Truth in [Free] Marketing — does this have to be an oxymoron?

I am currently reading Hot, Flat and Crowded by Thomas L. Friedman, a Pulitzer Prize winning foreign affairs columnist for the New York Times. In the chapter titled “The Stone Age Didn’t End Because We Ran Out of Stones” this quotation appears:

“Socialism collapsed because it did not allow the market to tell the economic truth. Capitalism may collapse because it does not allow the market to tell the ecological truth.” – Oystein Dahle, former president of Exxon for Norway.

“What he meant, of course, is that the basic paradigm of modern, industrial-age capitalism, which flowered in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, treated things like pollution, waste, and CO2 emissions as essentially irrevalent “externalities” that could be ignored. As any economic textbook will tell you, an externality is any cost or benefit resulting from a commercial transaction that is borne or received by parties not directly involved in the transaction . . .”

“. . . We have been fooling ourselves with fraudulent accounting by not pricing these externalities. As [Ecologist] Lester Brown put it, we as a society ‘have been behaving just like Enron, the rogue energy giant, at the height of its folly.’ We rack up stunning profits and GDP numbers every year, and they look great on paper ‘because we’ve been hiding some of the costs off the books.’ Mother Nature has not been fooled. That is why we are having climate change. That which is not priced is not valued, and if our open lands, clean air, clean water, and healthy forests are not valued, the earth, when it is this flat and this crowded, will become a very hot, no-cost landfill very fast.”

So, add “Change the direction of the Free Market and the mindset of all those involved in it” to the list of things to do in the next few years in order to save our species and our planet. One more in a long and growing to-do list, each of which would be described by almost anyone who considered themselves rational as “IMPOSSIBLE” . . . but all of which have to be done, and quickly, if our descendants are to have a chance at being born.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s