12 September 2007

Beware the Blandishments of the Tescopolist

Capitalism is threatened by climate change and it is responding. I offer as evidence Tesco's endowment at Manchester University of a Sustainable Consumption Institute. You will have heard arguments recently that New Zealand lamb or Kenyan cut flowers are actually more sustainable than locally grown alternatives. It is in order to produce data to support claims such as this that the Institute is being funded. Its existence proves not only that our higher education system has now become the prostitute of globalised capitalism, as Thatcher long ago intended, but also that capitalism is adapting to the strictures climate change brings.

Tesco is getting extremely good value for money. They are investing a mere £5million in return for which they will divert the energies of a sizeable group of leading UK researchers to justifying their own corporate ends. They are also using this to repair their tarnished media reputation, including by claiming magnanimity in sharing the research findings with others. So you should think yourself lucky that you will be able to use Tesco's figures to justify the globalised economy without having to pay them for the privilege.

But can capitalism ever make itself sustainable? As an economic system it relies on the extraction of the surplus value of workers and the planet to pay for all the various parasites who do no work but live from ownership and investments. As such it is a system that meets the needs of the majority in an inefficient way, because the needs of the greedy minority must be satieted. As Gandhi put this so eloquently, 'the earth has enough to satisfy every man's need but not to satisfy the greed of some'. The very nature of this unfair system of distribution puts pressure on the planet as well as on those who sell their labour.

In the globalised capitalist system most work is done in the countries of the Global South, translated from de jure into de facto colonies, their resources and their labour power still stolen by the rich West, but these days through the less unsightly mechanisms of trade treaties and financial organisations, and with armies reserved for extreme situations only.

Globalisation represents the ultimate victory of the notion of 'economies of scale' that economists love so much. Now the scale is that of the planet as a whole, with corporate barons organising who shall produce what where and fixing the prices. Failing to respect Nature's scale has led to the huge imbalances of wealth and well-being we see around us, as well as creating climate change through the unncessary production of transport-related carbon dioxide emissions.

Finally, the way capitalism creates money, through debt-based bank money, requires the constant expansion of the economy without regard to natural limits. I have blogged about this elsewhere: it is really the most fundamental explanation of the link between capitalism as an economic system and planetary destruction.

I have been in this game for a while now so I have become fairly experienced at spotting a corporate scam. Hence I was intrigued by the arguments about the distribution system of globalisation being more sustainable, not to mention more supportive of our brothers and sisters in the South. I was also depressed to notice how many good people I interact with were swallowing this line.

Sadly my own resources for investigating the assumptions on which the justification for buying New Zealand apples in the UK in September are limited. And I don't suppose Terry Leahy will be offering me money to explore my proposed alternative of bioregional distribution systems any time soon.


  1. please explain how corporate barons fix prices.

  2. New Zealand is your example of a de facto colony?. And just exactly what resources, other than an open mind, are you lacking? Ah, you must be an "owner" and therefor, you don't "work". Is that the problem?

  3. Finally, the way capitalism creates money, through debt-based bank money, requires the constant expansion of the economy without regard to natural limits.

    That sounds like one of the falsehoods put out by the Social Creditors. Without the ability to lend, the economy would remain tiny and people poor and destitute. Oh, that is what antis want, isn't it...

  4. "buying New Zealand apples in the UK in September" - You won't be for long. Just the end of last year's NZ crop coming out of storage as the first of this year's English apples take their place and continue to do so through the Autumn and early winter until, they too are exhausted from storage. Just as.......next year's New Zealand crop comes across.

    Strange, isn't it, how the seasons are opposite in the Antipodes. Must be some sort of Global Capitalism conspiracy.

  5. Tim Worstall is implying that you are a moron.
    I tend to concur.

  6. what utter bollox perhaps you were an abused child.

  7. I'm somewhat intrigued by the idea that China is a 'de facto colony' of the west. But please don't facts get in the way of theory...

  8. Perhaps my Tory friends would like to try these links: