Dear Paul Krugman,
You command the respect that our society still gives to its economists, and the New York Times readership waits on your every blog. How sweet it is! Yet your op-eds keep playing it safe, and that’s starting to grate on my nerves.
We face threats that make the 2007-09 recession look like a hiccup. The concentration of wealth in the hands of the few has reached the levels that foretold the French and Russian revolutions, and the Great Depression. A trillion dollars of speculative financial transactions slosh around the planet every day, making it only a matter of time before the next financial bubble pops. Then there’s climate change—“the biggest market failure the world has ever seen,” in the words of Nicholas Stern. You’ve used that quote yourself, Paul.
In fact, you’ve written several times about the environmental costs that are ignored by the market as “externalities.” You’ve said that “markets can be very, very wrong,” that car culture is “imposing huge costs,” that “no industry should be held harmless for its impacts on the environment and the nation’s infrastructure.” You’ve even called this “Econ 101.”
Don’t you think it’s time for you to go the whole hog and start championing the idea of a True Cost global marketplace, in which the price of every product tells the ecological truth?
It’s a wild, heretical idea, routinely dismissed by mainstream economists as unworkable. But don’t you agree, Paul, that what’s going on right now is madness? It isn’t just cars and fossil fuels. Every product on the world market is incorrectly priced. We do not properly account for climate warming, or pollution, or biodiversity loss, or overfishing, or deforestation, or toxification—the list goes on. Day after day, every purchase drives us inexorably towards climate catastrophe and the disintegration of the living world.
What could a True Cost economy look like? Solving the riddle would be a historic achievement—the kind worthy of a Nobel laureate. So, dear Paul, while we still have a bit of time left to win the planetary endgame, I’m hoping to see some op-ed pieces from you on this issue. Until then, the “economy” we talk about is little more than a castle in the clouds.
Kalle Lasn, Meme Wars, The Creative Destruction of Neoclassical Economics
Download a free digital PDF of Meme Wars at Kickitover.org