missive entitled “Santa Claus is Chinese” (apparently first published in 2006 but emailed out today). After complaining about how many Christmas goods are made in China, and the fact Americans are willing to go into debt to pay for them, he goes on to argue:

“It’s not the fact that our Christmas is made in China, but rather the mindset that has led to it that is most disturbing. We want to consume no matter what. We want to spend now and let our children pay. It is this same mindset that introduces tax cuts while waging a costly war. Economic sacrifice is no longer part of our vocabulary. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt banned the sale of private cars in order to mobilize the manufacturing capacity and engineering skills of the U.S. automobile industry to build tanks and planes. In contrast, after 9/11, President Bush urged us to go shopping.”

The more this passage is examined the more worrying it becomes. What does he mean when he says “We want to consume no matter what”? This is essentially an attack on the demand for high living standards. And why should be celebrate economic sacrifice? Like many environmentalists he goes on to celebrate war as it leads to curbs on consumption. But the fact that many millions of people died in the second world war – hardly an incidental fact – does not seem to strike him as relevant.

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