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.
Competition To Competition
The fact is that the only truly sustainable transport is public transport, which corporations have no interest in at all. Where’s the profit in that? In the same way, public healthcare, public education, public housing, and public food are all vastly more efficient at delivering human needs. They just don’t deliver profits. So the market has no use for them.
Instead, the market will just stretch out inequality and call it innovation. We thus end up with hospitals that are hotels for the rich, universities that are hedge funds, ‘investment’ properties that lie empty, and massive amounts of food waste while people starve. People get more potential choice, but even less realistic options.
Most perniciously, rich people have funded many think-tanks and ‘academic scribblers’ to say that ‘there is no alternative’. That markets are the only efficient way to do things, and that public services are hopelessly sclerotic and inefficient. The idea is that we cannot do anything directly about our problems and must everything to the magic of the market. But there are alternatives. Take inflation.
The marketized logic is that inflation is a purely monetary phenomenon (re: Friedman) which can only be solved by increasing interest rates and unemployment (to reduce demand). The practical effect is that this enriches financial asset holders and impoverishes workers and small businesses, it is in fact a massive transfer of wealth upwards.
The truth about inflation right now is that it primarily applies to food and energy. So direct intervention in agriculture and energy—from price controls to literally growing more food and producing more energy—could address the effects of inflation. If we work together we are capable of feeding each other and producing energy, but this must all somehow produce a second yacht for someone or else it’s not ‘practical’. So corrupt governments crash lives even worse, all so a line goes up for the rich.
Profit From Destruction
The fact is that the massive challenges we face today—pandemics, inflation, climate collapse—require direct solutions. Markets left alone will just profit from our destruction. You can see it happening.
Pharma companies just used the pandemic to hoard and profiteer, vaccines were never open-sourced and deployed with an aim to actually stopping COVID. Why would they? There’s more money in COVID-Infinity, people getting boosters forever, and people in poor countries getting shots never. There’s no market incentive to solve the problem of pandemics. It’s not even a problem to the markets. It’s an opportunity.
In the same way, inflation is just used as an excuse for the biggest banks to collect more interest, there is no sense of protecting human beings from the suffering of not being able to afford food, rent, or living expenses anymore. The only goal is to protect the value of all the hoarded money of the rich, not the homes and heating of the poor.
With climate collapse, it’s the worst. ‘Climate friendly’ just becomes a marketing tagline to sell even more stuff. Delay is the new denial, as even oil companies make meaningless pledges to go ‘carbon neutral’ in the future, all to get people to shut up about what they’re doing today. Corporations use people's real fear of the world ending to sell them more stuff, offering the equivalent of papal indulgences in a paper straw.
It’s a farce. Corporations have no evolutionary drive besides profit. They’ll happily profit while 99% of species on Earth die. It’s got fuck all to do with them, and we’re suicidal to leave them in charge.
The only way out of the massive problems we face is directly doing something about them. We need to collectively grow enough food to feed people, but not so much that it chokes the planet. We need to collectively build enough homes to house people, but not so much that they become ‘investments’. We need to collectively organize transport to move people and not the egos of the rich. And so and so on.
This is not the destruction of market forces, it is keeping them in their place, so we can have a place to live. It is planning our economies instead of letting them plan us. It is, in short, Climate Communism. What is climate communism? I don’t know exactly. I’ll get to that next time.