“In the end, capitalism is the only viable system we have for organising our economy”, said Lucy Turnbull, business person, former mayor of Sydney and partner of former Coalition leader Malcolm Turnbull at the iQ2 debate in Sydney on August 10 on the topic “Only capitalism can save the planet”. Turnbull was the only politician to make the Business Review Weekly's 2010 Rich 200 list this year.
Well, she would think that, wouldn't she?
However, in the wake of the global financial crisis and the current global warming emergency, it was not surprising that she only managed to convince 47.5% of the people who were prepared to fork out $32 to listen to the debate in the City Recital Hall. Another 43% disagreed and the rest were undecided.
The August 11 Sydney Morning Herald ran an internet poll on this question together with its article covering the debate. It came up with an even more dramatic result. Just 31% agreed that “capitalism is the only system that can save the world” and 69% disagreed.
Of course, internet polls are not a scientific measure of public opinion — the revolution did not break out in Sydney that day. But this does tell us that a lot of people are questioning the 500-year-old capitalist system — a system that some would have us believe is the natural order of things.
One of the many comments on Turnbull's speech, published in the August 9 SMH (before the debate), summed up the future offered by the defenders of capitalism: “Privatise the profits and socialise the debts ... and away we go again on the famed Capitalist boom and bust merry-go-round.”
Buried in the business section of the August 7 SMH, in another column that deserves much more prominence, despairing “e-business” correspondent Paddy Manning gave readers an idea of what leaving addressing climate change to the market means: “Closing our dirtiest power stations is a cheap and obvious way to reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions quickly.
“We're all for it, of course. The real question is: who pays? It sticks in the craw that taxpayers should fork out billions to protect companies like International Power, of Britain, and the Chinese-backed TruEnergy — and behind them, our big banks — from making less money.
“The iron law now seems to be that any country which changes its laws in a way that reduces profits of global corporations — even when they've made a bad investment — poses a sovereign risk.
“That's a mighty crimp on sovereignty and if elected governments are feeble enough to live with it, we're in bigger trouble than we thought."
Manning went on to tell the story of how the Kennett Liberal government had privatised the Victorian power industry in the mid-1990s — at discount prices. Now, a decade and a half later, the companies have their hand out again for millions of dollars in compensation from the public purse to shut down Hazelwood, the dirtiest coal-fired power station in the country.
The capitalist system works fine for the likes of the Turnbulls and the rest of the corporate rich. But for the rest of us, the price is having to bow to the permanent blackmail of the corporate plunderers.
The sickest part of this is that the rest of us are expected to work harder to keep this system going, even when we disagree about where it is taking us.
If you agree that enough is enough, then help keep the voice for real change loud and strong.
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