Politics

Free Markets for Some

By Jason Leach
Published October 01, 2006

Do you enjoy free markets? Not if you live in one of the poor nations of the world. An article in Saturday's Hamilton Spectator sheds some light on the horrendous practice of Western nations dumping their toxic waste in the worlds poorest nations.

So often we hear news stories about folks in other parts of the world who "hate our freedom and wealth". The longer I live in this society the more clear it becomes that people don't hate freedom or wealth.

What they hate is the manner in which we treat the rest of the world in order to live our everyday lives with cars, electronics, oil, food and clothing.

Whether it's sweatshops paying little girls pennies to make your next clothing purchase or destroying the ability of entire nations and cities to grow their own food so we can extract every last drop of oil from under them, Western society has taken a drastic turn for the worst over the past few decades.

Now we're talking about using precious dwindling food resources to fuel our vehicles because we don't feel we should have to pay the real costs for filling up our tanks.

We buy new computers, radios, phones and other electronics laced with toxic materials even though our current computers, radios and phones are just fine.

Many in our society still think this is a "free market". Yeah, but only if you live in the rich West. Otherwise your life has no value or worth.

We hear a lot of talk about sustainability and "human rights" on our local TV stations. When will we actually start taking responsibility for the choices we make and recognize that we're no more important than the small child in Uganda?

Preferably sooner than later, before any positives our civilization has provided are undone by the never-ending stream of news stories like this one.

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 02, 2006 at 11:49:48

as an added note....our best option for seeing various governments and corporations take responsbility for their actions is at election time. Although it seems that every political party has no plans to see these actions change, citizens need to make it an election issue that provincial, state and federal governments will pay attention to. Unfortunately, I think the only way that point will ever be made properly is to have a massive 'non-vote' protest in an election. You'd like to hope that a government might wake up a little if only 8 or 10% of the population were to vote...on the other hand, that's probably what they want.

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By rusty (registered) - website | Posted October 02, 2006 at 12:45:05

Good points Jase, however I don't agree with your suggestion that we hold governments exclusively accountable for this. Governments aren't miracle workers and, as we have seen with the last few terms of Canadian government, any hope of real leadership on any issue is probably unrealistic at this point.

We also need to hold our corporations and ourselves accountable for this. The way we behave, and the purchases and investments we make, all factor into this problem.

One of the fundamental issues with the 'free market' model we follow is that Corporate success is currently defined by profitability - and nothing else. "We've had a great year!" a corporation will say, when they've increased revenues and met profitability targets. Governments are happy because they claim corporate taxes. Employees are happy cos they get bonuses and keep their jobs. But often there is a hidden cost - sometimes a bigger cost - to this 'success'. Did the corporation exploit any workers in achieving it's results? Was the environment harmed? There is no measure for such things on the Corporations General Ledger, but we all pay in the end.

It's all about choices and educating each other. Yes, we should look to our elected officials for leadership, but we, as consumers, can also contribute by raising our awareness of these issues and making choices accordingly. We are all accountable for this.

Cheers

Ben

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 02, 2006 at 15:44:38

Rusty, you're correct. In my initial blog I said
"When will we actually start taking responsibility for the choices we make and recognize that we're no more important than the small child in Uganda?" I added the comment on governments and corporations after re-reading my intial post and realizing that I only held individuals responsible....all 3 (individual, corporate, governement) are responsible to act in a humane and decent manner. I heard a stat recently that said "there are now more TV's in America than people."
It seems consumerism is so deeply rooted in our society now that there is virtually no hope of governments or corporations urging changes to how we treat the rest of the world. At the end of the day, I think decisions made by individuals is really going to be the best way of showing the other 2 parties that we want change.

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