Tuesday, February 26, 2008

environment - socialist or capitalist?

i had a thought provoking conversation with a friend of mine who believes in basic socialistic principles like public education and public health. i would consider myself as somebody who has capitalistic principles (or lack thereof) in my system and try to address social issues (education, health, etc) applying those principles. i look at things like efficiency, maximization of resources and even sometimes try to apply free market theory to them. however, i am also quite conscious about issues related to the environment, overuse of natural resources, etc. at this point of time i wonder if our environment, given a choice, would want us to be capitalistic or socialistic. a good part of my head tells me it would ideally prefer a socialistic system as it would be good for its longetivity. but let me see if i can dig deeper.

from an economic point of view, socialism refers to ownership by the state of both production and distribution. and capitalism refers to the system where the system of production and distribution should be left for the market to determine.

environment is quite broad of a subject, so lets take natural resources. finite and abundant. given the present outlook of, say, oil (peak oil phenomenon, rising oil prices, etc), we might think that conserving oil would be the best way to prolong our use of it. socialistic principles would guide us to minimize our dependance on a finite commodity like that, and share what we got equally. this would keep the prices affordable but wouldn't cut down our absolute use of it nor motivate us to find alternatives to it. a capitalistic system is heavily dependent on oil and hence, there is absolute need to have it at all cost. the system's productivity is directly related to the price of oil and availability. there isn't an option to reduce its usage as it affects productivity directly, resulting in failed businesses. since the growth of the economy in a capitalistic system is heavily dependent on it, there is also the need to access more of it by digging deeper into earth. given the fact that its finite and is only going to get more expensive, there is a strong need to find alternatives to replace oil as a driver. which is what many corporates are doing - they are
betting on more eco-friendly cars powered by batteries and fuel cells.

maybe i am biased towards capitalistic principles and try to address all issues with that lens. or maybe am not as aware of socialistic principles to address the same. or am just ignorant of other ways to deal with issues like these. at this point though, i am not sure. but i do see a capitalistic society needs oil the most for sustaining it and hence more inclined to find alternatives to replace it.


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