Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 14, 2005
By: Kevin Drum

THE LONG EMERGENCY....Over at TNR today, Christopher Hayes reviews James Howard Kunstler's The Long Emergency: Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century. Unfortunately, here's the nut graph of the review:

Midway through the book he offers an extended meditation on how the physics concept of entropy explains "conditions as seemingly unrelated as war, industrial pollution, pornography, mass political murder, the shattering of consensus about the value of money, and incompetent parenting."

That's that, then. I'm afraid that anyone who tries to explain societal problems by recourse to trendy constructs from physics including but not limited to longtime crank favorites like entropy, the theory of relativity, or Heisenberg's uncertainty principle is a crank. Chris suggests that Kunstler really does have a point beneath the crankiness, but I don't care. A crank is a crank.

And you know what the sole result of this book will be? It won't actually convince anyone who's not already convinced that we have some big problems we should be addressing. Instead it will serve only as fodder for naysayers, who will pull quotes like this out of the book and use them to tar everyone who's trying to warn us about these problems. I can see the reviews now: "Kunstler, the latest darling of the loony left...."

Damn.

UPDATE: I should make it clear that I probably agree with much of what Kunstler says. That's not the problem here. The problem is that when people make crackpot arguments for good causes, they just hurt the cause. My guess is that Kunstler is hurting the cause here, not helping it.

UPDATE 2: Ezra Klein has more.

Kevin Drum 4:15 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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