The Opportunity Hidden in a Crisis
Op-Heads: a virtual chat on issues that matter
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There’s lot of bad hurt in this recession — lost jobs, vanished savings, shuttered homes. The big question posed to politicians, economists, and market pundits is, “When will things get back to normal?”
Some hope they never do.
As outlined in a recent New York Times column by Thomas Friedman, a number of ecologists, economists, and other thinkers feel that the prerecession American “normal” of shopping sprees, saving nothing, wasting energy, and filling the sky with greenhouse gases has got to go. They say that this recession may force a salutary rethinking of “the good life” in America: buy less, save more, use less energy and fewer natural resources. They hope for this even though no other post–World War II recession changed the trajectory of American consumer culture, and despite the trillions spent to rev up that consumer culture again.
BU scholars Andrew Bacevich and Adil Najam have done a lot of thinking about the good life and its implications.
In his most recent book, The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism (Metropolitan Books, 2008), Bacevich, a College of Arts & Sciences professor of international relations, argues that the meaning of freedom in America has mutated since the founding of the republic. It now means unchecked government spending and conspicuous consumption, which beget crushing debt and a foreign policy dragged down by our dependence on foreign creditors and oil producers.
Najam, a CAS professor of international relations and of geography and environment and the director of BU’s Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future, specializes in sustainable development. In February, he was appointed to the United Nations Committee for Development Policy, a subsidiary of the UN Economic and Social Council. In 2007, he shared the Nobel Peace Prize as a lead author on the third and fourth assessment reports issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a UN-created panel of international climate scientists, which was awarded the prize along with Al Gore.
We asked Bacevich and Najam to discuss whether the current economic crisis could or should alter the American Dream.
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Jessica Ullian contributed to this story; she can be reached at email@example.com.