Change the Market to Reflect Reality

“While we derive a great deal of wealth from natural resources, we have not found an effective way to reinvest in or preserve that wealth. We are losing those resources, because they are either controlled by private companies or by the state, and neither has proved successful in establishing long-term strategies for ensuring the enduring well-being of the commons. Governments the world over give resources to corporations that are not required to take care of them, and therefore do not. The reason . . . is the failure of the market to internalize fully all costs. If the market is rewarded for externalizing costs and extracting wealth, then individual producers can be expected to leave to the state, wherever possible, the job of restoration and clean-up. On the other hand, it is quite impossible for a state agency to maintain ecosystem health when its main function is to deal with aftermarket degradation. When you then compound the problem with revolving-door relationships between regulator agencies and the very enterprises they are supposed to monitor, the viability of the ecosystem is hardly a primary concern.

To argue today that the free market should control the extraction and sale of natural resources ignores the state of the commons and the free market. The market works to the benefit of the whole of society when it includes all costs and benefits. Only when the market accurately reflects the replacement costs of a resource (a virgin forest or salmon or Arctic oil) and the social costs of its consumption (tobacco being the most obvious) will society begin to respond to the market in a rational way.”

Paul Hawken, The Ecology of Commerce


Author: manderson

I live in NYC.

2 thoughts on “Change the Market to Reflect Reality”

  1. Perhaps if corporations took the concept of sustainability more seriously, we wouldn’t be in this mess. After all, we want to continue to benefit from the wealth of our natural resources for as long as possible. Sustainable development and exploitation are in our best interest.

  2. The problem, as Hawken so clearly outlines above, is definitely and directly corporations. But they are not going to change their behavior until world economies reflect true costs, which includes human and environmental costs. Until then, it is in a corporations best interest to ignore human and environmental costs.

    Corporations respond to the market. As long as the market does not reflect human and biological reality, then we are screwed. It’s up to us to attempt to change the market, to pressure governments to create economies that will reflect true cost.

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