Carrol Daily Times Herald from Carroll, Iowa on May 9, 1974 · Page 5
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Carrol Daily Times Herald from Carroll, Iowa · Page 5

Carroll, Iowa
Issue Date:
Thursday, May 9, 1974
Page 5
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Reflections on a Shrinking Future in the New U.S.Era of 'Not Enough ' By Rod MacLeish (Washington Commentator) Strange symptoms began appearing in the United States in the latter half of 1973. The landscape of America began to change. The early morning hours saw long lines of automobiles sitting in the darkness, their drivers caught up in rage, bewilderment and frustration. Earlier in 1973 beef went scarce in the supermarkets for awhile. In early 1974, one issue that dominated special Congressional bi-elections was called by an old word with new meaning — energy. The sale of radial tires and kerosene lanterns boomed. Government made solemn promises that government wouldn't ban nighttime sports. The suspicion of a toilet-paper shortage created a toilet-paper shortage. Obviously some novel events and states of mind where appearing in America. Something more significant than scattered shortages was taking place. A premise which was basic to America's vision of its destiny was collapsing. Throughout most of America's history there has been enough of everything. And from our assumption of enough flowed the free enterprise system and the traditional — if unuttered view — that America was uniquely blessed by God. But by 1974 the era of enough was over. A new era of not enough was beginning. And the social, political and intellectual changes implied by the new facts of life both intrigued and staggered the mind. The United States is approaching its 200th birthday, but the American civilization — the collection of experiences and assumptions that makes us what we are — will be 400 years old at the turn of the century. One deeply-held assumption of our civilization is the idea that Americans are a sort of latter- day children of Israel, the chosen of a benevolent Deity. "We have made a covenant with Almighty God," said John Winthrop, "and He hath given us leave to write our own articles." The vast, incalculable natural wealth of l.he American land mass is a key fact which underlies the notion of a special American destiny. From the beginning, it was seen as the gift of an approving God to a worthy people. Massachusetts made the codfish — a symbol of the sea's wealth — its state symbol. The first New York fortunes were built on the hunting and fishing rights awarded by the Dutch crown to the patroons of the Hudson river valley. By 1840 there were 1,200 cotton mills in the United States, 1,500 woolen mills by 1850. Andrew D. White, the timber king, ripped up whole forests in the interior. Louisiana disgorged sugar, Kentucky and Virginia tobacco. The plains were plowed up and planted with Russian wheat; furs were plundered on the vast oceanic frontier of the Pacific from San Diego to Queen Charlotte island. But then suddenly, in the early 1970s, there wasn't enough. Shortages in everything from beef patties to gasoline blossomed across the middle- aged facade of American society. The era of "enough" was over. The era of "not enough" had begun and it was logical, if somewhat frightening, to wonder how the political, social and economic order would change in the face of the new reality. Even during the heyday of America's abundance, we have not been without prophets who warned of resource starvation. Henry David Thoreau, the most celebrated prophet of the mid- 19th Century, underwent a posthumous boom in the 1950s when the environmental movement moved into high gear and its message became a key increment in the national debate. That movement was a forecast of the politics of the "not enough" era. The environmentalists forecast a re-ordering of the political TEEN LINE An additional private line ends frayed tempers, missed calls. Order from your telephone business office orask any telephone employee. (3) Northwestern Bell system that is likely to result from the ending of the long era of "enough" in American history. The traditional liberal and conservative attitudes will obviously seep into the new condition of shortages, rising prices and increased American reliance on other countries for such raw materials as petroleum, chrome and magnesium. The new conservatism will be a natural extension of the old one; in the era of "not enough" conservatives will seek to find new sources of raw materials so that the political and economic status quo can continue. Liberals in the "not enough" era will address the shortage and limitation equation from its demand end. They will advocate changing the consuming habits — the very life style of this middle-aged, middle-class nation — in order to conserve shortened supplies and protect the environment. In his State of the Union Address last February, President Nixon warned that he would veto the emergency energy bill then coming through Congress. The bill said Mr. Nixon, only managed shortages — the liberal solution. The President said that we should — in his words — "get rid of the shortage." It was'the coming moderate conservative outlook. It was a forecast of the politics of "not enough." The definitions and theories of economists sometimes sound very much like political definitions and theories. We think of the Nixon administration and its economists as moderate conservatives. Hence it came as something of a surprise when, last December, the Chairman of Mr. Nixon's Council of Economic Advisors said that some day the United States might need a huge planning agency to coordinate and direct government economic policy. Herbert Stein is regarded as a conservative economist. The idea of centrally-planned economies is regarded in some quarters as socialist heresy. But Stein, in his speech to the American Economic Association was not doing ideological flip-flops. He was responding to a new reality — the beginning of the new American era o"f "not enough." Suddenly, in a decade battered by shortages, the United States faced a whole new ball game: If abundance could not be taken for granted, then it would be necessary to plan to preserve what we have. The international economics of the era of "not enough" are as unpredictable as more Times Herald, Carroll, la. Thursday, May 9, 1974 growth science. may be the new metals. domestic planning is The largest imponderable in inevitable. The United States — having only 6 per cent of the world's population — cannot expect to go on consuming 33 per cent of the planet's resources. Certainly competition for goods and resources will intensify among the nations of the northern zone. Conflict with the developing countries of the southern zone seems inevitable; they are short on industrial technology, but they Everybody Come and See CASE Power & Equipment's COMPACT TRACTOR SALE! 20—8 H.P. MECHANICAL SHIFT TRACTORS 3—8 H.P. HYDROSTATIC SHIFT TRACTORS 1 — 10 H.P. HYDROSTATIC,SHIFT TRACTORS 1 — 16 H.P. HYDROSTATIC SHIFT TRACTORS FREE POP and COOKIES SPECIAL PRICES! FRIDAY, AAAY 10 th POWER L EQUIPMENT ",792-9294 • CARROLL, 9<fc<«t control the resources. There is still "enough" in the poor nations. As the Club of Rome pointed out in a dramatic study two years ago, the world may soon be approaching the limits of its economic growth — at least as we know the term. If that is true, then some social engineering must keep pace with the planning of economies. Controlling the new era of "not enough" is also the most interesting — the social implications of the new era characterized by the end of abundance in the United States. Superficially one can see the smaller car, the warmer clothing, the return of the three- piece suit, and the returnable beer can as changes wrought by shortages of gasoline, heating fuel and But it. is the structural change in society brought about by shortage that fascinates government officials, social scientists and futurologists. For instance, the city-suburb pattern is likely to change with urban areas becoming the living centers and the suburbs being the seat of industry; fuel shortages and the new dictates of public transportation will force the switch. The prospect of renewed racial tensions worries people who try to think through the social implications of the era of "not enough." Will some Malthusian standard apply as affluent societies address themselves to the problem of dividing up a diminishing lode of affluence? Since racial tensions are tied to acquisitive symbols, the effects of the new era's potential economic injustice could be devastating. 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