In less than a week what is possibly the worst administration that the United States has ever had will be over. George W. Bush and his radical, regressive cronies will be packing their bags and turning control of the country over to a new, more rational regime. The question remains, will things change much? Aside from the faltering economy, they probably won't get much worse in the short term. On the other hand, because of the nature of the society, they probably won't get much better, either, at least not from a socially and environmentally responsible point of view.
The problems faced by the United States and most of the developed world are endemic to the way modern society has been constructed, and without changing the basic tenets of that society there is little chance that many of our problems can be solved. The fact is that human society has pushed the ability of the planet to support it to its limit. Another fact is that changing that society to a more sustainable one will meet terrific resistance and accomplishing such change may be near an impossible political task.
There is much hope that Barack Obama will be able to bring about change, and he might to a degree, but any hope for significant change may be in vain. Case in point is the continuing talk by Mr. Obama about growing the economy to solve problems. The fact is that economic growth is one cause of the problems that we face. We have developed a system dependent on ever increasing production and consumption, and have expanded to the point that we are now consuming more than can be sustainably produced. Producing and consuming even more will not make things better in the long run.
The insane focus on economic growth is not unique to Mr. Obama, scratch most any politician and you will find it. Premier Campbell and Prime Minister Harper also promote growth as a positive feature. They are people whose thinking is stuck in an earlier, outmoded view of society that is not a safe one in the twenty-first century. Instead of growth we must be thinking of living within the bounds of what the planet can sustainably provide, and that means that those who now do not get enough for a decent life will have to find improvement not in an increasing economy, but in a more equitable distribution of what we already have.
Mr. Obama did allude to this during his campaign, but whether he is serious or not about actually undertaking a redistribution of wealth remains to be seen. So far there has been little indication that an Obama administration will depart very far from traditional thinking or raise much of a challenge to long entrenched economic interests.
It is also doubtful that the Obama administration is going to change much in the way of US foreign policy. There are rumblings that relations with Cuba might finally be improved which will be a good thing for both countries, and there are plans being laid for a gradual withdrawal from the mess in Iraq. Of course withdrawal may turn into a euphemism for a different kind of occupation.
Obama has also indicated that there will be an even bigger quagmire in Afghanistan where he plans to send tens of thousands more troops. Although a good move for defence contractors and other business interests that stand to make a profit off of the war, such a move will drain resources away from projects at home, and needlessly endanger more and more lives.
The coming Obama era gives many Americans hope for something better. However, if he sticks with outmoded economic thinking and clings to the country's imperialist policies, the real needed changes will not be forthcoming.
Jerry West grew up on a farm in California and is currently Editor and Publisher of THE RECORD newspaper in Gold River, BC. Graduate with Honors and graduate school, UC Berkeley. Member, Phi Beta Kappa. Vietnam veteran and Former Sgt. USMC