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Re: [GreenYes] Re: The need for respectful diagreement / attitudes toward capitalistic economies
Dear Muna:

See my responses to the points raised in your message below.


Roger M. Guttentag

----- Original Message -----
From: Muna Lakhani <>
To: Roger Guttentag <>; <>
Sent: Thursday, January 17, 2002 2:20 AM
Subject: Re: [GreenYes] Re: The need for respectful diagreement / attitudes
toward capitalistic economies

> Dear Roger
> Thank you for taking the trouble to comment on what people write on the
> list, in this case, me particularly...
> I have no intention of taking up bandwidth in either an attacking or
> defensive response, but would, in the interests of brevity, mention a
> few points that inform my thinking, that may actually prove of use, and
> assist in the struggle that we are all waging, in our own ways...
> 1) I believe in freedom of speech. A humorous characterisation of people
> surely is included in this?

There is genuine humor and then there are remarks that are in very bad
taste.  Your characterization of George Bush, I         thought, fell into
the latter category.
> 2) The assumption you make, that the economic model practised mainly by
> the North is somehow acceptable to everybody, just because the North
> practises it, is less than rigorous thinking - I would suggest a more
> thorough world-view analysis to provide a better context for the
> assertions you make. The applicability and impact on the other 4.5
> billion people on the planet refers...

Please re-read my original message more carefully.  I made no mention of
"Northern" economies or that U.S. style business     management was
"accepable" to everyone.  My reference was specifically to "advanced
economies" and the adoption of         U.S. business practices by private
entities within these regions as "emulation."  I am not making the argument
that U.S.             style business is morally or culturally superior so
therefore this is the reason it is being emulated within other economies.
These business practices are being adopted because, in the here and now,
they are viewed as more effective (in a practical,     technical sense) than
alternative systems of production and distribution.  The problem, as I see
it, is that the adoption of the     U.S. style business structure also
includes the unwitting (or knowing) adoption of its unsustainable
> 3) The "efficiency" of production and delivery is at a massive cost to
> life - all life, particularly human - this does not justify the profits
> made by anybody, as no life can be paid for in dollars. The "trade off"
> is unacceptable.

Let me come at this point from a different perspective.  The argument for
sustainable capitalism rests heavily on the                 acceptance of
the concept of intergenerational fairness.  It is not fair for one
generation of human beings to acquire a high         standard of living
(however you wish to define this) if this denies the same opportunity to
succeeding human generations to     enjoy the same or even an enhanced
living standard.  The argument for sustainable capitalism must also rest, I
believe, on     the acceptance of the idea that non-human life also has its
own ethical / legal standing; that is, respect for and preservation of the
terrestrial biome and its bio-diversity does not rest solely on how it
benefits human beings.

> 4) The regions you quote as having "adopted" this model of being driven
> by profits makes up about 25% of the world's population, but consumes
> 80% of the planets resources and produces much the same amount of
>  pollution. If this is acceptable to your sense of fairness and
> morality, then we have nothing further to discuss on this particular
> aspect of the debate, and can simply agree to disagree.

Nothing in my first message can be construed as saying that I find this
situation "acceptable."  Further, I wouldn't be an         active member of
this list if I did.  Pointing out the situation is not the same as saying it
is "acceptable."  My argument is         that you have two choices -
redirect the current economic structure onto a sustainable track or declare
the current                 economic / political structure (democratic
government / capitalistic enterprise) unreformable and propose a new one.
If         you opt for the latter course of action, you are faced with an
immense challenge over and above trying to put ordinary
practices onto a sustainable basis.  As I mentioned in my first message,
historical alternatives to democratic government /         capitalistic
enterprise have not shown themselves to be viable, particularly in the U.S.
which for historical reasons has             shown itself to be particularly
unfertile ground to these alternatives.  Furthermore, I am not convinced
that the current             political / economic structure is indeed
unreformable.  If you believe this, then you must advance a sound argument
in its favor . If the former option is favored, then my point is that
moralistic finger-pointing at private companies doesn't do much more than
provide emotional satisfaction to the finger-pointer and causes positions on
both sides to  harden to the point where constructive dialogue of any kind
becomes impossible.  This does not mean that one's actions should not be
motivated by moral indignation nor should one shy away from describing
motivations to act in moralistic terms.

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