Me and my environment

At the beginning of his op-ed piece that ran in The Washington Post and which he did not offer to us (but no, he has no further political ambitions; perish the thought), Gov. Mark Sanford offers hope that he wishes to reconcile "conservatives" to those who wish to conserve the Earth.

That would be a worthwhile goal.

Unfortunately, no. It reads much more like a partisan battle cry meant to muster the libertarian right to capture the high ground on global warming before those "far-left" nutballs like Al Gore actually go out and do something about it.

Truly a missed opportunity to find common ground on a critical issue. Sure, it’s just another one among thousands, but it’s still very sad.

A footnote: There’s an element in this piece that is highly relevant to the core of Mark Sanford as a political, or perhaps I should say apolitical, creature. It’s in this paragraph, explaining why a dyed-in-the-wool "conservative" such as he would care about conserving:

For the past 20 years, I have seen the ever-so-gradual effects of rising sea levels at our farm on the South Carolina coast. I’ve had to watch once-thriving pine trees die in that fragile zone between uplands and salt marshes. I know the climate change debate isn’t over, but I believe human activity is having a measurable effect on the environment.

Nothing remarkable about that to you? There wouldn’t be to me, either, if I hadn’t seen a certain trend over time — just a standard rhetorical device of bringing a personal anecdote to bear on a much-broader issue.

But it’s more than that. It’s not a rhetorical device. It’s actually the center of what motivates Mark Sanford. When he said over and over in the 2002 campaign that he wanted to build a South Carolina in which his four boys could have a good future, many misunderstood that to mean he wanted all S.C. children to have a better future.

But it was really, in a fundamental sense, about his four boys. He has pursued policies ever since that appeal to people who think the very same way — MY kids, MY land, MY money. There is no OUR. Whether the subject is school "choice" or cutting the already-low income tax, it’s about people who see themselves and their families and households as islands, not as an integral part of a community with a shared destiny.

It’s about appealing to voters as consumers, not as citizens. It’s about rights without responsibilities. Oh, but they’ll protest, we’re all about Individual responsibility, just not social responsibility. People who think in such terms are the least responsible of all, and a tremendous threat to representative democracy.

22 thoughts on “Me and my environment

  1. bill

    “The fact is, I’m a conservative and a conservationist — and that’s okay.”
    Is this “Daily Affirmations With Stuart Smalley”?
    Just be glad you weren’t offered that bit of editorial pollution.

  2. Trajan

    “But it was really, in a fundamental sense, about his four boys. He has pursued policies ever since that appeal to people who think the very same way — MY kids, MY land, MY money. There is no OUR. Whether the subject is school “choice” or cutting the already-low income tax, it’s about people who see themselves and their families and households as islands, not as an integral part of a community with a shared destiny.”
    Mr. Warthen.. sometimes I can’t tell if you’re an editor/reporter or a columnist.
    I take this as yet another dismissal of a Sanford speech as nothing more than his self-edifying gradiosity, at the expense of poor ol’ South Carolinians.
    Do you not feel that Sanford cares about all of the state’s citizens?
    Could it be that he personalizes his prose with references to family in order to show that he DOES actually see a better future for all?
    Sanford’s kids are heirs to millions. They won’t have to work if they so choose. But, I imagine, they will go to college, get degrees, and have a start.
    Because their dad personalizes his speech doesn’t mean the Guv is only out for his own interests. If he was out for only his families’ interests, he wouldn’t be doing what he’s doing for a living.
    But, to read your take, it comes across like you’re trying to portray him as an elitist who cares only about himself.
    I think that misses the mark. Just my humble $.02 worth.

  3. Brad Warthen

    He’s an individualist, and his appeal is to others who see themselves as isolated from responsibility to the larger community.
    I thought as you do in 2002 — that he uses personal touches to illustrate universal identification with regular folks and their concerns. But his actions over the last four years caused me to re-evaluate that assumption. Everything he has done has been about appealing to the idea of the individual vs. the interests of society.

  4. W Lesslie

    I agree with your analysis of Sanford. His personal anecdotes do show what is at the core of the man. There is no doubt that the governor sees things from an elitist perspective. He simply sees himself as better than everyone, and his arrogance is hard to hide. No one but he (with the possible exeption of his wife) can possibly have an idea worth considering. Add his stubbornness to the mix, and you do have a dangerous individual.

  5. Trajan

    What many of you see as elitism, I see as pragmatic common sense.
    Personal responsibility should be championed today, not disparaged.

  6. Trajan

    “Personal responsibility” without a social consciousness is narcissism.
    WTF? This makes no sense.
    My personal responsibility helps pad my contribution to my societal consciousness.
    My tax rates incurred while working, vehicle taxes and gas taxes while driving, property taxes on vehicles I OWN, and a home I’ll NEVER OWN, charity work, donations galore, endless hours serving on various councils and boards, all contribute tangible value to others – who are not my family.
    If I lay around all day, drink beer paid for by welfare, and contribute nothing of value to anyone, am I being personally responsible?
    And if you don’t agree with my lifestyle, are you “socially unconscious?”
    Secular-progress much?

  7. Lee

    Warthen drives an old beater gas guzzler with almost no smog control. All 3 of my SUVs combined don’t pollute as much per mile as his car.
    The arrogance of socialists like Warthen is that they think buying gas from the same oil company as I do, gives them the right to tell me to drive less, so they can have more fuel for less money for their cars.

  8. Brad Warthen

    Gary, that would be true only if everything that is not white were black, or everyone who is not a Democrat were a Republican.
    But that’s not the way the world is.
    By the way, I just deleted a LexWolf. I almost deleted another Lee, but he’s already lost four or five today. I’m going to allow him a little grace since he just came back from wherever.
    To answer those still having problems with the notion that “no man is an island” (speaking of the 1600s), there is no responsibility that is merely personal. You don’t to the public weal by pulling your own weight, you merely don’t take away from it.
    That’s something, and congrats for not creating more problems than you solve. But thinking that’s enough to call yourself “responsible” in a world as obviously interconnected as this one is self-delusion. Extrapolated into a political philosophy, it’s positively harmful.
    Even the most basic hunter-gatherer society needs some common social arrangements and pooling of effort to function smoothly. So does our post-industrial, highly specialized society.
    It’s not a matter of “should” or “ought to be.” That’s just the way things are. It was THEORETICALLY possible for Jefferson’s mythical yeoman farmers to be functionally independent of their neighbors, but his was a romantic notion that wasn’t even fully possible on the late 18th-century frontier. But it was a fine, noble notion for a man with time on his hands — thanks to all those slaves doing his work for him — to dream about.

  9. LexWolf

    “By the way, I just deleted a LexWolf.”
    Heh. If you did, it must have been a pretty old one because I don’t see any of my recent posts missing.

  10. LexWolf

    So where do you get that colossal arrogance, Brad? What makes you some sort of saint for basically advocating the theft of my money to spend on some ridiculous socialist schemes but I’m evil if I want to keep more of my own money and decide for myself how to help society?

  11. Lee

    Collectivists shirk personal responsibility by not spending their own time and money to help others.
    Instead, they set up worlds in their mind, where they are good people for taking other people’s money, and doing what they think charitable people would do. Then they try to set up these systems on Earth, and they have to use armed force on everyone who rejects their demented vision.

  12. Gary

    I wasn’t really trying to defend Gov. Sanford’s approach or criticize Brad’s, but I think it’s an interesting construct to decide whether if you are not an individualist, then what are you?
    I agree that in today’s world, being an “island” is nigh impossible. I don’t view it as “theft” when the government takes my money in taxes to pay for roads and schools. First, it does so through elected representatives, so it’s not theft. And secondly, it’s clear to me that roads and schools are to my benefit even if I didn’t drive much or have a child to get educated.
    But the question is of degrees. Governments now take easily 40 percent of my income, if you count Social Security, Medicare and income taxes, and I am not even calculating any sales or gas taxes. At some point, it does feel a bit confiscatory, and I don’t think I am being overly prideful to suggest that this is indeed money that I earned and that only getting to keep six out of every 10 dollars seems a tad much.
    Perhaps these are thoughts for a different post, however, about the tax system. I know The State writes a good bit about that too, and although I don’t agree that the first question ought to be “how much does government need?,” I do think some debate ought to be had on what is effective and affordable taxation and government.

  13. LexWolf

    despite allegations from ideologues like Brad, I don’t consider all taxation “theft” and I’m not asking to pay no taxes at all. Taxes to pay for the functions enumerated in our federal and state constitutions are obviously proper and necessary. I have no problem with those taxes to pay for defense, schools, law enforcement, roads etc. However, we seem to agree that we have long since passed the point of a proper and necessary taxation level. We could easily cut taxes by half and there would still be far more than necessary for government to discharge its constitutionally authorized functions. Yet Brad not only advocates even more government spending but also considers opponents of more spending as evil. He even called them ‘jerks’ on several occasions, right here on this blog.
    A little thought experiment on the side. Let’s say you live in a small Third World village of 100 people. You’re fairly well-off and have one of only 5 cars in the village. One day the guy from 7 houses down comes up to your property and drives off with your car. Is this theft? Most people would say yes and would expect that guy to be punished.
    Now let’s say that this guy, instead of simply taking your car, tries to make it “legal”. He riles up the other villagers by saying that you are too rich and that other villagers need your car more than you do. Presto, the village’s elected representatives, the village council, take a vote and decide 4-1 that the car is no longer yours. Is this theft?

  14. bud

    Lex, your analogy is incomplete. If the rich guy in your example never earned the money in the first place then he didn’t deserve the nice car. Given the stunning gap between the super rich and poor it’s clear there is a great deal of un-earned income in this country. Just take a look at the Enron story. A bit of income re-distribution to take care of the basics doesn’t seem out of line. I’m just not buying into the conservative mantra that all rich folks earned their wealth.

  15. LexWolf

    Bud, even if we assume that people who inherited their money don’t have a right to keep that property — something where our Constitution strongly disagrees with you — that still leaves the vast majority of rich people who made their own money. What do you say to Bill Gates, Sam Walton, Oprah Winfrey and the like? They all made their money themselves.
    Further, how do you justify saying the rich kid with dad’s money doesn’t deserve the money, even while you give money to the ne’er-do-well who is too lazy to work?
    I don’t believe Enron supports your point in any way either. Enron was built up from nothing and the same people who built it up in the first place (e.g. Ken Lay) also lost it all in the end, right along with the greedy Enron workers who easily could have sold their stock at any time.
    So bottom line, is it theft if your elected representatives vote to simply strip you of your property because they want to give it to somebody else?

  16. Gary

    Lex, I think in your village example, it would not be theft. An outrage, yes, but theft, no. I would hope the village would have a Constitution which would protect a minority voting bloc, like ours does. I don’t think we’re all that far apart in our distaste for taxation.
    Bud, I think it’s awfully shaky ground to let government decide who “deserves” their wealth. Government is made up of people, and those people are just as fallible as the rest of us. None of us have magical powers.

  17. Lee

    America has a Constitution, but the majority would like to ignore it to suit their selfish wish to live off the sweat of others.
    The only thing enforcing our freedoms is the fact that 75,000,000 honest Americans are armed with fireams.


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