I just got back from listening to Thomas Friedman do a lecture about his new book Hot, Flat, and Crowded. I left the lecture with a sense of disgust, but not for the obvious reasons. I'll give TomTom this, at least he's realized that that there limits to growth that at the very least must be overcome. This is a start.
What bothered me the most was they you had an articulate individual. Who I honestly believes wants to be constructive. Recognizing that there is a problem, but presenting an absolutely shitty solution. I left the lecture thinking about one of my childhood friends.
When my friend Dave was about 5, he really wanted to help his cat out. It was the middle of winter, and the poor thing was freezing. So using the wisdom that only a 5 year old could come up with, Dave hit upon a solution. Ok, the cat's cold. What's warm in the house, the towels that mom gets for me out of the dryer. I bet if I stick the cat in there it will warm it up too. And so he did. Needless to say the cat did not enjoy the experience. He was though, warmer. The lesson here. Right problem, shitty solution.
I think everybody can forgive Dave, he meant well. And he after all, 5 years old. TomTom on the other hand is, if I did my math right, 55, and again I think he honestly means well.
Although he recognizes that there are serious limitations on to sustainable growth, he chooses to see them as something that can be fixed by the mechanisms of the market. Government action is to be limited to creating the right incentives.
The problem is that he chooses to submit the man and nature alike, both sacred and not made by the market, to the animate demands of the market. Like Dave sticking the cat in the dryer, he gets that there's a problem, he's just come up with a shitty solution.
The dryer didn't know that that cat wouldn't respond well to being thrown about, it operated according to the function for which it was designed. It was designed to dry towels, not warm cold cats.
The market is much the same thing. The market does not reproduce man and nature, it does not have the power to make these things. Children may not be bought and sold. Nature results from its own internal motivation, the continuance of life and the means to preserve it, not the market. Man and nature are not commodities. As Karl Polanyi pointed out, the tendency of the market to see them as such leads it to destroy man and nature alike. The market exists for the reproduction of capital, and it acts to do this, not to preserve man or nature. To submit man and nature to the imperative of the market will result in the market converting them both into commodities, stripping them of their sacred character, and denying them the ability to reproduce so that capital may thrive and multiply.
This is why TomTom's solution of putting the problems we face now, themselves the product of the market acting to turn man and nature into commodities, to the market is a shitty solution.
In what has to be one of the worst cliches ever, TomTom opened his lecture with a question: How can America get its groove back?
I know this for damn sure, the market isn't the answer. It's a shitty solution.
So what I have to say is this.
Tom, don't stick the damn cat in the dryer.