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Culture Change e-Letter #16

Eco-philosophical search for core of truth
Is the market The Enemy?

by Jan Lundberg
If modern humanity has indeed lost its way, destroying itself and life all around, 
can we identify clearly the most key, singular problem and address it?  Are we to 
attack it?  Tolerate it critically?

Assuming money, greed, materialism and exploitation are part of one main threat to our existence, and we call this threat the market, have we included whatever else threatens us?  What is The enemy?  Is it a "what" or a "who"?

When we see and hear a polluting motor vehicle, disturbing the air, water, sound and our safety, or when we see deforestation take its toll on the environment and climate, have we dealt with these threats by simplifying the focus to the market?  Or, does overpopulation answer our question?

If these questions vex us, it is tempting to acquiesce to tolerating the market by instead blaming technology or "human nature."  If we are hopelessly, insufficiently evolved, we can pass ourselves off as children in a long evolution—assuming we have a long time to keep evolving and are not cutting out story short!  Regardless, the market seems to cover almost everything we can see as inimical to our survival as natural, social beings.  The market has not been around much of our time as a species walking on two legs.  The market even deigns to cover such a basic real, necessity of life—land. Land is for sale and becomes part of "the market."

Landlordism is another example of harm done by the market, as a tendency in opportunistic/predatory human interactions.  A landlord, even a nice one,  exploits the basic need (or right) for shelter, without required concern for the common weal.  To make money is the purpose, and if people are freezing outside or uprooted from their homes, so be it in the market system.

When Marxism questioned who ruled by virtue of owning the means of production, this line of logic could have stopped there as to allowing the market. So, to question the legitimacy of the market we are going deeper than "who rules."  We may be saying no one should rule, or that everyone should "rule" (rule themselves).  Militarists and other exponents of regimentation in our culture would hate that, but self rule doesn't rule out organized defense of a  homeland.

Free trade has been sanctified as the alternative to war. But wars happen largely because of desire for more trade or to protect or expand markets.  Warfare predated the market, but anthropological evidence suggests that primitive war is more ceremonial than genocidal.  With the growth of the market and global capitalism and "free trade" oligarchy, genocide has become more frequent, although it has been couched in terms of liquidating foes of democracy (read, foes of the "free" market).

It would be a mistake to target "the problem" as the United States of America, when many other globally ambitious, resource-devouring nations have their own corrupt power games installed in government and other institutions. It is just as foolish to isolate George Bush as "the problem."  He has many imitators, colleagues and rivals. Al Gore as vice president was, for example, part of the effort to rig up China with more nuclear power plants.  When I pointed out to him the problem of 240,000  years of plutonium's half-life, he threw up his hands and said "Sorry."

Our ecological deterioration so uncontrolled and devastating may be attributed to the market. Yet, if we decide our main goal is to, say, cut fossil fuels use globally, we must identify clear sources of the harmful behavior(s) at issue, and develop a clear solution to stop or greatly curtail such harm.

Who has the answer? Or, Is there an answer? Some concerned people advocate non-market social systems. These people may call themselves anarchists, but if anarchy is rule by no one, i.e., no government, does that mean there is still the market? "Libertarians" advocate the market. "Socialists" may do so as well.

Does small entrepreneurship mean there must be The Market? In today’s exaggerated market economy, with massive corporate chain stores and unbelievably large quantities of commodities bought, sold and shipped globally, small-town farmers markets are for most shoppers and sellers an exhilarating alternative: human beings can interact and trust each other while getting the most basic product of all: good, local food.  In Arcata, California the farmers market is a tradition dating back almost three decades, and the same spirit that started it has resulted in a ban on any additional formula restaurants.  Next may be an attempted ban on new retail chain stores.

To deal with the problem of the market, to target it, a simple unified theory or system of living would be needed. It could even take the form of a religion. Such a religion or spiritual movement could be already extant or is yet to be devised and revealed. Jesus did kick over the benches of the money lenders. The long-term solution to his spiritualism-in-action, from the marketeers’ point of view, was to co-opt the religion and construct churches—collect money from the market and land-owning class to build rich towers for Jesus.

Imagine there’s no market
I wonder if you can 

- to paraphrase John Lennon. He of course benefited greatly from the market.

Imagining daily life without the market may be a healthy, productive exercise and even a run-up to our near future.  Self-sufficient communes don’t have a market within them. It is hard to imagine a typical town in the U.S. having no market system.  Yet, in removing the market from the picture, we are left with direct dealings between people for exchange and cooperation to meet essential goals.  If buying a lot of material things is one's purpose, then disappointment, objection and subversion would surface.  But a market-free society, perhaps thereby needing to be low in population size, sounds good to me.  I would appreciate hearing from you..

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Jan Lundberg's columns are protected by copyright; however, non-commercial use of the material is permitted as long as full attribution is given with a link to this website, and he is informed of the re-publishing:


Articles of interest:
Measuring and controlling the actions of governments 

Anti-globalization protest grows, with tangible results. 
WTO protests page

Tax fossil-fuel energy easily
by Peter Salonius 

UK leader calls War on Terror "bogus"

Argentina bleeds toward healing by Raul Riutor

The oil industry has plans for you: blow-back by Jan Lundberg

It's not a war for oil? by Adam Khan

How to create a pedestrian mall by Michelle Wallar

The Cuban bike revolution

How GM destroyed the U.S. rail system excerpts from the film "Taken for a Ride".

"Iraqi oil not enough for US: Last days of America?"

Depaving the world by Richard Register

Roadkill: Driving animals to their graves by Mark Matthew Braunstein

The Hydrogen fuel cell technofix: Spencer Abraham's hydrogen dream.


Ancient Forest Protection in Northern California. Forest defenders climb trees to save them.

Daniel Quinn's thoughts on this website.

A case study in unsustainable development is the ongoing crisis in Palestine and Israel.

Renewable and alternative energy information.

Conserving energy at home (Calif. Title 24)

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Culture Change was founded by Sustainable Energy Institute (formerly Fossil Fuels Policy Action), a nonprofit torganization.