The Dog’s Bollocks

Truth is like a dog’s bollocks – pretty obvious if you care to look.

Free-market sustainability

I’ve been watching a ripping yarn on our ABC about an intrepid news hound who unravels the story of a lifetime. His former best mate is a successful parliamentary secretary for energy who has responsibility for dealing with lobbyists from a US oil corporation when his mistress in their employ is murdered as corporate ethics go feral.

Got me to thinking about a comment I received today about counting my blessings as gifts from the free-market economy. Where are the examples of successful controlled economies?

I don’t see it as free-market OR a controlled economy. These positions are part of the one continuum of economic development. And standing resolutely shouting “Hooray for our side – the others are all dangerous loonies” does not foster understanding or progress. It entrenches ignorance. We should use our collective wits and ethics to ameliorate the excesses and unintended consequences of the free-market.

I suggest that the free-market economy creates problems of its own and exacerbates others. Rampaging carbon emissions, whatever you think about the effects they may have, is one example of market failure.

A less discussed market failure is third world poverty. As we accumulate the unlimited blessings of the free-market we are also creating an increasingly disparate division between rich and poor nations, as well as within their populations. Peace can rarely be achieved in a country without sustainable wealth sufficient to feed, shelter, defend and educate its citizens in civil life. The free-market economy effectively channels 90% of the world’s bounty into the control of 10% of its population. The major benefactors are corporations, prime amongst whom are oil and mining conglomerates, providing the fuel and ingredients to expand global corporate interests by 10-15% every year.

The corporate economy has exceeded the economic sovereignty of all but the largest of nations. Consequently national economies are slowly dissolving, and in many third world economies, all but disappeared. Poor and uneducated countries tend to produce a lot of angry people with nothing to lose. They may fight amongst themselves or plot revenge on their neighbours or their global enemies – what we now call terrorism. The broader war on terror, the great ideological struggle of our times, will inevitably continue while markets contribute to the wasting of entire nations and weaker economies to feed corporate expansion. The consequences will be progressively dire and costly. And that’s before you add whatever undesirable consequences may arise from global warming.

Beyond the reasonable prediction that this is not a recipe for peace, prosperity and a sustainable planet, the science of it doesn’t add up. Economics is also a science, but its main focus is on the concentration of wealth, rather than creating a sustainable system. Skeptics strive to discredit the science of ecology and argue the toss about how, when, and why. But it’s simpler than that. It’s thermodynamics.

A finite system dependent on the expanding consumption of fuel and resources for continual growth is going to burn out. End of story. In the human body, that’s how cancer works. Untreated, the cancer will waste the rest of the body to feed its growth until life is no longer viable.

Our business, the business of politicians, economists, corporations, investors, beneficiaries, and supporters of the free-market economy in general, is to figure out how to deal with that reality in a rational way, or suffer the consequences.


Filed under: Big Picture, Economics, Environment, Politics

2 Responses

  1. two bob says:

    Regarding from your comment on Catalaxy ‘Competition for Human Capital’, I thing it a pity you did not see fit to include the whole of you comment “As we accumulate the unlimited blessings of the free-market we are also creating …”. “A less discussed market failure is third world poverty”, is possibly the most important sentence.

    The commentators are happy to talk about the effects of globalisation in trade on Australia, on various countries both developed and undeveloped, even on the poor of developed countries as reported in the Times a few days ago, but nobody seems interested in the effects of its effects on the poor of the undeveloped countries.

    The gains from globalisation to Third World countries are not trickling down to the poor as we in the developed world would like to fob off the problem. The failure of the political systems and the entrenched middle classes in these countries will never willingly let this happen.

    50% of the world’s population holds 1% of its assets. These are the people whose future we will not discuss.
    However we must. Better communications via the internet, tourism etc. gives these billions of people a greater awareness of their unfair economic, social and political position in the world. This incentive coupled with the increasing availability and quality of weapons can only lead to the unrest becoming more actively pursued.

    Because the developed world has close economic ties with their rich and their resources, their unrest will spill outside their borders. The defense of the rich in the undeveloped world will become our fight.
    It is happening now and can only intensify.
    But nobody will talk about it.

  2. slim says:

    Thanks for your comment, two bob. At Catallaxy, I didn’t want to repeat too much of what I had written.

    So at least there are now two of us talking about the failure of third-world ‘trickle-down’.

    Last time I checked, my comment at Catallaxy had drawn no response or comment whatsoever.

    As one commenter at the original Club Troppo thread put it – they didn’t see it as a moral issue. Which is one of my main concerns, that morality is not an issue in the global free-market.

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The Dog’s Bollocks

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