Is this what the ‘Father of Capitalism’ intended?
Following on from my articles on Capitalism and Globalisation, I feel the need to further explore Adam Smith’s legacy, particularly in the context of climate change and the approach governments across the world have to reducing its impact: or perhaps more accurately, their lack of a coherent and effective approach………
An important message which came through loud and clear in Adam Smith’s analysis of capitalism is that he saw an important role for some government regulation, particularly in controlling the vested interests of corporations.
The necessity for government regulation is something which has been emphasised by many a politician over the years and is at the very heart of social democratic parties, but it’s something that many recent champions of the ‘free market’ have overlooked.
In our 21st Century world ‘regulation’ has, to some, become a dirty word. The Brexiteers used regulations, which they claimed were ridiculous, as a major part of their campaign to get the UK out of the EU. But a closer look at many EU ‘regulations’ shows that they are often very sensible, protecting us, for example, from harmful chemicals in food and pesticides which damage the natural environment.
What concerned Adam Smith was the power of what he called ‘special interest groups’ who operate solely in their own interests. He spoke of a ‘corporate conspiracy’. Government, he said, should never listen to this ‘overgrown standing army of special interests’ who will ‘fight to the bitter end to keep their privileges’
I guess he was very aware of these ‘armies of special interests’ because he was writing in the mid 18th Century as the Abolition of Slavery campaign was really taking off. Abolition, of course, faced fierce opposition from vested financial interests.
I can’t help seeing a similar resistance to regulation coming from the vested interests of the fossil fuel industry who, in the face of almost unanimous scientific evidence that climate change is a real and immediate threat, fund the climate change denial campaign and have managed to become key players in the Trump administration in the US.