Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Choking on Growth, or Choking on Bad Government

In a recent NY Times Series, the issue of the environment and economic growth in China has come into question. Just the standard fallacy of blaming capitalism at work here. The only next-step fallacy is to blame open-market economics for the abhorrent degradation of the environment that is the current tragedy in China. What a shame. There is a clear political impetus for a change in environmental policy in China, but that movement has no voice in the political process because of the over-extended will of an oppressive state. The unfortunate part of the whole situation is that for this movement to gain critical mass and momentum, the only solution is to continue to grow economically. Historically, economic growth has been the primary engine for a change in social conscience. During the Industrial Revolution, even as conditions grew better and the average Englishman's lot improved, issues of poverty, education, child labor, and even the environment became more and more scrutinized, whereas in continental Europe, many of these conditions, while far worse in their relative magnitude to the same conditions in England, went ignored because the political systems were largely authoritarian or monarchic. In such cases it takes revolution and collapse to correct the system, which will probably be necessary in China today.