Economic Outlook: May 1977

To face the coming crises of both the economy and the environment, we must cultivate more self-sustainable habits and recognize the value of food, land and trade skills over the instability of paper money.

| May/June 1977

Here are some economic and environmental myths, the reality behind them ... and what it all means to you. 

The Polite Fiction: Western man's high standard of living is based on his clever technology, self-motivation, work ethic, economic system and regard for the individual. We have lost our way a little during the past few years ... but all we have to do is fiddle around with political and economic ideas until we find exactly the right combination, and we'll all be riding the boom of the late 40s, the 50s, and the early 60s once again.

The Hard Facts: As Walter Prescott Webb pointed out as early as 1950 (read his book, The Great Frontier, and the plowboy interview with MOTHER EARTH NEWS founder John Shuttleworth from our March/April 1975 issue), Western man's clever technology, self-motivation, work ethic, economic system, and regard for the individual all came after and are all solidly rooted in the windfall resources and profits of The Great Frontier. (Webb gave this name to North America, South America, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and all the other smaller land masses that were — starting around 1500 — dumped like a plum into the laps of the inhabitants of western Europe.)

And now that most of the cream has been skimmed from this windfall, capitalism (the economic system so ideally suited for the exploitation of a seemingly endless storehouse of natural riches) will decline, prosperity will slip through the fingers of England, Europe, and — finally — the Americas. The democracy of the frontier will give way to socialism and fascism. Governments will become stronger and individuals less important. I don't like this any better than you do, but Webb was right: The predictions he made 27 years ago are all coming true. Forewarned is forearmed.

The Polite Fiction: We've solved the big overpopulation problem that all you environmentalists are always talking about. The U.S. has now brought its birth rate down to a zero population growth level.

The Hard Facts: Yes, the birth rate has dropped in this and some other countries. But human population growth doesn't show signs of slowing any time soon. There are currently more women of childbearing age living in the United States than ever before ... so many more that even if we hold our birth rate at its present level (and we're not at all sure that can be done), the population of the U.S. will continue to grow until at least the year 2035 — and probably beyond — before leveling off.

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