capitalism & the environment

It seems that the demise of capitalism is being predicted by one or two voices in the wilderness. At the same time, the demise of, inter alia, the human race is being predicted, because of catastrophes brought about by man’s intervention in the climate. Amazingly most people don’t believe there much crisis with regard to either.

The rules of capitalism are treated as though they have brought down from the mountain like the 10 commandments. As though they are immutable.  The rules of nature are immutable. If nature is damaged irrevocably, there is nothing we can do about it. If capitalism collapses there will be much pain but there is an opportunity to start again & put in its place a system that is more rational.

Nouriel Roubini says, quoted in the London Evening Standard of Tuesday the 16th of August 2011  “Karl Marx had it right. At some point capitalism can destroy itself. You cannot keep on shifting income from labour to capital without having an excess capacity & a lack of aggregate demand.  That’s what has happened. We thought markets worked. They’re not. The individual can be rational. The firm to survive & thrive, can push labour costs more & more down. But labour costs are someone else’s income & consumption. That’s why it is a self destructive process.”

Marxists & others have talked about the contradictions of capitalism for some time. Endlessly even. The problem with Marxist theory has been twofold. It has been bedevilled by totalitarian & authoritarian régimes & it hasn’t been consensual. The vision of people all joyfully getting working together for the common good doesn’t very often translate into reality, at least when there is no apparent crisis bringing it on, except in some primitive societies. Somehow capitalism itself has brought about extra selfishness in the human race.

With the dual threat of society breaking down because of economic collapse & environmental collapse, goodness knows what the future holds. The prognostications are not good.


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