Something’s got to give. Unchecked growth against a finite planet is just cancer. It just leads to pointless inequality—10-minute private jet flights over a burning California. Unless we plan our economies to balance human needs and the planet, we will have neither.
The idea that markets can deliver human or planetary outcomes is an insult to markets. Anyone in the markets is in them for one reason only, to make money. Any CEO has one duty, to maximize shareholder value.
John Maynard Keynes said, “Practical men who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back.”
One of those defunct economists who defines modern capitalism is Milton Friedman. Friedman was at least honestly evil. As Friedman said (via Joel Bakan), “There is but one “social responsibility” for corporate executives, Friedman believes: they must make as much money as possible for their shareholders. This is a moral imperative. Executives who choose social and environmental goals over profits — who try to act morally — are, in fact, immoral.”
This is absolutely true in the artificial ecosystem of the market, where life and death are defined purely by profit or loss. Regulation only indirectly changes the ecosystem—making it unprofitable to enslave people or introducing fines for pollution—but it doesn’t redirect the evolution of the marketplace. The goal is always increasing profit.
One case in point is Tesla, which merely uses environmentalism in the same way as ‘putting a good-looking girl in front of an automobile.’ To sell an automobile. The fact is that two tons of steel and lithium to move a few people is still vastly less efficient than a train or bus. Tesla’s purported environmentalism is just a corporate insincerity, used to sell something deeply destructive of the environment, whatever the engine is. It’s just in order to sell cars.