Response to Roy Morrison Article by David Barkin

The note by Roy Morrison in a recent issue of the ISEE weekly bulletin (12 June 2014) poses serious questions for our Society. His affirmation that the way to achieve sustainability and end (sic!) poverty, is to adopt…

“a market based strategy catalyzed by government leadership in establishing new market rules helping guide consumption, production and investment decisions.”

It seems quite extraordinary at this point in history and in the development of the ISEE that a member of our organization would offer this stark statement in light of the widespread recognition among academics of the inability of markets to meet the challenges posed by the current triple crisis (environmental, social and economic).

Mr. Morrison then goes on to say, unabashedly that…

“The goal is an increase in sustainable jobs and wages for workers, in profits and earning per share for business and investors.”

These statements and the rest of the note were written without any consideration of the possibility that this approach itself might be part of the problem, as suggested by an important segment of the membership of the ISEE. The writer, a member of a consulting and finance group in Boston, seems unaware of this possibility and unmindful that the approach itself might be at the heart of the problem; he seems oblivious to the possibility that any solution requires abandoning the market to advance “sustainability”, his stated objective. Even more remarkable is his claim that market solutions can end poverty precisely when a consensus is developing in the USA that the market itself is an institution that perpetuates and accentuates inequality.

As a long-standing member of the ISEE, I would urge my colleagues to begin to become more explicit about our responsibility to guide academic analysis and debate in the crucial juncture. This letter reflects an underlying problem of the organization recently noted in important articles in our journal, Ecological Economics: the colonization of much of our public space by people who appear unaware of the roots of the field in the work of Nicolas Georgescu-Roegen and the current contributions of many of us who are concerned that public policy formulation is being captured by the wealthy and their academic and entrepreneurial advisors.

David Barkin
Messoamerican Society for Ecological Economics


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