How Government Can Help Change

I spend a lot of time looking at reasons we rarely see change in society. The obvious resistance is that entrenched corporate interests pay politicians to keep things the way they are. If the status quo is profitable, then it makes sense to pay a portion of profits to keep it in place.

Beyond that, however, lies a societal resistance to change that must be addressed as well. For example, when many people are employed by the oil business, it’s hard to wean the nation off oil. Nobody will say, “More dependence! More pollution!” in protest. Instead, they’ll show sad faces on the children of families facing unemployment. “Now that her daddy was laid off, who’ll feed her?” they’ll ask.

Jobs. It always comes down to jobs. No matter how bad for society or the environment a job is, the person relying on it wants to protect it. They don’t see the bigger picture. They see their picture. They’re probably acting out of a desire to care for their family, and it’s hard to fault that.

To realize true change, then, government needs to be more involved in helping people transition from bad jobs to good. Most people don’t hold a deep loyalty to their job, but just to the income it produces. They’d probably rather do something other than drill for oil, make missiles, fish the oceans to zero, and so on. If they could make money doing something less damaging to the big picture, they probably would.

That’s why government needs to better plan how it wants the future to look, understand what skills will be needed for that future, and create policies to teach people those skills. The engineers in the military industrial complex and oil business could probably turn their abilities toward a better energy system, if only it were planned out properly. The creation of a nuclear power grid and better batteries for cars would alone employ many, many people. Adding other forms of alternative energy to the mix, such as solar and wind, would employ even more.

Would it happen overnight? Of course not. Nobody expects that. It would happen gradually, which is better than not happening at all. Most people think the oil business is bad for the overall economy due to vulnerability to price swings and bad for the environment due to pollution. Yet, a mere six-month ban on offshore drilling created such hardship in Lafourche Parish, Louisiana that its president, Charlotte Randolph, asked last Friday, “What are schools going to do? What’s the Sheriff’s Office going to do? What are we going to do?” and requested that the ban be lifted.

The problem is that what’s good for Lafourche Parish is not good for the overall economy or the planet. We need to align those competing interests so we’re all pushing in the right direction. Only government can do it. We need pre-emptive job training so resistance to change becomes eagerness to improve.

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