Monday, March 17, 2008

The Universal Spitzer and Counterknowledge

Commenting on recent political events in the United States and the high profile fall from media fawning of Eliot Spitzer in particular, Arnold Kling proposes a new term "Spitzer", which he defines as someone who believes in the aggressive use of political power. A Spitzer believes it is his mission to tell us what to do for own good.

The relevancy of his terminology is immediately apparent when one reads his recent discussion of future energy options.

Effective energy options are critical to continued prosperity, future development and sustained globalization. The developed world has flourished on a diet of cheap energy. The developing world similarly needs access to cheap energy supplies to further future growth and eradicate widespread poverty. The topic of energy policy is likely to dominate political discussion for the next generation.

Sadly, much of that political discussion will be the domain of Spitzers, employing a range of strategies and counterknowledge to exploit a widely recognized issue as a medium for their political gain.

Future energy options can be framed as an opportunity for innovation, market-driven technological ingenuity and effective, sustainable, prosperity. Or they can be framed as limits: intrinsically restricted and divisive, the natural exploitative territory for Spitzers.

Engineering, economics and entrepreneurship: three E's of energy opportunity.

Stop, spin and Spitzer: three S's of energy limits.

Sustainable development is predicated upon the effective integration of economy, society and environment: not the cessation of development, the suppression of innovation nor the imposition of ideology.

Postscript: for more on the implications of the Spitzer case see here.

And for some re-thinking of ideology, see here and here.