Thursday, February 02, 2006

It's Capitalism or the Planet

Via Guardian Unlimited .

Richard Newman argues that our current economic system and a habitable planet are mutually incompatible. Capitalism, he argues, is predicated on ever-increasing markets and profits which are unsustainable in terms of the natural resources needed to produce them. Capitalism also tends toward the concentration of power, something that he contends needs to be broken up if we are to survive as a species - he uses the example of small, community energy collectives versus the major suppliers as an example of this.

It is true that the current economic system is unsustainable, but whether this is extendable to Capitalism as a whole is questionable. Although Newman dismisses 'green capitalism' as weak, there is an argument for a reward-based economic system that returns profit for those that provide society with want it wants. As society becomes more environmentally aware, consumers will no longer demand products & services at any cost (i.e. cost to the environment and human welfare). Companies must compete according to a re-written contract, where all true costs are factored into the equation.

That is neither an excuse for business to just wait around to react to consumer demand, nor allowing the government to be let off from playing its regulatory part, but it is to say that the system can be adapted and is adapting. Newman's contention may be that it is not adapting fast enough.

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