“The reason that we are a rich nation is not that we have earned so much wealth - you cannot, by any honest means, earn or deserve so much. The reason is simply that we have learned, and become willing, to market and use up in our own time the birthright and livelihood of posterity.” Thirty years later, we still are consuming and wasting five or six times the amount that we need or deserve. But now, perhaps, we get the feeling that it is running out. Our children and grandchildren will pay the price of our profligacy.
America was founded on the economically sustainable and humanly satisfying culture of the family farm. Small farms and large families made America a nation of honest citizens who practiced thrift, exercised strength of character, and cultivated a respect for other people, animals and the land God had given them. The virtues of hard work and frugality developed in Americans the strength to save the world from both fascism and communism in the century just past. But these virtues of the Great Generation have become “old fashioned.” We have become a nation of large, industrial farms (more akin to factories or mining operations) and small, fruitless families (more akin to personal interest groups). Our cars, our houses and our vacations now consume twice as many resources for half as many people. An America like this will not long maintain her wealth or moral stature. We sense that something is wrong. But rather than give up our wasteful lifestyles, we justify them by talking about “saving the planet.” Movie stars make grand speeches, but they maintain several gigantic homes for their one or two children.