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.


Anonymous said...

hello John...
it is so sad that we...the majority of the world's population...care only about either basic needs...or material wealth. The thought of living in partnership with nature and sustaining our earth is not in the equation...except sometimes on a superficial level.
I am afraid that the only thing that will save the earth from us is if we are diminished in numbers by some event...either by nature or man made. I don't look forward to such a thing. There are many who truly care, but at this time in history their percentage is pretty small and it seems that the effort to become organized for change is larger than the resolve to do so.
It even takes more time and effort to read your thoughts and ideas than most will care to give, even though they might agree.
The best to hope for is that those who do care will do all that their personal limits will allow on an individual level.

John Champagne said...

I am afraid, or I am hopeful, that the resolution of our problems lies in a determination to live consistent with moral principle:

Because this might be as simple and straightforward as a change in human culture, I am hopeful.

Because we have been admonished from time immemorial that we should live in accord with principle, yet have not examined political action in relation to how it might conflict with the directive to 'do unto others as we would have them do to us', it is not easy to have great confidence in our ability to start doing so now.

We seem to have not recognized that, in a world of more than 6 billion people, we need to refrain from doing unto others, for the most part. If we want others to leave us be, we ought not, we must not, use government as an instrument with which to regulate others' private lives.

When government ceases to be directed towards those ends, we will be able to direct its resources toward regulating what is happening in the public sphere.

When we refuse to use the political process as an instrument of force or coercion against peaceful people, we will be living in a manner consistent with basic moral principle: The Golden Rule suggests that we should NOT use government as an instrument to regulate private behavior.

When this debilitating distraction that is also a violation is eliminated, we will have energy, attention and resources of government and political thought available to attack that which government MUST do.