Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Systemic flaws not reported

What do we need to know that our newspapers and universities are not telling us? (Update of this letter)

To the Editor,

There is a defect in our economic system.

We have an economy that hides resource depletion costs and other environmental costs from consumers. There is no general fee or tax assessed in proportion to adverse impacts caused or natural resources taken by producers, so these costs are not reflected in prices.

Because costs are hidden, there is a distortion that leads all cost- benefit analyses to skew toward more environmentally harmful acts. Consumers do things that tend to pollute air and water more than they would do if the cost of the degraded environmental quality were factored into the prices of the things they buy. This harms the interests of other lifeforms on earth, and it will harm the interests of future lifeforms, including our own descendants.

"Economic externalities", (hidden costs), cause us to do the wrong thing. Where are the reporters and commentators who will report on and speak out against an economic system that gives us incentive to do the wrong thing? This defect in our economy disrespects the interests of other inhabitants of this world, and of future generations of humans, by depleting resources that they might rely on and polluting air and water that they need. They cannot speak up in protest. Should we?

If we determine that natural resource wealth is owned by all equally, then any money paid by users of natural resources would go to all the people; to each an equal amount. A proper accounting for this wealth would end abject poverty in the world.

It is immoral--particularly so for journalists--to acquiesce in a system that gives people incentive to do the wrong thing. It is immoral, too, to acquiesce in a system that gives, at most, mere lip service to respect for public property rights, while making no effort to manifest that idea in reality. If a more efficient and fair accounting of natural resource wealth would spell an end to abject poverty, it seems to me something worth talking about.

There is deafening silence in discussion of and reporting on systemic flaws--in economic and political realms.

I hope a reporter or editor can explain why my analysis is flawed; or start reporting on natural resource wealth accounting.