The Corner

“Behind The Benefits of Civilisation”

The notion that a blackout affecting 50 million people is not a major story is absurd, and not just because I almost drowned last night in my own sweat thanks to a bedroom lacking air conditioning. Either way, maybe this blackout will prove a blessing in disguise. It’s teaching us a valuable lesson in what we should and should not expect out of public policy.

For example, lately we’ve heard a lot about the need to move to a hydrogen economy and more renewable sources of energy like wind or solar. All of the Democratic candidates for president are calling for renewables targets or austerity measures designed to monkey with our modern technological and industrial resource base. In The Revolt of the Masses, Jose Ortega y Gasset captured their mindset perfectly:

As they do not see, behind the benefits of civilisation, marvels of invention and construction which can only be maintained by great effort and foresight, they imagine that their role is limited to demanding these benefits peremptorily, as if they were natural rights.

Maybe the blackout will prompt folks like Sens. Joe Lieberman and John Kerry — or their comrade in arms in green causes Sen. John McCain — to pause and register a moment of appreciation for a delicate technological infrastructure that didn’t just magically happen. And to realize overhauling it with the heavy and indiscreet hand of the state might not be the easiest or wisest thing in the world to do.

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