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Pulitzer Price for Blinders

Today’s Pulitzer Prizes’ Centennial Celebration at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas featured a full, intelligent and articulate cast of media and political stars. I attended panel discussions titled “Presidents and Poverty: The Fight that Never Ends,” “The Right to Know vs. the Responsibility to Protect: How to Tell the Difference,” and “The Politics of Polarization: Can democracy Survive?”

The omissions in the panel discussions were fascinating:

In the discussion on poverty, nothing was said about the importance of birth control in reducing poverty and strains on society resources. In the question period, I asked whether keeping births down, for wealthy as well as poor people, would be helpful in reducing poverty in many ways, such as encouraging young women to stay in school rather than drop out for early motherhood duties. The moderator for that topic, Eugene Robinson, a columnist for The Washington Post, responded that birth rates were going down and that he was suspicious of any effort to restrict anyone’s rights or ability to have as many children as he or she wanted. No one wanted to consider (1) whether the public had any right to protect itself from individuals giving birth to children that they refuse or are unable to take care of, or (2) whether a wealthy person who has the resources to take care of many offspring, such as Mitt Romney with his seven or so children, puts an unfair burden on society by disproportionate contributions to population and pollution increases.

There was considerable discussion of American and other Western economies’ failure to grow at a fast rate (more than 2% a year) as a cause of social and political unrest we see around the world, including in the American presidential campaign. All the candidates for U.S. President want to speed economic growth, and blame slow growth and accompanying “hollowing of the middle class” for multiple ills. There was no hint of the view that economic growth, to the extent it consumes more energy and natural resources, is not indefinitely sustainable and is a bad longterm goal. There was nothing recognizing the truth that population and economic growth is the big engine behind the global warming and climate change, and that even those with good race-horse blinders will eventually be forced to look at that fact. As Al Gore posited as an “inconvenient truth,” human economic activity over time is fouling our collective nest, and will have progressively worse consequences.

Likely the discussion of those issues is so far outside the limits of polite conversation of the various opinion-makers’ that silence today on critical survival issues was necessary, but still it was disappointing.


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