Thought Control in Economics

A New Kind of Global Marketplace

What if we were to implement this one simple idea: true cost?

What is the real cost of shipping a container load of toys from Hong Kong to Los Angeles? Or a case of apples grown in New Zealand to markets in North America? And what is the true cost of that fridge humming in your kitchen, that car purring on the road or that steak sizzling on the grill? Practically every one of the products we buy in the global marketplace is undervalued because the environmental costs haven’t been taken into account. As a result, every one of the billions of purchases we make every day pushes the world a little deeper into the cosmic red.

But what if we were to implement this simple idea: true cost?

We calculate the hidden costs associated with products – what the economists nonchalantly refer to as “externalities” – and incorporate them. We force the price of every product in the global marketplace to tell the ecological truth.

We start with the little things: plastic bags, coffee cups, paper napkins. Economists calculate these eco costs – say it’s five cents per plastic bag, ten cents per cup and one cent per napkin – then we just tack that on. We’re already doing that with the various eco-fees and eco-taxes included in the price of tires, cans of paint and other products. But now we abandon the concept of ancillary fees and taxes and implement straight true-cost pricing.

Inevitably, your palate will submit to your wallet.

Then, over a ten-year period, we phase in true-cost eating. We raise the price of avocados from Mexico and shrimp from China to reflect the true cost of transporting them long distances. And we estimate and add on all the hidden costs of our industrial farming and food processing systems. That burger at McDonald’s will cost you more, so will most meats, produce and processed foods. You can eat whatever you want, but you’ll have to pay the true cost. Inevitably, your palate will submit to your wallet. Processed, mega-farmed and imported foods become more expensive as the cost of organic and locally produced food goes down. Bit by bit, purchase by purchase, the global food system heaves toward sustainability.

Then we phase in the true cost of driving. We add on the environmental cost of the carbon our cars emit, the cost of building and maintaining roads, the medical costs of accidents, the noise and the aesthetic degradation caused by urban sprawl and maybe even the military cost of protecting those crucial oil fields and oil tanker supply lines. Your private automobile will cost you around $100,000 and a tank of gas $250. You’re still free to drive all you want, but instead of passing the costs on to future generations, you pay upfront. This would force us to reinvent the way we get around. Demand for monorails, bullet trains, subways and streetcars would surge. We would demand more bike lanes and pedestrian paths and car-free urban centers. And gradually a paradigm shift in urban planning would transform urban life.

True-cost pricing is fraught with daunting, seemingly insurmountable problems. For conventional economists, it’s a frightening concept that would slow growth, reduce the flow of world trade and curb consumption. It would force us to rethink just about every economic axiom we’ve taken for granted since the dawn of the industrial age. It could turn out to be one of the most traumatic economic/social/cultural projects that humanity has ever undertaken. And yet … and yet … the idea of a global marketplace in which the price of every product tells the ecological truth has a simple, almost magical ring to it. It makes sense, it feels right, and it’s totally nonpolitical. It’s the one big idea that – if we are able to agree on it, implement it and muster the collective self-discipline to sustain it – could pull us out of the ecological tailspin we’re in and nudge this failing experiment of ours on Planet Earth back onto the rails.

— Kalle Lasn

71 comments on the article “A New Kind of Global Marketplace”

Displaying 11 - 20 of 71

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Anonymous

Why not just make shopping illegal for those on the bottom 50% of the income scale. Sounds like both ideas would have the same effect.

Anonymous

Why not just make shopping illegal for those on the bottom 50% of the income scale. Sounds like both ideas would have the same effect.

Rob W

Lol. It seems like all this is missing the point. You are still trying to figure out how we can keep BUYING SHIT.

Are we so repulsed by soil that we refuse to get our own food from it? Rich and poor both stand on the greatest capital. Maybe just having your own little garden would be a nice start.

Rob W

Lol. It seems like all this is missing the point. You are still trying to figure out how we can keep BUYING SHIT.

Are we so repulsed by soil that we refuse to get our own food from it? Rich and poor both stand on the greatest capital. Maybe just having your own little garden would be a nice start.

Jamie C

LOVE IT!!

I've been saying this for years. If everyone attempted self-sustenance or co-operation, even just a little, bottom-up alternatives to even the general idea Capitalism would emerge.

I read so many comments in here about coercively changing the world's actions, and it's baffling. Truth is, we don't want to change as a society because if we truly did, we would've already.

If you really want to "change" anything, you'll start with yourself first, and stop putting your faith in others, systems, or the politics-du-jour.

Jamie C

LOVE IT!!

I've been saying this for years. If everyone attempted self-sustenance or co-operation, even just a little, bottom-up alternatives to even the general idea Capitalism would emerge.

I read so many comments in here about coercively changing the world's actions, and it's baffling. Truth is, we don't want to change as a society because if we truly did, we would've already.

If you really want to "change" anything, you'll start with yourself first, and stop putting your faith in others, systems, or the politics-du-jour.

Anonymous

Yes, this would be a wonderful solution. Classical economics ignores the externalities, that is, the costs or benefits to economic actors other than the seller and the buyer. We need to remedy that because the current market prices are very inaccurate, and so the economic system is very inefficient. Yes, the real costs might be hard to determine exactly, for example the cost of a future Earth where (say) there are no more rain forests and 80% of the current wild species are extinct in the wild. But we can get approximate true costs by determining the consequences of various economic choices, using honest scientific evidence, and then debating, as a society, the relative preference for several different outcomes. I think those true cost estimates would be very different from current prices. See http://www.zcommunications.org/zparecon/pareconlac.htm

Anonymous

Yes, this would be a wonderful solution. Classical economics ignores the externalities, that is, the costs or benefits to economic actors other than the seller and the buyer. We need to remedy that because the current market prices are very inaccurate, and so the economic system is very inefficient. Yes, the real costs might be hard to determine exactly, for example the cost of a future Earth where (say) there are no more rain forests and 80% of the current wild species are extinct in the wild. But we can get approximate true costs by determining the consequences of various economic choices, using honest scientific evidence, and then debating, as a society, the relative preference for several different outcomes. I think those true cost estimates would be very different from current prices. See http://www.zcommunications.org/zparecon/pareconlac.htm

Anonymous

It may be part of the solution, but its not a silver bullet - those who can afford it will just keep consuming! And there is the inter-generational issue to consider, as a previous poster commented. I strongly support Adbusters in putting together this issue and making a debate/asking these questions!

Anonymous

It may be part of the solution, but its not a silver bullet - those who can afford it will just keep consuming! And there is the inter-generational issue to consider, as a previous poster commented. I strongly support Adbusters in putting together this issue and making a debate/asking these questions!

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