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(US CO) The rule of 'spendocracy' January 17, 2006 6:10 AM

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Consumer choice is inviolable in the U.S. It drives the economy and dictates our baffling national interests. In a Faustian bargain for global warming, foreign oil dependency, species extinctions, pollution and war, consumer choice determines the shape of our world.

This isn't democracy, it's spendocracy, where the flow of currency defines culture, economics, government policy, and the environment. Spendocracy advocates cheap goods and cheap energy ... at any cost ... then basks in the glow of globalization.

Critics often rail on the Bush administration for being cavalier about the environment and resource exploitation, but the Bush mandate comes from the people. Shop for the good of the nation, Bush urged after 9/11, so we blithely mall ourselves into debt, lassitude and obesity.

The consumer cornucopia melts the Arctic permafrost, makes the polar bear an endangered species, pushes oil and gas development in Alaska, and is begging oil shale production in Colorado. Consumer excess is the reason that Midwesterners aren't having any winter fun this year.

Seriously. Midwesterners are mourning a dearth of winter because of global warming, a result of fossil fuel emissions. They can't go skiing, ice fishing, ice skating or, heaven forbid, snowmobiling. They can't build snowmen or celebrate traditional winter festivities. In Alaska, dog sled racers may have to be shuttled around snowless stretches of the Yukon Quest trail.

But there's hope. World leaders met last week to promote energy efficiency through the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate. They identified greenhouse gases as a global menace, then danced around the funeral pyre of fossil fuels. "We recognize that fossil fuels underpin our economies and will be an enduring reality for our lifetimes and beyond."

This is Nero fiddling while Rome burns, where governments and industries play in harmony, and consumers and taxpayers hum along. That spendthrift Midwesterners have the gall to complain about not being able to build a snowman in January is the ultimate in cognitive dissonance.

Aspen provides another glaring example. We are surrounded by pristine nature, yet our prodigal consumer choices often despoil nature. We face serious portents about global warming, yet we belly up to the trough for some good, old-fashioned fossil fuel gluttony in our Hummers and Range Rapers.

Monster homes gobble resources like Jabba the Hut while they underpin development, construction, and real estate as the foundation of our engorged local economy. Aspen's opulence flies in the face of sustainability because self-interest blinds us to foresight.

Mortimer Adler, the founding philosopher of the Aspen Idea, observed 25 years ago that Aspen represents a dichotomy of competing triads, where the Platonic ideal of the good/the true/the beautiful is overruled by the Machiavellian realpolitik of money/fame/power.

Spendocracy is the governing idea behind the Machiavellian model, which owns the media, the federal government, and Wall Street. In Aspen, Spendocracy threatens to clog our roads, pollute our air, crowd our schools, overwhelm local law enforcement, and consume the very snowpack on which our economy is built.

According to a scientist from the National Center for Atmospheric Research who spoke in Aspen last week, the global warming forecast for the next century in Aspen calls for rising temperatures, shorter winters and a scarcity of snow at lower elevations.

Given consumer ambivalence and the certainty that global warming will accelerate, the Skico ought to move the new Snowmass base area up to the elevation of Sam's Knob. It would be a travesty to leave the next wave of affluent consumers marooned in a mud puddle.

Paul Andersen thinks we're living in a fool's paradise. His column appears on Mondays.


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