Calling on Carter
President Carter has set his political strategy: Atack Ronald Reagan as living in a dream world. Will tht be enough? It is doubtful. It is aloso disappointing. What the American people deserve to know is more precisely where the President would take the country in the next four years -- what his vision and purpose for America's future are. That was the perspective he talked about in his nomination speech. Now we need detail.Skip to next paragraph
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The future, n fact, is what the 1980 election campaign is about. For before the voters will be this central issue: How does the United States in the next 20 years meet the challenge posed by the world's expanding population and limited physical resources, and which candidate best has the intellectual grasp, political sagacity, and skill of leadership to confront that challenge?
A useful framework for the issue was presented recently in the US government's massive Global 2000 report. If present trends continue, the study projected, by the turn of the century the world will be more crowded, more polluted, less stable ecologically, and more vulnerable to strife than it is today. "Barring revolutionary advances in technology, life for most people on earth will be mor precarious in 2000 than it is now -- unless the nations of the world act decisively to alter current trends," it concluded.
In other words, the competition for resources could grow desperate. Even while the nations of the third world strive to better themselves, the industrialized countries seek to maintain and increase their already high standards. Yet the pie to be sliced seems to be limited. The Internaional Energy Agency estimates that, on the basis of current usage, world demand for oil by 1985 will probably outstrip production by two million barrels a day -- a situation which could exacerbate conflict between East and West as well as North and South.
Today we see a wide range of responses to the somewhat apocalytic prospects outlined by the government's report and similar studies. The pessimistic futurist believe the only way to deal with the problem is to start conserving and husbanding resources -- holding back, in other words, and limiting people's expectations. At the other end of the scale are the optimists like Herman Kahn of the Hudson Institute who argue that technological advances combined with better government policies will keep economic growth going. In between are futurists like Willis Harman at the California consulting firm SRI International who, without beign pessimistic, nonetheless believe that we in the industrial world will have to organize ourselves differently, adopting new values that stress ecological harmony, individual responsibility, and a self-interest in future generations.
Among America's political figures there likewise are differences of approach to the whole question of economic growth. Edward Kennedy made an emotionally effective appeal in calling for a return to the idealism of past decades and in effect for s redistribution of wealth. Ronald Reagan, undaunted by the complexities of te challenge, believes one has only to turn the business world loose and the US will recover the dynamic growth of bygone years.