Thanks to Vilaweb, a Catalan news service that I follow on Twitter, I came across an interview (in English) of Jeremy Rifkin, an American economist who has worked with several European governments. I was drawn to the video because of a quote in the article that says, "We have to stop obsessing over getting rich". I have long worried about corporations and other entities who only worry about the "bottom line" without taking into account the many very real costs associated with it.
It was refreshing to hear Rifkin compare the American Dream ("useful on the frontier") with the Europeans' desire for "Quality of Life" (a better, more sustainable future for society).
What I wasn't familiar with was his take on distributive energy policy (think Energy 2.0), which is what the bulk of the interview addresses. While he is in favor of centralized renewable energy plants--like large wind or sun collectors in the west, feeding electricity back east with high-voltage, and one must expect, very long cables--he believes the future lies in distributive energy, which he compares to Web 2.0 and the internet.
Each individual building creates energy and then distributes what they don't need back to the grid. This is like folks creating videos and distributing them on YouTube. We'll depend neither on NBC, nor on Exxon. Sounds good to me.
But with the debates raging about universal health care and the evils of supposed socialism, what I keep thinking about is this emphasis on quality of life versus getting rich. The first is a much wider net: quality of life is dependent not only on one's individual circumstances, but on those around you, and thus requires broader thinking about what issues need our attention and resources. Getting rich is a much more narrow goal, and a much less satisfying one.