Tag Archives: Capitalism

By: Chris Burke

During my, increasingly limited, spare time I’ve taken to reading What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know About Capitalism by John Bellamy Foster and Fred Magdoff.  The book is a critique of the ideas of “green capitalism” that have emerged over the past two decades or so.  “Green capitalists” promote the use of technology, market mechanisms, regulation, and changes in consumer behaviour to ensure that the impacts of climate change are reduced, while, and this is key, continuing to grow and prosper under a capitalist system.  Some have taken to promoting a “zero growth” economy, shifting focus to developing the goods and services we need rather than growth for its own sake.  This is where the notion of “green capitalism” starts to run into a problem.


There’s little question that the rapid growth happening in the capitalist world is consuming resources at an alarming pace, pumping out more greenhouse gases than the planet can handle, and causing a general deterioration of environmental conditions across the globe.  What is debated, however, is whether a capitalist economy could survive a transformation to zero growth.  After all, there’s a word for a capitalist economy in a state of zero growth.  It’s called a “crisis”.  As North America crawls its way out of a recent crisis, and Europe descends further into it, there isn’t a huge need here to elaborate on why we want to avoid a crisis.  Those in the upper class will continue to consolidate their wealth and power (think the DOW reaching a record high while unemployment rates remain high and the fact that companies that have improved since the recession haven’t been hiring), while the rest of us are left to struggle in the mess that’s been created.

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By: Martin Pharand

Not in an attempt to have the last word, I would like to make a brief comment about Chris and I’s discussion regarding socialism and capitalism (all of which can be viewed in older blog posts).

I find it an interesting and eerie coincidence that Chris shares the first name of one of my favourite intellectuals, the late great Christopher Hitchens. In Hitchens’ early life as an active member of the left, Christopher demanded that he be called Chris rather than Christopher. I can only assume that this stemmed from his desire to be regarded as an ‘everyman’ or your average ‘Joe Proletariat’, this fitting well with his ideological inclinations at the time. Over the course of his career however, he went from a staunch radical to a much more complex conservative. And although not as simple a transition as I have just described, it was at this time that Chris became Christopher.


I have seen and heard of this transformation, from the left to the right, in people so many times that I always ask myself the following question. Are these micro-level transformations analogous to the macro-level swing from the left to the right?

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By: Evan Engering

In this recessionary age of massive layoffs and outsourcing, there is a priority to restore the promise of secure, stable jobs that we once had. However, the solutions being presented often do not address the depth of the problem, and instead advance the status quo, with the hope that maybe capitulating to the interests of employers will trickle down to benefit employees.


Here in Ontario, we see several forms of this. From the Progressive-Conservative Party, we have Tim Hudak, proposing a total evisceration of labour unions, a move that would set worker’s rights back over sixty years. While the reactionary substance is alarming, it is also revealing of the true implications of “competitiveness” that regional markets are supposed to have, if they are to survive in today’s world.

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By: Chris Burke

First, let me start by saying that the exchange I have been having with Martin Pharand over the past couple of weeks has been welcome.  This is exactly the sort of dialogue that The 1837 Society has been trying to generate over the past few months.  Although I have strong ideological differences with Martin, his continued participation on this blog is appreciated.


Martin is a bit like myself, great ideas come to him in the shower.  He had a sudden realization one day while in the shower leading him to suggest that he and I are arguing for the same ultimate end but support different methods of achieving that end.  This is not the first time I have heard such a statement.  Sometime ago I was involved in exchange with someone who identified as a libertarian.  This person made the argument that the communist goal of eliminating the state was really the same thing as the libertarian goal of eliminating government influence in our lives.  Since Martin isn’t advocating for a libertarian society, I won’t address that argument here.  It just serves as an interesting side note even if I do disagree with what this individual was arguing.  Also Martin later admits that we aren’t really working towards the same end.

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By: Martin Pharand

It came to me in the shower, I set down my pretend microphone and realised; Chris Burke and I are arguing for the same ultimate end but we are comfortable with different methods of achieving that end. Whereas Chris has argued for an express flight to a Socialist Utopia, I have decided to hop on my inner tube, and let the current take me there; a classic divergence between those with more radical tendencies and those with reactionary tendencies. It is otherwise the continuum commonly known as the left and right, respectively.


If I understand Chris properly, he is delivering a handful of good, strong messages. First, he demands the complete vaporisation of the capitalist paradigm under which we all win and lose (making emphasis on the latter). The key reason for this appears to be, because the power of the wealthy to oppress the few is inherent in the capitalist system. Secondly, Chris, seemingly accepting that his is the minority view, argues correctly that just because a position (on capitalism) is held by a majority does not make it necessarily true.  And finally, the line I have grown particularly fond of for its axiomatic qualities; Chris says, with authority “People do not always act in self-interest, they are not always lawful, and capitalism is not “free”.” (I especially enjoyed the leaving out of ‘always’ before “free”)

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By: Chris Burke

My previous post for 1837 prompted a response from Martin Pharand.  In my post, I questioned capitalism’s ability to address social and environmental issues.  Capitalism, I suggested, is the source of the problems it’s trying to fix.  To which Pharand responded:

But I suggest there is the need to pause and reconsider before launching the oft heard argument that capitalism “is the source of the problems it is trying to fix”. You will often run into the same sort of argument if you research issues regarding the environment. The two major issues with arguing either from the poverty or environment perspective is that, one; contradictory statistics can be marshalled by either side and two, both ‘sides’ appear to speak a different language causing greater misunderstanding.


Pharand is right about at least one thing, both sides do speak a different language.  Marxists will make points about the value created by labour or the oppression of the working class.  The capitalist response, to point out value that is created by groups other than labour, or to say that workers voluntarily enter into a contract shows that what Marxists mean when they use the above terms is differing from the capitalist conception.  I won’t go into detail on how they differ though I anticipate it coming up in future posts.

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By: Martin Pharand

My first blog post for the 1837 Society was meant simply to introduce those politically inclined to a contemporary policy tool that I found really, quite interesting. Since my exposure to Social Impact Bonds and what is more broadly referred to as the area of social finance, I have been constantly thinking of the expanding grey area where the public and private sector are coming together to solve problems.

Public-Private Partnerships are becoming commonplace (despite reasonable skepticism), and the groundwork for Social Impact Bonds and Social Finance tools is being laid down now. These, including ‘conscious capitalism’ (mentioned in the post before this one), I think represent the beginning of a major trend that raises many questions worthy of consideration. Can capitalism learn to correct its many negative externalities? Can the ‘peace, order and good governance’ of Canada persist while the boundary where the public and private sector meet, erode in favour of the latter?


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