What the planet needs is profitable for individual businesses. This way of thinking has been tried and it has worked. It has worked for fish, where we’ve given fishermen an incentive to be stewards of the fishery. Suddenly they become advocates for lower catch limits. If they have a share in that catch, in the future they become advocates for strict enforcement even for marine-protected areas around the spawning grounds of fish.
Time and time again we see that if we align what the planet needs, what Public Health needs, what we all need, with a profit motive, we can motivate people to produce the goods and services that we need to survive and thrive.
Another way to think about it is that these environmental problems are caused by what the economists call external costs. A business throws out pollution but doesn’t have to account for it or pay for it. When we figure out the policy tools to internalize those costs we can actually reward companies for dramatically reducing pollution and producing ecosystem restoration.
Capitalism has worked so well for so many things, producing a high standard of living, and given people jobs. We can take capitalism, which doesn’t take into account the common good and the need for our planet to survive, and we can correct that flaw and harness companies and entrepreneurs to be enterprising on behalf of the things we need.
Over the years, capitalism has proved to be the most effective way of organizing human endeavors. Having said that, there’s a serious flaw in that it doesn’t account for the need to keep our life support systems in tact. But we can take those flaws and through policy make capitalism work for the things that we need to survive as people on this fragile planet that we share.
In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think’s studio.
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