Billionaire investor, Jeremy Grantham, knows a lot about capitalism, how it works and when it doesn't. He's known for calling the last two major market bubbles. Now he sees a greater danger on the horizon - climate change - and warns that capitalism of the type so beloved to neoliberals, is making that danger utterly ruinous. Capitalism, he warns, is killing the planet.
"Capitalism and mainstream economics simply cannot deal with these problems. Mainstream economics largely ignore [them]," Grantham, who co-founded GMO in 1977, said Tuesday in an impassioned speech at the Morningstar Investment Conference in Chicago. "We deforest the land, we degrade our soils, we pollute and overuse our water and we treat air like an open sewer, and we do it all off the balance sheet."]
This negligence is due in large part to how short-sighted corporations can be, Grantham said. "Anything that happens to a corporation over 25 years out doesn't exist for them, therefore, as I like to say, grandchildren have no value" to them, he said.
Grantham also pointed out that many of the problems with how capitalists deal with climate change stem from the very nature of corporations. "A corporation's responsibility is to maximize profit, not to spend money and figure out how to save the planet," he said.It couldn't be plainer that corporate interests conflict with the public interest. Nowhere is this more apparent than in globalized free trade agreements of the type promoted by our prime minister and every one of his predecessors starting with Brian Mulroney and NAFTA.
These insidious pacts all contain the ultimate gift to capital, the Investor-State Dispute Settlement clause, that essentially yields significant elements of national sovereignty to the private sector, that can deter or even prevent government planning for the longterm well being of the public.
Whether Trudeau realizes the trade trap Canada is in is unknown. If he does he shows no sign of it. That he is such a cheerleader for expanded free trade deals suggests he does not.
The evidence mounts that capitalism is killing the planet. The trick is changing course. That will require the sort of leadership Canada hasn't known for many decades.