Tuesday, July 10, 2007



One thing that unites politicians of every stripe is the lip service paid to the idea that the United States should be "energy independent." On his web site, Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson says:
And everyone -- every American -- must make an effort to make us energy independent and combat global warming.
Similarly on Republican presidential candidate Tommy Thompson's web site we read:
Governor Thompson believes America must become more independent in its energy needs and break reliance on foreign oil. We must begin with greater investments in renewable energy, like ethanol, so we can bring these technologies to market faster and more efficiently. And we must come together and deal with our changing climate.
The idea that a state should be self-sufficient to the greatest degree possible is an old one. Pericles in his funeral oration praised Athens for its self-sufficiency (Thucydides 2.36.3, tr. Benjamin Jowett):
And we ourselves assembled here to-day, who are still most of us in the vigour of life, have carried the work of improvement further, and have richly endowed our city with all things, so that she is sufficient for herself both in peace and war.
Aristotle (Politics 1.2, tr. Benjamin Jowett) says that self-sufficiency should be the goal or end of the state:
When several villages are united in a single complete community, large enough to be nearly or quite self-sufficing, the state comes into existence, originating in the bare needs of life, and continuing in existence for the sake of a good life. And therefore, if the earlier forms of society are natural, so is the state, for it is the end of them, and the nature of a thing is its end. For what each thing is when fully developed, we call its nature, whether we are speaking of a man, a horse, or a family. Besides, the final cause and end of a thing is the best, and to be self-sufficing is the end and the best.
Varro, lamenting the decline of farming in Italy, writes (On Agriculture 2 praef. 3, tr. William Davis Hooper and Harrison Boyd Ash):
As therefore in these days practically all the heads of families have sneaked within the walls, abandoning the sickle and the plough, and would rather busy their hands in the theatre and in the circus than in the grain-fields and the vineyards, we hire a man to bring us from Africa and Sardinia the grain with which to fill our stomachs, and the vintage we store comes in ships from the islands of Cos and Chios.

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