Coronavirus, Domestic Policy

Strength Through Resilience

A nation-state’ s power has traditionally been measured by the size of its military and economy.  As the attached article points out, the COVID-19 pandemic highlights a new and crucial source of national power – a nation’s resilience.  Resilience is defined as the ability to sustain and adapt to a systemic shock, or, as the old Timex watch commercial put it, the ability to take a licking and keep on ticking.  It is based on adequate infrastructure and governmental legitimacy more than material resources. 

Resiliency, however, comes in many forms.  China’s centralized communitarian culture allowed it to bounce back faster from the pandemic, but only by using the same totalitarian governmental repression that caused the crisis in the first place. In contrast, the individualistic culture of America hobbled our ability to control the spread after it arrived, but our decentralized federalist system gave state and local leaders the flexibility to create the necessary controls when the federal government failed to provide leadership.  Our freedom to innovate also helped foster development of reliable treatments and vaccines faster than China. 

At the same time, the weaknesses exposed by the pandemic must be addressed, especially those in our manufacturing capacity and health infrastructure.  By prioritizing efficiency over resiliency in our economy, we ended up dangerously dependent on China and other governments for vital materials, and not just in the medical field. The article touts strong alliances as a solution, but they cannot replace onshore local capacity in a crisis. Building national vigor means identifying and protecting resources we need to survive a future shock, whether it be from a disease, cyberattack, or climate change.

Theodore Roosevelt advocated “the strenuous life” of exercise and outdoor activity as a way of achieving personal resilience.  Both require short- term sacrifice and effort to build the stamina necessary to meet future challenges.  Similarly, we Americans will need to be willing to pay higher prices for domestically-produced goods or higher taxes in order to create the national resilience to remain a great power and a shining example of freedom. The immediate pain will be well worth it in the long run.

https://www.defenseone.com/ideas/2020/11/pandemic-revealing-new-form-national-power/170061/

Uncategorized

Happy Thanksgiving from New Nationalism

Theodore Roosevelt with his family, son Quentin in his arms

As we celebrate Thanksgiving with our families and count our blessings, let us remember to include the fact that we are Americans dedicated to and enjoying the fruits of freedom, democracy and the American Dream. I wish all of you a happy day with your families and friends!

2020 Election, Domestic Policy, Environment, Politics

An American Nationalist Voting Index – Conservation and the Environment

Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir in Yosemite

Conservation means development as much as it does protection. I ask nothing of the nation except that it so behave as the farmer behaves with reference to his own children. The farmer is a good farmer who, having enabled the land to support himself and to provide for the education of his children, leaves it to them a little better than he found it himself. I believe the same thing of a nation.

Theodore Roosevelt, The New Nationalism, August 31, 1910

Score

Biden +.5 Trump -.5

The two men pictured above represented different conservation philosophies reminiscent of today’s environmental movement. Unlike Roosevelt, John Muir believed that conservation and development could not be reconciled.  Despite Muir’s famous overnight camping trip with TR in Yosemite Park, he voted for William Howard Taft in the 1912 election.  Muir eventually went on to found the Sierra Club.

The contrasting philosophies of TR and Muir are reflected in the environmental approaches of Biden and Trump. However, in the end, their policy differences largely even out.

Climate Change

The differences here could not be more stark.  Trump’s denial of climate science would have met with nothing but scorn from Roosevelt, but Biden’s elevation of the Paris Accord to totemic status despite its wholly voluntary nature would also have met with his disapproval (see my post “Theodore Roosevelt and Climate Change”). This earns Trump a -.5 while Biden receives a +.5.

Environmental Regulation

The Trump Administration embarked on a campaign to spur economic growth by rolling back environmental regulation, especially regarding climate change.  In the process, they threw out a lot of long-standing rules that provided important protections. For example, there was no need to relax auto emissions standards that were not affecting car sales but reduced our gasoline consumption. The withdrawal of rules limiting toxic air emissions from major industrial polluters will expose hundreds to mercury and other known hazardous air pollutants. These unnecessary rule changes mean the Administration deserve a -.5

Biden would restore both the necessary rules, but pursue its climate agenda through more rule-makings similar to those of the high-handed and elitist Obama EPA.  This would likely be a net drag on the economy and so earns Biden  a- .5 as well.

Parks and Public Lands

Here in Montana and the West, we have a love-hate relationship with our parks and public lands. We love the spectacle and the solitude of the wilderness but resent the arbitrary limits on agriculture and other uses imposed from Washington.  For example, the Wilderness Act of 1964 allowed the federal government to temporarily designate thousands of acres off limits to even some recreational use for decades.  The Trump Administration decided it was time to finalize those designations and begin to release some of the land for other uses.  This caused a huge controversy and became an issue in the campaign. Biden has established a goal of designating 30% of US land as wilderness, which would potentially end this review.

Trump has generally been a friend of the parks system, vetoing an attempt by his Interior Secretary to raise the entrance fees to national parks to $70. He also signed the Great American Outdoors Act, which dedicated $2 billion per year to rebuilding park infrastructure (see this post for more). However, he also has reduced the size of some new national monuments previously established by President Obama.

Both Trump and Biden earn +.5 scores on this issue.

Conclusion

Conservation was dear to Theodore Roosevelt’s heart precisely because he loved America and the beauty of its land.  A true American nationalist would seek to protect that beauty for both the present and future. Trump’s denial of climate change hurts his standing on the subject, while Biden’s commitments to the Muir wing of the environmental movement suggests a potential radicalism on environmental regulation and public lands that would stifle development.  Instead, the next administration should adopt the practice of Roosevelt’s farmer and seek to responsibly reconcile the many competing uses.