Many observers in the Peak Oil community are baffled and disgusted by the angry denial of our dire fuel situation and its implications for our future, not only among the general public, but among our well-educated upper-middle class, including many prominent political leaders and intellectuals. The truculence of the general public is usually attributed to stupidity, ignorance, and "selfishness", and the unwillingness to make sacrifices to serve the "common good"; and the consensus among the aware is that we will have to become a more authoritarian and regimented society, perhaps even impose military law, in order to maintain civil order and assure the equitable distribution of remaining resources. "This country needs a good father," one commentator wrote, and commented approvingly on the regimentation and authoritarianism prevalent in the early 30s, remarking that we might have to impose these conditions again to make it through the hardship and upheaval of the massive shift that is upon us. Rationing is already under discussion, and various additional controls and government-imposed rules regulating use and distribution of resources, are also being discussed, some more seriously that others- and every single one, from the CAFE standards that the auto industry has resisted tooth and claw since their inception 30 years ago, to the government-mandated phase-out of incandescent light bulbs in favor of CFL bulbs and LEDs, is bitterly resented by the bulk of the citizenry, who feel the weight of over-reaching authority in every part of their lives.
That the authoritarianism of the environmentalist and peak oil believers, and their open contempt not only for common 'merikuns' and their wasteful ways,but for the concept of rights and freedom, might be exactly what triggers denial on the part of so many people who ought to know better, doesn't seem to occur to the environmentalist pundits and policy makers.
It also doesn't enter the heads of the authoritarians that the trends of the past 60 years that have made this country the most wasteful consumer of resources in the world, notably the build out of suburbia, and the corresponding total dependence on autos and trucks by our population, owe not so much to "market forces" or to the democratization of auto and suburban home ownership, as to government policies created by people who thought they knew better than we do what is good for us.
And what our leaders thought was good for us in those days was government-subsidized home ownership, taxation policies that incentivized the formation of large families, and lavish incentives for auto ownership, notably "free" highways to enable car ownership and facilitate the mass movement of the middle-income population out of the old cities to houses purchased with VA and FHA 3% down loans in new auto suburbs. Meanwhile, civic leaders across the country frantically cast about for ways to revitalize their rapidly emptying cities, and eagerly embraced the vision of urban planners and architects who wanted to demolish the unsightly slums around urban cores and warehouse the poor in high rise housing projects.
In short, it was our authoritarian welfare state that gave us the world's most wasteful and unsustainable built landscape next to Dubai, and is now shoveling the last of our wealth into sustaining and expanding it. This massive misinvestment is questioned by only a handful of our citizens, for our population was inducted by the corporatist nanny state into the passivity, consumerist ethos, and sense of entitlement that have made this country into a quagmire of towering debt and built an economy distorted by multiple layers of government subsidies and programs that reinforce the practices we need to discontinue, and disguise their true costs.
Therefore, we beg the question of just what a super-authoritarian, hyper-regimented Big Daddy regime can do for us that will produce any other outcome than further misallocation of resources in massively expensive boondoggles like the misbegotten high speed rail plan, multibillion dollar gifts to failing, obsolete industries like production home building in the far suburbs and our failing, obsolete domestic auto industry, and most of all, further intrusion into our private lives and restrictions on our personal and economic activities? Will erasing what few freedoms we have left to us and moving entire populations around like chessboard pieces according to the wisdom of a bunch of bureaucrats assure us of an orderly and peaceful transition to a lower energy regime and mollify the tens of millions of people whose expectations and hopes will be crushed but who will be expected to acquiesce to arbitrary authority in the most personal matters, with little or no explanation except for the usual crap about the "common good"?
Will the same government whose leaders have consistently lied to us for 50 years regarding the costs of the high-entropy economy its policies created and who, while knowing full well what the likely outcome would be, recklessly drove the creation of the worst financial debacle the world has ever seen, be able to lead us to any other end than the complete collapse of every system we depend upon for water, food, transportation, and every other necessity of life? And will these leaders be able to offer any other solution to the predicament of a country of 305 million people left with no resources, no means to make a living, and no way to procure food and housing and heat, but a military dictatorship with the complete cancellation of all our rights, vastly amplified state violence, and the death by mass slaughter or starvation of a substantial chunk of our population?
The coming difficult times of shortages, falling living standards, and failing systems will require all the fortitude, flexibility,skills and virtues individual citizens possess, in order to rebuild our communities into places that can sustain and shelter us and our civilized values. And the cornerstone civilized value is individual freedom, which is inseparable from personal responsibility.
Without the liberties, unprecedented in history, that we have secured at such a cost, we're headed straight back to the filth, brutality, and class tyrannies of the past, complete with the entire population enslaved in a neo-feudal society with draconian restrictions enforced by a brutal military.
And responsibility is the virtue that we have to painfully relearn, and in a large hurry, from the bottom of our society with its vast population of welfare entitlement junkies, prolific breeders, and criminal elements emboldened by our irrational justice system, through our middle classes with their passivity, complacence, sense of entitlement, and refusal to reckon costs and make necessary trade-offs, up to our financial elites that have been granted a license to steal trillions of dollars from the taxpayers, and have permitted to use their power to dictate legislation and policies that favor them, to turn this country into a low-wage cesspool, asset-strip the population by fraud and malfeasance, and sell our country to a nation ruled by a thug government ideologically opposed to the freedoms we have enjoyed and abused here.
After all, there is nothing "natural" about guaranteed personal liberty for every citizen regardless of class, color, ethnicity, or sex. The concepts of liberty and unalienable rights are the products of a highly evolved and literate civilization, which is also unnatural, a civilization with a high level of knowledge and technology, and with a broad and reasonably well-educated commonalty dedicated to preserving as much of it as possible, beginning with the philosophy that justified it and made it possible, that of freedom and rights and personal dignity. Without the will to preserve that, and the knowledge of its importance, we'll lose those values and everything that they made possible, including, most likely, our lives.