Few, if any, corporations absorb the full cost of their operations. Corporations shove many of their costs onto the environment, the public sector, and distant third parties. For example, currently 3 million gallons of toxic waste water from a Colorado mine has escaped and is working its way down two rivers into Utah and Lake Powell. At least seven city water systems dependent on the rivers have been shut down. The waste was left by private enterprise, and the waste was accidentally released by the Environmental Protection Agency, which might be true or might be a coverup for the mine. If the Lake Powell reservoir ends up polluted, it is likely that the cost of the mine imposed on third parties exceeds the total value of the mine’s output over its entire life.
Economists call these costs “external costs” or “social costs.” The mine made its profits by creating pollutants, the cost of which is born by those who had no share in the profits.
As this is the way regulated capitalism works, you can imagine how bad unregulated capitalism would be. Just think about the unregulated financial system, the consequences we are still suffering with more to come.
Despite massive evidence to the contrary, libertarians hold tight to their romantic concept of capitalism, which, freed from government interference, serves the consumer with the best products at the lowest prices.
Progressives have their own counterpart to the libertarians’ romanticism. Progressives regard government as the white knight that protects the public from the greed of capitalists.
Everyone, and most certainly libertarians and progressives, should read Jeffrey St. Clair’s book, Born Under A Bad Sky (2008). St. Clair is an engaging writer, and his book is rewarding on many levels. If you have never floated the Western rivers or met the challenge of treacherous rapids or camped among mosquitoes and rattlesnakes, you can experience these facets of life vicariously with St. Clair, while simultaneously learning how corruption in the Park Service, the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management results in timber companies, mining companies, and cattle ranchers making money by plundering national forests and public lands.
The public subsidies provided to miners, loggers, and ranchers are as extravagant and as harmful to the public interest as the subsidies that the Federal Reserve and Treasury provide to the “banks too big to fail.” …