Monday, May 11, 2009

capitalism against environmentalism

it’s fairly interesting to see the ways in which capitalists are attempting to go green. They claim that capitalism and environmentalism can be totally compatible, and in fact, capitalism is a more efficient and effective way of protecting the environment than government intervention and other forms of top down regulations.

These are the same folks who believe the best way to fight poverty is to allow free markets to do their thing. Whole Foods CEO John Macke points out that poverty afflicted something like three-quarters of the world's population a few centuries ago and now -- thanks to capitalism -- it affects less than one-quarter. “Before the 21st century is over, poverty is something we'll only see in museums.”

The figures may vary as to what definition of poverty one uses, but I think we can agree that a smaller percentage of the worlds population is poor today than 200 years ago. But is this thanks to capitalism? I seriously doubt that. Sure, capitalism is efficient at creating goods, but its pretty crummy at distributing those goods in a way that benefits most members of society.

Most of the good done to relieve poverty can be attributed to labor unions, social movements (such as slave abolitionists) and government redistribution of wealth.

But more importantly, comparing 200 years ago to today will lead to a false conclusion. Instead we should compare periods of time where private property largely existed, and those times where it did not exist. When most of the world was hunter and gatherer and private property did not exist, it seems like poverty was uncommon. Though again, it depends on your definition of poverty. Of course hunter gatherers did not have nice houses and televisions, however, they also tended to be fairly healthy and did not suffer from hunger very often.

I would argue that most of the world’s poverty exists due to the idea of private property. Hell, colonialism may be the greatest cause of poverty the world has seen, and if you cannot see the link between capitalism and colonialism, you are crazy.

Capitalism is not created for things like the reduction of poverty or the protection of the environment.

Im sure I’ll rant about this more in the future, but I wanted to point out an article in the new York times about “The Story of Stuff,” a 20-minute video about the effects of human consumption being shown in classrooms around the country. It looks like the video has been recieived a large amount of praise,

but Mark Zuber, a parent of a child at Big Sky High School in Missoula, had a stronger reaction when a teacher showed the video to his daughter last year. “There was not one positive thing about capitalism in the whole thing,” Mr. Zuber said.

Corporations, for example, are portrayed as a bloated person sporting a top hat and with a dollar sign etched on its front.

He described the video as one-sided. “It was very well done, very effective advocacy, but it was just that,” he said.

Mr. Zuber argued before the Missoula County School Board that the way in which “The Story of Stuff” was presented, without an alternative point of view, violated its standards on bias, and the board agreed in a 4-to-3 vote.

This zuber guy has hit the nail on the head. Capitalism and environmentalism are not compatible. One of the key ideas in the environmental movement is to use less stuff. But capitalism is all about unlimited wants and trying to get and use as much stuff as possible.

No comments:

Post a Comment