He notes that there are two ways it may remain something of a handy concept. First, it may leave us piecemeal social objectives to strive for - but these have al- ways come in the context of essentially capitalist economics systems. Sec- ondly, it may reemerge as the adjunct of the ecological movement. As Heilbroner puts it, This content downloaded from 126.96.36.199 on Mon, 14 Oct 2019 23:57:11 UTC All use subject to 140 PUBLIC AFFAIRS QUARTERLY [If] there is any single problem that will have to be faced by any socioeco- nomic order over the coming decades it is the problem of making our eco- nomic peace with the demands of the environment. Making that peace means insuring that the vital processes of material provisioning do not contaminate the green- blue film on which life itself depends. This imperative need not affect all social formations, but none so profoundly as capitalism.21 What is one to say about this new fear, a
new problem allegedly too complicated for free men and women to handle? Has Heilbroner not heard of the "tragedy of the commons" so that he could imagine the environ- mental difficulties that face the collectivist social systems? Here is how Heilbroner issues the "new" warning: It is, perhaps, possible that some of the institutions of capitalism - markets, dual realms of power, even private ownership of some kind of production - may be adapted to that new state of ecological vigilance, but, if so, they must be monitored, regulated, and contained to such a degree that it would be diffi- cult to call the final social order capitalism.22 This somewhat novel but essentially old fashioned skepticism about free market capitalism needs to be addressed. My first response is that there is no justification for any of this distrust of "the market," as opposed to trusting some scientific bureaucracy that is to do the monitoring, regulating, and containing Heilbroner and so many other champions of regimentation are calling for. Such distrust tends to arise from comparing the market system to some ideal and static construct developed in the mind of a theorist. But since human community life is dynamic, the most we can hope for in improving it is the establishment of certain basic principles of law, or a constitution, that will keep the dynamics of the community within certain bounds.23 Accordingly, put plainly, if men and women acting in the market place, guided by the rule of law based on their natural individual rights to life, liberty and property, were incapable of standing up to the ecological chal- lenges Heilbroner and many others in the environmentalist movement have in mind, there is no reasonable doubt that those could not be met better by some new statist means.24 Why should ecologically minded bureaucrats be better
motivated, more competent, and more virtuous than those motivated by a concern for the hungry, the unjustly treated, the poor, the artistically deprived, the uneducated masses or the workers of the world? There is no reason to attribute to the members of any ecological politburo or central
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- Spring '11