Economists in the Wild — The American Magazine

Far from damaging brains and killing seals, applying basic economics to the environment preserves it.The industrial revolution that began about 200 years ago has changed humanity’s relation to, and attitudes about, nature completely—and sometimes it has generated new views about God and nature, such as from the Transcendentalists of the 19th century. In the first half of the 19th century, Alexis de Tocqueville reflected that in America, civilization ended where the wilderness began; life along the frontier was one of “wretchedness,” and the wilderness itself generally “impenetrable.” To de Tocqueville, the scattered frontier settlers represented “an ark of civilization in the middle of an ocean of leaves.”i How different from the Puritans’ “errand into the wilderness” of the 17th century, or de Tocqueville’s rendering of the American frontier, is the Transcendentalist attitude toward the wilderness that quickly emerged along with industry, as best expressed in William Wordsworth’s poem:One impulse from a vernal woodMay teach you more of man,Of moral evil and of goodThan all the sages can.ii via Economists in the Wild — The American Magazine.

April 29, 2011