Ecological economics

Arguing against anti-capitalism

Jon Crooks If our governments pursued a steady state economy instead of a growth led economy, they could still control the power of private capital and profit through regulation, progressive taxation etc.

Jon Crooks Governments hold the power to keep corporations in check, they just choose not too for the reasons we know all too well. I think we need to think about how we control capitalism so that it works for people and planet rather than making capitalism the enemy. Businesses are there to make profit. It is up to us (our government) to direct them in the right endeavours and stifle them when they go too far or produce too much of something. This is the essence of a steady state economy. Plenty of big corporations making money installing offshore wind turbines at the moment. They can fill their boots as far as I’m concerned.

Andrew Hunter-Rossall We need to reach a steady state eventually, and preferably through planned changes to the way our society functions, rather than through a system designed for perpetual growth crashing.

Jon Crooks Anti-capitalism is unhelpful. We still need the private sector to drive innovation and efficiency in many sectors of the green economy whilst also moving towards a steady state economy. 

Jon Crooks Capitalism has been the mainstay of economic activity since the 1600s. What we have experienced over the last 40 years is an extreme form of capitalism now commonly referred to as neo-liberalism. It’s wrong to assume that this free-market fundamentalism is the only way to trade with each other. Strong regulation, taxation and financial support can shape the economy any way we want within an overarching capitalist system. Whether the alternative is socialism or social democracy or green economics, it doesn’t matter, capitalism still plays a part. ‘Free’ trade doesn’t have to mean complete freedom to do what you like. It can mean free trade within set boundaries. The main alternative being communism, which implies state control of everything. No thanks to that. Their is also a growing call for more democratic control of both public and private enterprise and that can only be a good thing.

Andrew Hunter-Rossall Capitalism/ communism is a false dichotomy. Communism and socialism have been demonised for decades whilst politicians have pushed more towards what they claim as the ideal of capitalism – unregulated free-trade. The obsession with GDP growth, the continual references to the wishes and whims of “the market”, and ever more privatisation and deregulation have been the results of this.
Capitalism of The Wealth of Nations never really existed, nor could it ever. It’s a theoretical model which relies on all people well informed and rational. The existence of advertising is proof that this is not the world we are living in!
But these two ideas painted as polar opposites can co-exist, and in post-WWII Britain it looked like we were heading in this direction. A strong welfare state raising the minimum standards of living and providing for free the basic needs of society – a communist ideal – within a well regulated market. The government sets boundaries – the laws and regulations of this market – and within those boundaries there are freedoms for individuals and companies. Far from being bad for the economy (as laws and regulations are often portrayed), such boundaries can prevent monopolies (which are bad for the economy), reduce inequality (bad for the economy), prevent unsustainable use of resources (bad for the economy, certainly in the long term), and prevent races to the bottom on standards.
I’m not idealising the 1940s-1970s – amongst other imperfections was the glaringly absent notion of sustainability. But in this era did seem to be a tacit understanding that a strong state did not undermine freedom or innovation.

Further reading