I think Daniel Yergin's "The Commanding Heights" is an excellent and highly relevant book, published in 1998 but still highly relevant today. I find myself dipping into it again and again, as it tracks the ebb and flow of the balances (and imbalances) in many nations and globally between 'the market' and 'the state' or (occasionally) global governance mechanisms. Although he seems (mostly) to fall on the side of supporting market approaches, at the end of the book he hints at the possibility of a resurgence of 'the state' and its role as regulator of things like environmental protection and climate change where markets fail or generate damage and harm.
The following is from page 390:
“Yet if the market is seen to fail on either of those two grounds - results and restraint - if its benefits are regarded as exclusive rather than as inclusive, if it is seen to nurture the abuse of private power or the specter of raw greed, then surely there will be a backlash - a return to greater state intervention, management, and control. The state would again step forward to expand its role as protector of the citizenry against the power of private interests, whether exercised through monopoly, wanton behaviour, fraud and deception, or exploitation and direct harm."
Was Yergin hedging his bets, or expressing some real concerns and fears that markets, insufficiently fettered, would be likely to wreak havoc with the planetary biosphere and climate, throwing us well beyond sustainability thresholds and requiring increasingly drastic national and international government and governance actions?
Tietenberg (2018) provides similar conclusions:
“In summary, the record compiled by our economic and political institutions has been mixed. It seems clear that simple ideological prescriptions such as “leave it to the market” or “let the government handle it” simply do not bear up under a close scrutiny of the record. The relationship between the economic and political sectors has to be one of selective engagement, complemented in some areas by selective disengagement. Each problem has to be treated on a case-by-case basis. As we have seen in our examination of a variety of environmental and natural resource problems, the efficiency and sustainability criteria allow such distinctions to be drawn, and those distinctions can serve as a basis for policy reform …
Our examination of the evidence suggests that the notion that all of the world’s people are automatically benefited by economic growth is naïve. Economic growth has demonstrably benefited some citizens, but that outcome is certainly not inevitable for all people in all settings.”
The "commanding heights" of the economy (nationally and globally) continue to be a vital piece of context for the challenge of transitioning (or 'transcending') to sustainability, and our money systems play a key part in that.
Maintenance and reform of money systems are a legitimate role for the state.
These issues transcend party politics. Indeed, I think the vision of achieving global sustainability and social justice is often damaged when it becomes co-opted by political movements, as these often result in polarisation of debates, and unnecessary conflicts.
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