Some years ago a veteran manufacturer in Montana, owner of his own, very successful company, attending a seminar on “sustainability” was heard to declare, “We have always been sustainable. Successful manufacturing has always been about sustainability. It’s about keeping costs down and operating efficiently.”
What this man was recognizing is that there is really nothing new under the sun. There is nothing new in the concept of “sustainability,” except in how it is being packaged. That doesn’t mean its repackaging has no significance.
As always, in this new age, terminology is everything.
For example, “cost benefit” is apparently a new term to replace “profit.” It is a subtle recognition that profits are indeed necessary to sustain a business, but a name change becomes necessary to avoid admitting that profits are good. Such an admission would be to endorse Capitalism, and as we have all been taught, for several generations now, profits are evil, and so is Capitalism. But when reality is no longer avoidable, appearances must be preserved by a change in terminology.
But there is more to it than that.
The difference between efficient operations of a successful business of yesterday, and the “sustainability” advocated today, seems to be in the intent. If you are reducing costs and increasing efficiency because you want to make a profit, that is abhorrent. But if you are doing it for society and to save the planet, then it’s the stuff of sainthood.
As explained by a sustainability-advocate, “Sustainability is about reducing waste, bottom line… and when you save money in your business operations, you can reinvest those savings in your business or give back to your community and build economic resilience.”
There is no explanation about reward for hard work or for risk or good management.
So what’s the significance? There is one – a fundamental one that is coloring the world in ways beyond just efficiencies on the manufacturing floor. To do things that are beneficial to you personally are not considered virtuous – virtue only comes when the individual is sacrificing his interests to the whole – virtue occurs only when the individual is serving the collective good. Such is the philosophical premise that permeates all of politics, education, media and entertainment, today.
It is not the premise upon which this country was established.
That the individual exists to serve the community, the tribe, the king, was the premise of governance throughout all of history. It is the premise of slavery.
Freedom requires making the individual the most important aspect of society. That the individual is a majority of one is the entire basis upon which the concepts in the constitution were written. It was the first time that the rights of an individual citizen were legally recognized.
Such an idea is not “sustainable” under socialism, communism, or statism of any sort. To think of one’s self as important in relation to the rest of the community, is not conducive in trying to establish any kind of society that requires subservience. It requires a culture change, one that includes how we use words. It matters what “the meaning of is, is.
A name change is necessary to diminish the role played by the entrepreneur, the owner, the risk taker, in building a successful business – “You didn’t build that!”
Achievement of individuals must become identified as the product of a “team.” The emphasis is on group participation more so than individual achievement.
Language must change if you want citizens to accept a form of governance that makes serfs of citizens. And, serfs must never question their position.
The moral premise upon which statists have long championed their position is that individual sacrifice better serves the common good than if the individual pursues personal desires or achievements.
The very existence of the US and the standard of living it has delivered — not only unto its own citizens but to the world— totally belies that belief. It turns out that the voluntary benevolence and generosity of a free and happy people contributes far more to community, than the grand total of all the coerced trillions of dollars to fund entitlements and fortify regimes.
Who knew?
It turns out, the individual pursuing their own self-interest, better serves — hands-down —the poor and downtrodden. What it does not serve, very well, are those who seek the unearned and power over others.
This is not to say that collaboration and cooperation are not beneficial – they are vital – but it is just as vital to recognize that thought and effort is an individual thing, and as long as the worth of the individual is held firmly in place, all else will follow.
In all that must be “sustainable,” nothing is in greater need of being sustained than the freedom that allows each individual to do what he chooses for whatever purposes he chooses.

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