*One of the unintended consequences of the American Revolution is the all powerful belief in freedom.
The freedom of the individual and by extension the freedom of the groups of individuals in North America was allegedly under attack from the British throne.
Once the revolution was completed and individual freedom was affirmed, two related concepts were substantiated.
First, individual freedom meant the freedom to engage in whatever pursuit one liked, which inherently meant the freedom to have nothing or the freedom to have excess; second, there was no freedom to have enough.
In other words there was no room for the middle ground.
This newfound economic philosophy was highlighted and masterfully used by people we would now recognize as capitalists, mill owners in the north and plantation owners in the south. And with the age of industrialization, the mid to late 19th century saw this philosophy employed to its highest degree. Freedoms for the individual begat freedoms for the corporation which inevitably begat a lessening of individual freedoms.
It is no coincidence that at a time when capitalism was unrestrained and corporations did all they could to monopolize essential goods and raw materials, counter philosophies such as socialism and communism were created and gained many followers. Indeed much blood was shed during the late 19th century as capitalism solidified its place as the policy the United States would uphold.
But capitalism is not without its faults, chief among them that the freedom to have excess engenders greed in all but a few. This greed is the basis for two of the biggest (interrelated) problems currently facing the United States, both of which having flared up recently.
In contemporary America the war on terror is primarily a war against fundamental Muslims. But the war on terror is simply the latest iteration of the conflict between the United States and people in southwestern Asia which began because of the abundance of oil in that part of the world and the American need for said oil. Over the past 60 years the United States has pursued policies in that part of the world to ensure that its supply of oil would not be interrupted. President Eisenhower drew his line in the sand with the Eisenhower Doctrine which essentially legitimized American use of force in upholding American interests in the region. President George H. W. Bush was operating under the Eisenhower Doctrine when he sent troops to defend Kuwait in the early 1990s.
The recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has again brought the attention of the country to our dependence on oil, most of it from foreign sources. This dependence and the lackadaisical efforts on the part of industries in which oil is a key component highlights the freedom to have excess mindset as well as the uninspiring laziness to support a new and comparable energy source. Part of the reason oil enjoys such prestige as a commodity is because of its uses but also because it is finite and can be possessed. Renewable energy sources defy the paradigm of freedom to have nothing and the freedom to have excess. The sun shines on everyone alike, as the wind blows; water based energy can, to a lesser extent, placed in this category as well.
An energy revolution centered on renewable sources is necessary on three fronts. First – it would allow for less of an ecological footprint to be left by the current generation, leaving a healthier earth for future generations. Such an initiative would lessen the likelihood of oil spills like the one currently expanding in the Gulf of Mexico. This should be the goal of all nations across the globe. Second – an energy revolution would make us less dependent on oil and other fossil fuels. This aspect is particularly important in industrialized nations like the United States; less oil dependence = less dependence on oil from southwest Asian countries = less vital American interests tied up in the affairs of these countries = less American meddling = less terrorist attacks on the United States = less American military actions and less Americans dying.
But perhaps most importantly, and I would say most necessary, an energy revolution centered on renewable sources would strike a blow to the ability of one to have excess and possibly allow the freedom to have enough to prosper.
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War and he maintains a blog called This Seems Familiar. You can reach him at [email protected]