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Sustainability Is Fine, Unless There’s Nothing Left to Sustain

The University of Oregon may hire four new “hot shot” sustainability professors whose mission will be to “change the world by figuring out how to rebuild and reorganize cities…to account for climate change, population growth and environmental damage.”

Worthy goals, no doubt. But remember what the blind longshoreman philosopher Eric Hoffer had to say about the role of cities in civilization:*

“I’ve found that everything creative comes from the city. All men’s theories and great achievements―they were not realized in the bracing atmosphere of forests and steppes and mountaintops, but in the crowded, stinking cities! NOTHING OF IMPORTANCE HAS EVER COME FROM THE VILLAGE—how could anything be invented in places where strangers are not welcome?Man becomes human in the city; without the city, man would have been nothing…And, of course, it’s in the cities that man decays, too. America will die if we don’t know how to run viable cities.”

But, Hoffer wouldn’t trust “hot shot” professors to solve our city’s problems. Here’s what he had to say about such men:

“I AM AFRAID OF SCHOOLTEACHERS AND INTELLECTUALS—I THINK THEY MAKE THE WORST TYRANTS IN THE WORLD, AND THEY NEVER HAVE ANY UNDERSTANDING OF THE MASSES.”

Hoffer saw business as “the sphere that most of the energy and ambition and talent in America gravitated toward.” But, then he saw the “social landscape in America…started to tilt away from business, and the rewards offered to intellectuals…loomed higher and higher.”

“Hot shot” professors may be smart; but they won’t create the goods and services we need to truly sustain our lives, liberty, and happiness. For that, we need a vibrant business climate, and I see nothing in the “hot shot’s” job description that allows for that.
* All Eric Hoffer quotes are from Eric Hoffer: An American Odyssey, by Calvin Tomkins, EP Dutton, 1968


 

Steve Buckstein is founder and Senior Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

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