Prices Should Include the Full Costs of Production

Ever feel like all your efforts to lower your carbon footprint are just not solving the climate problem? Bret Weinstein, agrees, it is not enough, in a TEDX talk on the “Personal Responsibility Vortex,

Our society lets corporations make money without taking responsibility for covering all their costs. As long as they can dump garbage, pollute air, land and water with toxics, waste resources, and overheat the climate without having to pay for these costs and damages, they will do it.

We expect businesses to add value to our society by creating products or processes that are helpful. However, many businesses do only what is in their own interest, regardless of the cost to society. Since these self-interested businesses tend be more competitive, they gradually push the beneficial businesses to focus more on short-term profit and the system evolves toward ruthlessness. Since the economy spills over into politics, the dynamic also concentrates wealth and power in people who are then able to veto any attempt to change the status quo.

We need to do two things, first require that all businesses engage in full cost accounting, putting every cost, every damage, every external consequence of production on public balance sheets. Then, require businesses to include all those costs in the prices of their products.

For individuals to choose low carbon options without working to change the system, feeds the vortex.

Weinstein suggests that if the founding fathers had been able to look into the future and see the mountaintop removal, deep sea drilling and high line logging, they would have put sustainability into the bill of rights.

We need to direct our efforts to “collective action that can restructure incentives that surround the market” and change the system.

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