Why won't capitalists stand up for capitalism?
Our real problem is that unfettered capitalism hasn't recently been tried. So why won't capitalism defend itself?
Now contrast with the experiences of Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney, whose independent, low-budget riposte to Gasland - FrackNation - has been funded by individual donors at Kickstarter.com. All right, so there were other reasons for their decision than absolute necessity: clearly it's a great pre-publicity boost when in a few weeks a film like this can raise over $175,000 in donations from a site which normally favours achingly worthy green/left-liberal projects. But I do wonder, even if McAleer and McElhinney had asked, whether any funding would have been forthcoming from Big Shale. Certainly, as I can personally attest, having been covering similar terrain for the last five years, the fossil fuel companies are the very last people you can rely on to fund all the positive things you say on their behalf.
If all this sounds like sour grapes, that's partly because it is. Being paid as little as I am is galling enough; but what really takes the biscuit is regularly being told by enviro-loons like George Monbiot that only reason people like me write the stuff we do is because we're so lavishingly rewarded by Big Capitalism.
I wish! And not only do I wish it for obvious personal reasons but also because I believe that free market capitalism is a cause genuinely worth fighting for - and that if those of us who argue its cause aren't given appropriate levels of support then it will be in serious danger of being crushed by the regulation, taxation, government mismanagement, bureaucratic sclerosis which progressive types insist are our only hope.
One of the more dangerous current memes, fomented in the left-liberal media and spreading fast in the cultural mainstream, is the idea that what the current global economic crisis shows is that capitalism has failed.
Utter nonsense, of course. The real problem is that unfettered capitalism hasn't recently been tried. What we have instead is its bastard cousin corporatism, which has about as much to do with free markets as do glorious five year plans for tractor production.
So why won't capitalism defend itself? Partly, I'm afraid, because so many have sold their souls to the corporatist devil. That letter from the chairman of Shell UK, et al, is a case in point. Big corporations actually quite like government regulation: not only does it shut out small competitors (who can less easily wear the costs of compliance) but it also, as in the case of wind farms and solar, enables them to make a fortune via taxpayer-funded environmental levies.
Partly it's because businesses are in the business of making money, not fighting for the right and true. If they think that their bottom line will be improved by "greenwashing" their image by sponsoring a few eco-initiatives or signing up to some sustainability code of practice imposed on them by the thugs at Greenpeace, then that's what they do, regardless of whether or not they believe in the cause.
But as Charles Koch noted recently in the Wall Street Journal this approach is short-termist and ultimately self-defeating:
"Crony capitalism is much easier than competing in an open market. But it erodes our overall standard of living and stifles entrepreneurs by rewarding the politically favored rather than those who provide what consumers want.
"The purpose of business is to efficiently convert resources into products and services that make people's lives better. Businesses that fail to do so should be allowed to go bankrupt rather than be bailed out."
Obviously if Charles Koch would care to reward me for agreeing with him totally with a fraction of his company's multi-billion fortune, I'm not going to say no. But even if he doesn't – incredible though this may seem to the likes of George Monbiot – I still agree with him totally because, damn it, he's right.
James Delingpole's Watermelons: How Environmentalists Are Killing The Planet, Destroying The Economy And Stealing Your Children's Future is published by Publius in the US; by Biteback in the UK; and by Connor Court in Australia under the title Killing The Earth To Save It. (Author image: Donna Laframboise)
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