Are we talking means or ends?

Hi, DQ here. Dagon posted a comment to another entry so interesting I thought I'd post a new entry on it. In response to my question as to what he would do, Dagon said:

[C]omplete independence from middle-east oil; a consistent foreign policy which advocates human rights everywhere and not just where it’s financially or politically expedient; a cessation of the subsizing of american companies which employ slave labor abroad in places like indonesia and malaysia; reppelation of the policy of preemption; and a mandate to secure our infrastructure via port security, border stability and immigration reform.

Let's take these one at a time:

Complete independence from middle-east oil — I doubt there is a reader of this blog, on the left or the right, who would disagree with this as an end goal. Dagon doesn't suggest a single method of accomplishing this (in a later post he does suggest ethanol, though he doesn't say where he thinks we'd get enough of it to power a truly large number of vehicles), but it set me to wondering why we don't set this as a serious goal. Rather than each side picking their favorite energy alternatives, why not do everything? Why not nuclear and solar? Wind and geothermal and shale and off-shore drilling and ethanol and hybrids and hydroelectric and coal and anything else we can think of to increase our energy supply? [Note: we should also work to reduce demand, but increasing supply is more practical and can be done with very little sacrifice.] Let's do it!

[A] consistent foreign policy which advocates human rights everywhere and not just where it’s financially or politically expedient – it's hard to imagine anyone disagreeing with this statement, either. The question is not whether we advocate human rights everywhere (we already do) but what tactics will best assure this outcome. For example, Dagon takes America to task for supporting the current regime in Saudi Arabia. I largely agreee, though I'm open to the suggestion that any conceivable alternative government in that country would be even worse than the current one. But this discussion is about means, not ends. It's not about who supports human right (we all do) but about how we get there from here. Let's remember that the next time we are tempted to start throwing stones at each other.

[A] cessation of the subsi[di]zing of american companies which employ slave labor abroad in places like indonesia and malaysia – Here again, one would be hard pressed to find a single soul who supports the use of slave labor. The problem here is in the definition of slave labor. Also, one needs to be careful not to impose an American view on the laborers. If an American company builds a plant and hires people for 50 cents an hour who would otherwise be starving to death, both the American company and that worker benefit, even if the wage is woefully low by American standards. By the way, this is one my father, one of the most conservative people I know, would agree with Dagon completely on, but as a way of protecting American jobs at high wages by eliminating the cheaper foreign competition.

[R]eppelation of the policy of preemption – Don't know what to make of this one. It looks like Dagon is saying we must be reactive, not pro-active, that we must always let the other guy have the first shot. I disagree, but I'm open to discussion if I've not got Dagon's idea right. Or maybe I'm misunderstanding the point entirely.

[A]nd a mandate to secure our infrastructure via port security, border stability and immigration reform – Again, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who would disagree with any of these ends, and Dagon doesn't suggest any means for accomplishing them. Everyone wants secure borders, a secure infrastructure, port security and immigration reform. The question, as usual, is what means we use to accomplish these worthy ends.

Overall, I'm struck by how completely, or nearly so, Dagon's ends are unobjectionable. Yet he presents them as if they are somehow controversial. Let's have a dialogue that begins by recognizing that we agree on the above ends and discusses what means we use to get there. Seems to me that will be far more constructive than questioning each other's commitment to obviously proper ends.

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  • Earl

    Perhaps we could agree that the government ought not to be giving taxpayers’ money to American corporations — what Dagon calls “subsidies”. Not to any of them…..let American corporations compete.

    If other governments subsidize a product, it’s a benefit to the American consumer (because we can buy that product for less money), at the expense of the taxpayers of the other country (who have to pay the subsidy).

    I don’t think we should tax Americans to subsidize production that will benefit citizens of other nations. Stop subsidizing American corporations, regardless of what other countries do!

  • Danny Lemieux

    How about, “means, ends and consequences”. This is where Dagon falls apart. It’s easy to say that we should cut all ties with the Saudis, but (as you point out), the alternative would likely be much worse, as Jimmy Carter’s feckless Iran policy demonstrated. Dagon and his friends, blinded with the BusHitlerChimpyHalliburton mindset, refuse to recognize that the Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns are precisely about creating acceptabe alternatives to a global war between militant Islam and the rest of the world (including infidels such as Dagon). Dagon can prance in high moral dudgeon about “slave labor” in developing countries but my impression is that the laborers come to such jobs by their own free will because it is better than the alternative. Eventually, their salaries rise. So what’s Dagon’s solution? Dagon feels it is immoral and therefore better to unemploy them. I have a better solution – if the laborers don’t like the work, let them freely walk away and go back to their previous lives. Dagon can talk about retreating to our domestic hidey-holes and raising our “defenses” in the hope that the world’s problems will just pass us by, but that only postpones the problem – think of the fall of Constantinople in 1453. Dagon can talk about Islamic terror being no match for our military, but the Left has already demonstrated that they have no will to use our military. Besides, this is asymmetric warfare…think 9/11 with nukes, chemicals and biologicals. Does Dagon really think that the solution to Islamic terror attacks is to flatten an Iranian city with our superior military might? Actually, Dagon sounds reasonable only because his platitudes run so thin and he doesn’t have to dig deep to address the consequences of his “solutions”. Also, fundamentally, he neither understands the nature of the Islamic threat (they aren’t playing defense, they are playing offense against me and thee and our whole system of values and beliefs…especially HIS beliefs)nor does he understand that the world is already at war. I can understand that. Simply go out, walk around and breath the air on a beautiful, normal Spring day and it is very hard to seriously appraise and confront the nasty realities of this world. Tempting as it may be, many of us realize that it is far to dangerous to forget 9/11…or the fact that Europe also enjoyed many similarly fine days in the mid-1930s. This is where I believe the real dividing line exists in our society – we are split between those that recognize and are willing confront the threat and those who find it so much more comforting to avert their gaze and dream about more pleasant things.

  • Zhombre

    U.S. energy independence is a goal greatly desired but I doubt ethanol alone will suffice, and ethanol may actually be a step backwards; I doubt there is any magic bullet to end current energy woes. A multifaceted approach may prove the most practical, that includes conservation (both voluntary and mandated by law), drilling for domestic oil (I do not see ANWR any more sacrosanct a sight than the real estate the Saudis, Venezuelans and Nigerians now drill for the oil they sell us as exorbitant prices), building nuclear plants, and developing alternatives such as ethanol; we cannot rely on one strategy, nor do we have the luxury of doing nothing. Americans have the technological edge in dealing with the problem and on the whole we are a practical, problem-solving people; complacency and lack of will makes us our own worst enemy.

  • Zhombre

    The above should read “sacrosanct a site” not sight. I must “repellate” bad diction.

  • Danny Lemieux

    Actually, the U.S. has plenty of oil and other energy alternatives. The question is – at what price? North American oil reserves (including undeveloped oil fields off the coasts of California and Florida, oil shale and Athabascan tar sands) for exceed those of the Middle East. High oil prices make it competitive to develop these resources (as they are currently developing tar sands in Alberta). If and when we need to, we will develop those reserves, along with all alternate sources of energy. This will have very little if anything to do with the spread of Islamofascism or “world peace”, however, as it is an ideological, rather than economic, conflict.

  • Kevin

    Great reply Bookworm. Originally I had intended to suggest to Dagon that we all get a Mr. Fusion as seen on “Back to the Future Part II” to supply our energy needs since this is as productive as his nebulous charge of “complete independence from middle-east oil.” We all agree this needs to be done but there’s no way that the American public will stand by and take the consequences of “just saying no to oil.”

    I like the point that Danny brought up with regards to the undeveloped oil fields off the coasts of CA and FL. Since they have the highest and forth-highest electoral votes (and thus population) respectively, they also are massive users of oil produced energy (i.e. cars.) I have often reflected on the thought “you play, you pay.” Specifically, since they’re using large amounts of gas, they should be required to help support their usage by tapping the available resources–or cut off their outside supply otherwise. I’ve lived south of Santa Barbara and the rigs off the coast do not obstruct the views and apparently don’t keep visitors away. This should likewise be done in Florida. The NIMBY attitude is OK if one isn’t a major user of the resource but otherwise, it seems rather hypocritical. Also, since Alaska brings in more federal money per capita that any other state, it seems that drilling in ANWR would be a fair trade.

    In the interim, I agree with Bookworm that we should start utilizing multiple forms of energy production but I’d like to point out that there is an environmentalist argument against each of the sources she listed. The only way we will realistically reduce our dependence on the mid-east sources is to relax the regulations that enable the “green crowd” to tie-up any possible solutions in the courts for years.

  • Danny Lemieux

    I am OK with that but, for God’s sake, let’s not build wind farms. I am a bird lover and the sight of fields of bird Cuisinarts arrayed on Altamont Pass is not just ugly but an environmental disgrace.

  • Ymarsakar

    Danny, I think that’s what ted kennedy said when he opposed wind farms on near his state.

  • Danny Lemieux

    Yeah, but Kennedy preaches out of both sides of his mouth w/ regard to environmentalism – he supported wind farms until he was confronted with one that would obstruct his view. A bit like his stand on taxes – he supports the rest of us paying more taxes, he just believes his own wealth should be sheltered in Fiji trusts. Isn’t he special! Me…I happen to support the development of nuclear, coal, shale, tar sands, ANWAR, hydroelectric, solar and all other sources of energy that are practical, affordable and feasible.

  • Ymarsakar

    Tidal generators are rather more predictable and reliable than wind farms, that is for sure.