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The Planet’s Trouble With Markets

Posted on Apr 23, 2013
epicharmus (CC BY 2.0)

On the occasion of the collapse of the European emissions trading scheme, Guardian environment correspondent George Monbiot explains why markets are no substitute for governments, especially when it comes to avoiding global warming, one of the worst mass disasters humankind will yet see.

Try as they might, the middle managers who call themselves lawmakers cannot wholly ignore the will of the people in favor of the corporations that pay for their campaigns, Monbiot writes. Therefore they have to come up with some ruse that allows them to claim they are acting in the public interest. That ruse is called the market, and it is unfit to regulate and execute power for the common good.

New schemes based on the same principle are already being designed to replace the failed carbon market. This surrender of responsibility to the animal will of the market is responsible for our plunge into oligarchy and will only hasten our descent into a warming, uncontrollable planet, Monbiot argues.

“When governments pretend they no longer need to govern, when they pretend that a world regulated by bankers, corporations and the profit motive is a better world than one regulated by voters and their representatives, nothing is safe,” he writes. “All systems of government are flawed. But few are as flawed as those controlled by private money.”

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

George Monbiot at The Guardian:

In other ages, states sought to seize as much power as they could. Today, the self-hating state renounces its powers. Governments anathematise governance. They declare their role redundant and illegitimate. They launch furious assaults on their own branches, seeking wherever possible to lop them off.

This self-mutilation is a response to the fact that power has shifted. States now operate at the behest of others. Deregulation, privatisation, the shrinking of the scope, scale and spending of the state: these are now seen as the only legitimate policies. The corporations and billionaires to whom governments defer will have it no other way.

Just as taxation tends to redistribute wealth, regulation tends to redistribute power. A democratic state controls and contains powerful interests on behalf of the powerless. This is why billionaires and corporations hate regulation, and – through their newspapers, thinktanks and astroturf campaigns – mobilise people against it.

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