The title of this blog is of an essay I recently read by Ronald L. Trosper; while we aren't covering sustainability this semester, I still thought this might serve as a contrast and/or comparison to the value judgements that we are currently emphasizing.
The essay sets forth the assumption of the basic pan-Indian 'traditional' Indian viewpoint of respect. Trosper outlines four basic components of the definition of respect as being community and the economic aspect of reciprocity in exchange (human-to-human and human-to-nonhuman), which "provides a way to derive ethical statements about what policies should be selected, with a focus on today"; connectedness, which "furnishes a way to generate descriptions or models of the world in order to describe the consequences of policies"; seventh generation, which creates the time dimension and has direct implications for time valuation; and humility, which is "a statement about humanity's ability to understand the connections".
Trosper gives the following list of implications that this definition of respect has for development activities (and it should be noted that it is not implied that this is appropriate for non-Indian and non-reservation communities):
1. High grading is not allowed.
2. Consumption has an upper bound.
3. Ecosystem health should be maintained.
4. Nuclear and other hazardous waste should be avoided.
5. Although modern market niches such as gambling and reduced-tax sales can be used, savings from profits should be very high.
6. A community's population levels should remain within the carrying capacity of a community's resources.
It seems to me that understanding the ideology of this essay depends on the definitions of two terms: development and property rights. According to Trosper, 'development' in the modern sense of the word is not something that tribal communities aspire to, mainly because there is an emphasis on future consumption that requires much less consumption (but not necessarily production) today. If one equates development with increased levels of consumption of goods, then non-development would be preferable to the societies that emphasize future consumption. Conversely, these high savings rates and ability to supply the demands of the seventh generation would be seen more favorably by sustained-development proponents.
Property rights for these communities also holds a different meaning. Shunning private property, to them, does not mean rejecting the notion of property rights. Instead, the institution of usufruct tenure for individuals, combined with the institutions of generosity and tribal or band territorial division, is the preferred method of landholding. With usufruct tenure for individuals, use of the bounty of the land is granted, but the community maintains the right to cut off usage if the land and natural resources are being abused. The land in whole is passed on to the next generation. This is similar to the 'grazing' scenario in Yandle's book, but the difference here is that by consensus, the community may limit an abuser's right to use the land - and this may give rise to common law. While Trosper gives the example of the Navajo tribe as one that has suffered from a tragedy of the commons, he attributes this to the fact that the tribe has a world outlook of "ever increasing, never decreasing", or a rejection of scarcity, whereas most other tribes accept the idea of scarcity and thus have an incentive to marshal resources conservatively.
While reading this essay, I continued to wonder about the implications for a more dynamic society, one that incorporated and benefitted from technological advances. Toward the end, Trosper acknowledges that his future essays would consider how the four components of respect figure into technological change for reservation economies.
If anyone would like copies of this essay, I would be happy to oblige.