Speech delivered at MoveOn.org Fight Washington Corruption Rally
Louisville, KY – August 10th, 2010
by Ben Evans
I am pledging to clean up Washington because…I am a pro-life, conservative, capitalist. Strange right? Now say it with me – I am a pro-life, conservative, capitalist. Let me unpack that statement a little bit.
I am pro-life because I believe that not just human life is important and sacred but that all life is important and sacred – that we must stand humbled and awed in the face of this sacred and fabulously diverse web of life that supports and nourishes us and that we should do everything in our power to honor, protect, and support that web and all of its inhabitants. THAT is pro-life and we cannot allow our language to be hijacked by those who would restrict us to some narrow view of what kind of life is valuable.
I am a conservative because I believe in conserving our most valuable assets – our true wealth – our water, air, land, climate, and biosphere. I am a conservative because I reject the utterly rash and unforgivably radical idea that we can use our planet as humanity’s open and unregulated sewer without devastating consequences for us and all life that supports us. Conducting that kind of uncontrolled experiment on the only home we have – an experiment that we are currently carrying out at full-throttle – is the most insanely radical idea I can imagine and it flies in the face of the very word “conservative.”
And finally, I am a capitalist because I believe in the intrinsic value of natural capital – the real wealth upon which all of our seemingly important human wealth is based and without which none of this would exist. I am a capitalist because I believe in the ability of market forces to conserve and utilize this real capital wisely if, and only if, we have a truly open, accurate, transparent and distortion-free market that accounts for actual consequences and costs over all time frames. This means, among many other things, pricing carbon and adding the true and irreplaceable value of natural capital and the ecosphere to the ledger – because right now the “free-market” that we think we have could not be more distorted or backwards. Or, as noted author and economist David Korten once said to me, “What economic growth really measures is the rate at which the rich are expropriating the real resources of the poor in order to turn them into garbage at an accelerating rate to make money for people who already have more than they need.”
And so I am truly a pro-life, conservative, capitalist – and we need more of those in Washington. We can no longer allow our language to be co-opted by those who would distort and destroy it, anymore than we can allow our government to be. We need to take back Washington and remind them that they work for US. We need a government that recognizes that humanity does not live in a vacuum, that a sustainable human economy and a healthy vibrant ecosphere are not mutually exclusive but, rather, mutually essential – and we need a government that can legislate that way.
We can all do a tremendous amount as individuals in our own lives and communities to protect this planet that sustains us – and I’m definitely all for that. But there are certain essential things that only our government can do. Only our government can enforce true-cost accounting by putting a price on carbon to move us away from our dead-end fossil fuel obsession. Only our government can set renewable energy standards to allow the energy marketplace to function wisely and in our long-term best interests. And only our government can negotiate climate treaties with other nations to preserve the enduring health of our species. We need an effective government, and so long as Washington is run by those who see mowing down our forests, blowing up our mountains, and polluting our water in order to make a buck for the top tax-bracket as “economic progress”, we will not have an effective government.
BP is not a person. Goldman Sachs is not a person. Massey Coal is not a person. And yet, they have more rights than any person – without the same responsibilities. We cannot continue to live in a world run by the likes of BP, Goldman Sachs, and Massey – or we will simply not have a world to live in.
Now say it with me one more time: I am a pro-life, conservative, capitalist. And I want an honest and fair government that knows what those words REALLY mean, and acts like it.