Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Stephen Colbert's Interview with Annie Leonard: The Story of Stuff

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Annie Leonard
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  1. I'm sorry to rain on your parade, but the Story of Stuff is not entirely accurate. Condemn me for being a disgruntled Fox News watching conservative all you want, but if you go to the Youtube channel Howtheworldworks a man by the name of Lee Doren demolished "The Story of Stuff" as being incredibly biased propaganda. Unlike Ms. Leonard I suggest that you watch the entire rebuttal. She strikes me as being an intellectual lightweight that does not truly understand the motivations of the people who disagree with her. The end result of her desires for "communal happiness" rather than individual merit and individual choice are Soviet style gulags. Communal happiness demands force, and forcing people to acquiesce to something they do not desire to do eventually leads to dictatorships.

  2. Dear Anonymous,
    Thank you for taking the time to watch the video and for posting your comments. I understand that there are usually at least two sides to every issue. Beyond Annie Leonard's subtle political agendas, I believe the point of her work is to educate people of the social and environmental impacts of our buying decisions so that we can all make more conscious choices when it comes to what we buy and how we consume. If you haven't already, I recommend checking out the Story of Stuff's fact sheet: I'll be sure to view your YouTube suggestion as well. Thanks again for posting. Please stop by again!

  3. Hi. I'm sorry if I came across as a bit harsh in the first comment. I am a young man that just graduated from college and I'm currently unemployed. I've had nothing to do for the last 9 months or so, and I generally find my political allegiance to be between conservatism and libertarianism. I've already seen The Story of Stuff but the rebuttal in my opinion has far more substance and goes deeper into the motivations of why certain entities do what they do and why those actions often actually save the population of an indigenous region rather than exploit it. It just peeves me a bit when I see people like Annie Lenonard praised in the media and on the internet when she seems to support an anti-capitalistic sentiment in this country. I believe that capitalism is the greatest system of economics the world has ever seen. It provides people with an incentive to improve their lot in life, and while big corporations are not perfect in what they provide to their employers they tend to be far more benevolent and efficient than big governments are. I just find it a little upsetting that people like Annie Leonard are rarely ever challenged in their own environment. The most disturbing part of the video is the point in which she claims that it is the job of the government to "watch out for us." That is a concept that is practically Orwellian in nature. The government's job is to safeguard our liberties, not to create new ones, not to take those we have away from us, and certainly not to "watch out for us." It is our responsibility as free, clear thinking citizens to watch out for our own well being and safety. Anyhow, I'm sorry I went into a rant, but I really don't have anything else to do right now. Have a nice day and thank you for your reply.

  4. Mr. Anonymous,

    I am a frequent reader of and I'd like to discuss your posts in regards to "The Story of Stuff"...

    I would say there is a much stronger anti-socialism sentiment in this country. Socialism is treated like a dirty word, and yet we have many socialist and communal things like public police, fire departments, parks, roads, and unemployment insurance for example. I beleive the best system is a balance between capitalism and socialism such that the incentive is there for individuals to be entreprenuers and improve their lot in life, but at the same time we do not leave the poor, the sick, the old, the minorities, to fend for themselves when they haven't the money, the energy, or the power to fend for themselves. We also centralize things, like roads and police, where it would be incredibly inefficient if every single person owned their own road and had to pay someone a toll everytime they left the house OR had to hire their own security detail. Without this balance between socialism and capitalism I do not see how we can have both the "pursuit of happiness" (which is not in the constitution, but is generally a libertarian and an American ideal) and "promote the general welfare" (which is in the Constitution's preamble, and thus a responsibility of the government) at the same time.

    "General Welfare" is very loosely defined in the Constitution but the words "General" and "Welfare" are defined as follows:

    General: 4. You use general to describe something that involves or affects most people, or most people in a particular group.
    Welfare: 1. The welfare of a person or group is their health, comfort, and happiness.

    Despite the The Story of Stuff's rebuttal, and James Madison's concerns (our 4th president by the way), like it or not, it is in the Constitution's preamble. Even if it were not there I would argue that any government AT LEAST should be concerned with the safety of their citizens. To argue against THAT you might as well argue that "providing for the common defence" is not part of the government's job either.

  5. (Continued...)

    Promotion of the general welfare thus dictates the government does need to take certain actions that not everyone would necessarily agree with but the government does have to "watch out for us" on certain matters. They currently do so by providing for public safety and a slew of various regulations trying to ensure our food supply is safe, our environment is clean, our automobiles are safe, buildings are built to code so they won't fall over or burn up with everyone trapped inside, etc.

    I suppose that is where we differ though. You said "It is our responsibility as free, clear thinking citizens to watch out for our own well being and safety." I say you are wrong because not everyone is clear thinking, knowledgable enough, or strong enough to watch out for their own well being. Not everyone is knowledgable in food safety for example, so to avoid salmonella outbreaks I want regulations. If left on my own I would not have any idea how to test for it or any of the health risks in our food system. I want the government to "watch out for me" sometimes. I think it is their job. I think calling the desire for a higher level of safety "Orwellian" or "Soviet style gulag" is extreme and inflammatory. If they were to "watch out for me" in every aspect of my life THAT would be Orwellian, but I think we are far from that.

    I think part of Annie Leonard's and's goals are to work towards a sustainable economic systems so we can improve our "environmental health" by preserving the environmental resources we have globally (especially forests), limit our impact on our environment, and use the resources that are not endless as efficiently as possible (e.g. fossil fuels like oil). Despite the rebuttal, those non-renewable resources are not endless. They do not exist in the core of the planet and showing the diagram of the core will not make it so. Nor can forrests that replenish the oxegen we need to breath in our atmosphere be grown in the core. Our planet has limits, and we as a species would be foolish to ignore them.

    Whether guarding our "environmental health" is part of "promote the general welfare" is definitely part of the debate at hand. I would favor some governmental action because through regulation I believe we can greatly improve our environmental health and I beleive some limitations our freedom is worth the cleaner environment. I would guess you would oppose it. Perhaps we will have to agree to disagree? Or perhaps you could persuade me otherwise? I look forward to it!

  6. Wow. What well-thought-out and articulate comments! (I dare say far more eloquent than the original blog posting!) Thanks to everyone for the excellent discussion and points to consider. It is from such discourse that we are inspired to action and true change can be realized.

  7. Well, let me start off by thanking you for your reply. Secondly, let me say that many of the things that you described as being "socialized" are actually public institutions provided by local governments. The Constitution as it was written gives localized government systems far more power to do as they wished than it gave the federal government. As a follower of the "strict constitution" philosophy, I have far less reservations concerning the powers of a local government in enacting various ordinances for the local well-being. I would hesitate to call this "socialism" however, due to it not being enacted on the national level. Beauracies tend to be generally bad at providing care to people, and the larger they are the worse it usually is. And even some of the things you spoke about such as parks and roads, might be managed better privately. I am the result of a private education (and as such I will admit that I might have a bit of a bias) but I remember in high school that a kid told the class the the public education system he came from was terrible because the teachers and the students didn't respect each other. My school had a much smaller budget than did the local public school, yet it outperformed them in almost everything.