The Capitalist System won, there is no doubt about it. The real Communists never had a chance and the dictatorships that ruled covered in its fig-leaf are mostly gone. That debate has been indefinitely postponed if not cancelled. The debate now is within the system to decide how unfettered it should be.
Markets can indeed create miracles. I do have a deep faith in fair and free markets, as do in free and fair elections. The thing about markets it that they work with monetary values.
Vital parts of the equation for a happy and healthy life have zero monetary value.
Imagine that you are a prospector in a sinleship on the gold-rush (well, helium-3-rush), in the Asteroid Belt. You will have to pay for everything you need to stay alive: air, water, radiation shelter, shelter (heat, pressure) etc. If you don’t buy that refill for you oxygen tank, you die. If you muck up the water recycling, you die. If you jettison radiation shielding to save on weight, you die in the next solar flare. If you can’t keep your ship’s insides within a few tens of degrees of normal because you didn’t replace the faulty thermostat, you freeze or fry.
Perhaps the cliche is old enough to have regained effect. The Earth is but a larger version of that spaceship. It provides services that appear to be free. There is no such thing as a free lunch.. The true costs of these services are becoming clear as these giant life-support systems begin to malfunction.
Even without the world-transforming change in viewpoints that would assign its proper valuation of many trillions of dollars to the planet’s ability to keep us alive and growing, we can begin the work of estimating.
Some things will be forever incapable of being priced, which is as it should be. On the other hand though, how much does the polluted air in LA and Athens and Mexico City, etc, cost in increased health care costs and unnecessary deaths? If one were to insure Bangladesh against submersion, what valuation would an insurance company give you? Ditto for Florida. What will be the cost of the cancers. etc, from the ozone hole? On a more pedestrian level, how much extra coal will we have to burn to keep our ACs in step with global warming? And how much will that contribute to global climate change?
If they want to force us to count beans, we shall. Even by their rules, we win.
And when we win, we come a step closer to changing the rules.
Unfortunately, the only other thing that will bring us closer to changing the rules will be even more widespread and bigger disasters.
The plight of the orange roughie (a particularly delicious fish which was apparently its great downfall) is another illustration of the tragedy of the commons. It is a slow maturing fish, typically needing something like a century before reaching sexual maturity, from the southern Pacific. Unfortunately for it, orange roughie became fashionable and has been hunted to commercial extinction and potentially even actual extinction. As stocks declined and the price went up, the fishermen became ever more determined to catch the fish.
What should the last orange roughie dinner cost?