Steve Forbes' Deadly Notion

Steve Forbes claims that capitalism will save us.


Pillaging Nature
“Collect”, 2003, oil on canvas, 36 x 48. Used by permission of the artist Wes Magyar.

A dangerous idea is floating around the halls of megacorporations. It is seeping into the pages of popular magazines and the minds of sensible folk. If this idea continues to circulate freely, it could spell death for our already unwell natural environment. The deadly notion is that capitalism will save us from an economic collapse.

Steve Forbes clearly articulates this argument in his article "How Capitalism Will Save Us." Forbes argues that as long as people don’t try to hinder capitalists, everything will work out fine.

Underlying Forbes’ logic is nostalgia for a mythic past, one in which capitalism bestowed great gifts on the world. Forbes writes, “Between the early 1980s and 2007 we lived in an economic Golden Age. Never before have so many people advanced so far economically in so short a period of time as they have during the last 25 years.”

What Forbes doesn’t say is that this so-called Golden Age was dependent on the massive, systematic destruction of the natural environment. Capitalists took nature, mixed it with toxins and sold it as disposable garbage to consumers. All in the name of profit. Capitalists can only refer to the last 25 years as a “great time” by ignoring the destruction of the natural environment. We all know the alarming statistics: world biodiversity has declined by almost one third in the past 35 years; twenty-five percent of all mammals now face extinction.

What we are seeing now are capitalists’ desperate attempts to stay on top. As Naomi Klein explains, “today’s preferred method of reshaping the world in the interest of multinational corporations is to systematically exploit the state of fear and disorientation that accompanies moments of great shock and crisis.” The question is, do we have the courage to propose alternative ways to get out of this state of fear?

Micah M. White is a Contributing Editor at Adbusters Magazine and an independent activist. Micah is currently writing a book on the future of activism. He lives in Binghamton, NY with his wife and two cats.