Profit Pathology and Disposable Planet
Some years ago in New England, a group of environmentalists asked a corporate executive how his company (a paper mill) could justify dumping its raw industrial effluent into a nearby river. The river-which had taken Mother Nature centuries to...
February 27, 2011 | Source: Common Dreams | by Michael Parenti
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Some years ago in New England, a group of environmentalists asked a corporate executive how his company (a paper mill) could justify dumping its raw industrial effluent into a nearby river. The river-which had taken Mother Nature centuries to create–was used for drinking water, fishing, boating, and swimming. In just a few years, the paper mill had turned it into a highly toxic open sewer.
The executive shrugged and said that river dumping was the most cost-effective way of removing the mill’s wastes If the company had to absorb the additional expense of having to clean up after itself, it might not be able to maintain its competitive edge and would then have to go out of business or move to a cheaper labor market, resulting in a loss of jobs for the local economy.
Free Market Über Alles
It was a familiar argument: the company had no choice. It was compelled to act that way in a competitive market. The mill was not in the business of protecting the environment but in the business of making a profit, the highest possible profit at the highest possible rate of return. Profit is the name of the game, as business leaders make clear when pressed on the point. The overriding purpose of business is capital accumulation.
To justify its single-minded profiteering, Corporate America promotes the classic laissez-faire theory which claims that the free market—a congestion of unregulated and unbridled enterprises all selfishly pursuing their own ends—is governed by a benign “invisible hand” that miraculously produces optimal outputs for everybody.