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Is Sustainable Capitalism An Oxymoron?

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Chapter Summary

All economists recognize that market transactions can involve "externalities" - costs (or benefits) not paid for by transacting parties. According to Hawken and the Lovins', the first step in rectifying these defects is to eliminate the perverse incentives now in place. The second step is to impose resource and pollution taxes to reflect the true costs of "natural capital". Such a future is possible if we harness the creative energy of capitalism and let the markets work. This chapter argues that sustainable capitalism is an oxymoron if "sustainable" means more than the survival of the human species, with perhaps a relatively small global middle class continuing to live in relative comfort and affluence behind the walls of desperate multitude. Neither "the market" nor "the corporation" nor "the entrepreneur" is the fundamental structural barrier to ecological and social sanity. A sensible socialism will be an "ecosocialism". It will also be a market socialism.

Keywords: Hunter Lovins; market socialism; market transactions; natural capitalism; Paul Hawken; sustainable capitalism



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