I saw a fantastic quote on Facebook today, from one of my favorite authors, the recently deceased Ursula Leguin. I haven’t read all of her work, but I loved The Dispossessed, the Lathe of Heaven, and The Mote in God’s Eye. The Dispossessed was more of a political statement than a science fiction novel but LeGuin is a lefty like me, so I enjoyed it.
Anyway, it was a rather long quote so I’m not going to try and get it exact or even paraphrase, but the gist was the capitalism and maintaining a healthy ecosystem are mutually incompatible, because capitalism depends on always making more, and the environment depends on balance. There is a place for both the wolves and the mosquitoes.
It’s the kind of simple statement that once you hear it you know it’s absolutely true. Capitalism depends on always making more money. We have a large number of billionaires in the world today, and I’ll bet every one of them dreams of becoming the world’s first trillionaire. Corporations need to make a profit every quarter in order to keep their stockholders happy, and they might do that by increasing sales, but they more often do it by slashing the work force, and maybe raising prices. In any event, there are limits. If you raise prices too high, nobody will be able to buy your product at all, and if you slash your work force by too much you won’t be able to function.
There are limits. Those limits are not currently being heeded, so capitalism is bound, eventually, to fail.
Of course, properly regulated, capitalism could be a part of a sustainable world-wide system. But any such system would depend on a healthy ecosystem, and rich people don’t want to spend a damn dime on that.