Home | Archives | About | Login | Submissions | Notify | Contact | Search
 ES Home > Vol. 4, No. 1 > Resp. 9

Copyright © 2000 by The Resilience Alliance

The following is the established format for referencing this article:
Mead, T. D. 2000. Comments on Costanza article. Conservation Ecology 4(1): r9. [online] URL: http://www.consecol.org/vol4/iss1/resp9/

Response to Robert Costanza 2000. "Visions of alternative (unpredictable) futures and their use in policy analysis"

Comments on Costanza Article

Timothy D. Mead

University of North Carolina

Published: June 20, 2000

The greatest strength of futures research is the predictions. The greatest weakness of futures research is the predictions. Consider as an example the work done by the Club of Rome a generation ago. According to them, a Malthusian disaster should be looming about now.

Constanza's (2000) paper fits into the Jeffersonian, rather than the Madisonian, tradition of American political thought. The Jeffersonian tradition incorporates a concept of the public interest that is based on communitarian or civic virtue; in other words, there is a shared public good that is knowable. In contrast, the Madisonian tradition takes a more libertarian view that suggests that there are a variety of interests; in other words, there is no single knowable public interest. Constanza accepts the view that there is a knowable public interest and that individual interests often conflict with that public interest. On page 2, he states that "... governance has gotten bogged down in mediating short-term conflicts between special shared visions that can guide dispute resolution." In my opinion, "bogged down" and "more basic role" and "broadly shared visions" are all pejorative expressions. That Constanza prefers the Jeffersonian world view is OK, but he offers no evidence to support it.

Another example of the negative implications of the Jeffersonian worldview occurs at the top of page 3, where the author assumes that, in a well-governed world, the public would not hold "inconsistent and volatile opinions." This sounds like Orwell's 1984. (It strikes me as somewhat ironic that what was once a futurist reverse utopia is now about 15 years in the past.)

In that vein, let me recommend The Lost Soul of American Politics: Virtue, Self-Interest, and the Foundations of Liberalism by John P. Diggins. This is an excellent book with a unique perspective on American intellectual history.

The research itself I thought very interesting. The four scenarios held together internally, and the "testing" of the scenarios was imaginative.

As a policy tool, however, I have serious reservations because I think that the Jeffersonian assumptions about the public interest are socially undesirable.


Responses to this article are invited. If accepted for publication, your response will be hyperlinked to the article. To submit a comment, follow this link. To read comments already accepted, follow this link.


Costanza, R. 2000. Visions of alternative (unpredictable) futures and their use in policy analysis. Conservation Ecology 4(1): 5. [online] URL: http://www.consecol.org/vol4/iss1/art5

Diggins, J. P. 1984. The lost soul of American politics: virtue, self-interest, and the foundations of liberalism. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois, USA.

Address of Correspondent:
Timothy D. Mead
Department of Political Science
University of North Carolina
Charlotte, North Carolina 28223 USA
Phone: 704-547-4524

Home | Archives | About | Login | Submissions | Notify | Contact | Search