Paul Rubin has written an article in WSJ regarding Environmentalism as a type of religion which I find quite interesting. The factors he lists as similarities are pretty dead on:
• There is a holy day—Earth Day.
• There are food taboos.
• There is no prayer, but there are self-sacrificing rituals that are not particularly useful.
• Belief systems are embraced with no logical basis.
• There are sacred structures.
• Skeptics are not merely people unconvinced by the evidence: They are treated as evil sinners.
One could also add:
• Prophet - Al Gore.
• Scripture - The IPCC reports.
However, environmentalism is far from being alone in the specter of issues and causes that people become fundamental about, and many political opinions tend to get stuck because people refuse to change their them - even when faced with overwhelming contradictory evidence. This is not confined to the "right", and possibly afflicts more people on the "left". Scientists routinely refutes diverging opinions with ad hominem argumentation, freezing out those who disagree, withholding resources etc. Economists (sorta one myself) believe their social science is a hard science with evidence based facts proved by complex mathematics. Attempting to critcize a parenting is something I can absolutely forget about since I don't have children myself. Even our hero Einstein refused to accept quantum theory.
What are your opinions on this subject? Can these opinions-turned-fundamentalism be compared to religion?
The reason to push on corporations instead of individuals is this:
The science that is marketing far outweighs the average human's ability to counteract any message propagated by the consumerism machine. If marketing didn't work, there wouldn't be any. Marketing today is much more powerful than in the past, it is based in strong experimental science with demonstrable results, we could even dare to call it an applied science. So to expect people to simply "vote with their wallet" is quite useless. Voting with your wallet will at best achieve a couple of percentage points of improvement (for instance Canada's Tar Sands exploitation alone causes more green house gases than all Canadian drivers! so for a Canadian to drive less... is nearly pointless). Now shutting down the Tar Sands, that would make a significant different in green house gas emissions. So IF our objective is to reduce them, best to act where it will have the most impact. This is consistent with the remainder of my political stances: always act on that which will have the most effect vs insignificant effects. Otherwise, it's all just talk.
WSJ recently changed it's editorial policy, I used to disagree with 70% of it, only recently do I disagree with 90% of it. (raises nose, sniffs air... if it smells like fish, it probably is fish) ;P
Voting with your wallet will at best achieve a couple of percentage points of improvement (for instance Canada's Tar Sands exploitation alone causes more green house gases than all Canadian drivers! so for a Canadian to drive less... is nearly pointless).
If I recall correctly, most of that oil is exported to America, and one of the current pipeline projects is set to help export to China. Much of the oil Canadians use is from conventional oil sources either from Canada or imported from overseas. A number of the major players in the exploitation of tar sands are Canadian companies such as Syncrude, Suncor and Shell Canada, but even then, I don't really know how those companies are structured and backed. Right off the top of my head, Shell Canada is a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell. Canadians could put pressure on these companies in some way, shape and form, but I'm honestly not certain how much these companies would give a fuck. There are other markets to be had. Bigger markets.
The issue can't be voted away either. Even if we pretended that the Liberals or the NDP actually gave a shit and were willing to accept the loss of a significant revenue and employment source, it's not as simple as saying "Yep, let's turn off the bituminous sands operations". We have trade agreements, and breaking them would have its own fallout.
It's a tough issue. There are, of course, groups protesting the tar sands operations, but when it comes to their message, they generally aren't as adept at marketing, lack the resources for effective marketing, or both compared just about everything else competing for people's attention (and money). Really, it's a sad state that environmentalism needs to be 'marketed' at all, but that's the way it is right now.
I can't say what the most effective strategy going forward on the tar sands issue is. What I can say is that it is an example of persistent failures on the parts of industry leaders, citizens and political representatives over the course of at least a couple of decades. It's a sign that we need to get our fucking heads checked. I love people and all, but man do I fucking hate them.
Instead of looking at the problem from a top down perspective, why not look at it bottom up?
The tar sands are extracted due to consumers demand for oil products. *We* cannot solve the issue before *you* do your part - even if it seems miniscule, the combined impact is massive.
Push your local representative to vote for a $10/unit petroleum tax, not only will it alleviate many environmental issues, it will also remove many governments fiscal issues.
We will have to agree to disagree on who carries the most blame for overconsumption in today's society - you percieve the producer to be at fault, I find that the individual consumer making the choices are to blame. Presumably we have different mindsets in the society vs individual debate, but that's quite a different discussion.
Veblen's theory should not be overstated, and is generally only applied to markets with luxury (Veblen) goods. Few petroleum products can be said to carry that distinction, and the products that can are not luxury goods due to being petroleum products (i.e. lipstick).
And finally two remarks: Firstly, $1.26/l is hardly enough to cover the cost of the externalities of driving, probably triple that or more. Secondly, fuel is not the only petroleum products, and they are pervasive and almost all things around you include them.
Your stance on society vs individual is only a viable truth if you're of the opinion that marketing is a useless science and a waste of money. Boy those multinationals are really dumb wasting all that money... :P
I live way up in Northern Canada, I buy second hand natural fabrics winter clothing. Thrift stores end up throwing away much of these things. People here are spending thousands of dollars on fancy petrochemical based winter garments instead of REUSING the excellent garments already out there on the market. Yesterday I was at our outdoor winter Rendez-Vous festival, -20C, driving snow and winds strong enough to tear away half the show tents. Attendance was a fraction of last year, people were cold, was I, no. People spending thousands on Northface and Columbia and Arcteryx ARE SPENDING ON LUXURY. They make me laugh.
And the individual response is that if you are refuse to question if your decisons are based upon marketing or your free will, then it is not corporate deceipt, but self deceipt. I've had this discussion many times and generally the truth lies someone in between- and both party should take their part of the responsibility. No market witout a product, but no product witout a market.
The brands in your examples are not examples of luxury goods (unless they are extremely expensive in Canada), it is comparable to choosing regular brand to a store brand. Tailor made Armani coats would possibly come close.
I also seems that both those guys and you were buying winter attire with an alterior motive, they wanted something that showed off their wealth, you wanted something to show off your moral superiority.
Arcus, you're still totalling sidestepping the overwhelming power of marketing. The brands I mentioned are mulitples more expensive than similar products by non luxury brands such as "intersport". People buy those particular brands for 2 reasons: social standing and marketing. The marketing fools people by telling them petrochemical fleece is warmer than animal fleece. (and a couple of political vegans of course, but their numbers aren't sufficient to sway any market)
The social standing is related to what Veblen theorises. One of my girlfriends has been dressing her son in luxury brand names (Armani is not a luxury brand name in Northern climes) since age 3, even tho he grows out of them within a year, because wearing these luxury brand keeps him in the "in-group". Apparently elementary school aged kids are beasts of fashion (sigh)
She is not a dumb woman, she is of above average intelligence, and very literate, but marketing is stronger. She is not responsible for her actions. If this can happen to an average intelligence person, imagine what happens to dumb people? I have had oodles of these discussions with her, she "sees" it when we talk, but next week, she buys another item she can't afford.
You can no more assume people can "will" their brains to be brighter than you can will an extra finger to grow from your hand. People have the intelligence they have. One does not usually get more intelligent with age, we just accumulate experience. Intelligence is different from experience.
The only way to STOP the overwhelming power of marketing is to provide better education to youth, to provide them with tools to understand the underpinnings of workings of our modern world.
Dangling question: do you think marketing is a waste of corporate funds?
Of course corporate marketing influences the decisions and is often worth the money, but people must be held accountable for their decisions. Marketing typically don't lie (it's illegal), though construes facts to promote whatever they are selling, and this is widely known (suddenly sounds the same as politics). However, if some are unable to form an independent opinion, it is not marketing which is to blame. The education system plays a factor, but some people are just ignorant, and I'd rather not structure society around the consept of protecting the ignorant from themselves.
Dangling question: If some are unfit to make decicions for themselves, who decides whom must be shielded against what?
Lying in marketing is illegal. The point of marketing is to sell your product, generally by pointing out all the positive aspects. It is not a secret and everybody knows it, and I disagree with you on people not being accountable for their decisions.
However, I do agree that marketing towards children should be banned.