Self-sustainability of markets

Note: this was posted in 1997 to an early internet
experiment. For more of my posts, please see
The Hyperforum on Sustainability.

a sustainable, global world -- the Earth

I would like to agree with you and Rob about the link between markets and democracy. We need to explore the nature of this link further.

The draft synthesis poses the following dilemma.

Is the Present unprecedented and thus requires policy-driven political intervation on a large scale and of high near-term costs to avoid global disaster by 2050? Or can incremental evolution of technologies, market mechanisms and decentralized forms of governance lead the world into a more robust economic, political, and environmental future if left relatively unfettered.

The answer, as they doubtless expect us to say, is “None of the above, at least in the forms mentioned.” As you clearly point out, “Left to themselves, markets do not seem to stay free . . . ” On the other hand, the futility of top-down, policy-driven political intervention to artificially maintain desired conditions seems obvious.

The question seems to be how to develop intelligent policy-driven political intervation that might work. I think that one of the important parts of your remarks is the observation that a free market “is certainly not sufficient, not even for its own sustainability.” This seems key, for two reasons.

  • It underlines the fact that such markets have internal laws. It’s too easy to get excited about perceived positive or negative first order consequences of institutions like free markets and to use scenarios to extrapolate these consequences beyond the usable range as a means of generating political support or opposition. The job of forums like ours should be to get clearer about how such things actually work.
  • It supplies a direction for at least a partial answer to figuring out what policy driven interventions are needed. If we are striving for sustainability, then, at a minimum, we need to design markets with internal sustaining mechanisms that would keep them free. Therefore, we need to think about what the necessary conditions are.

Fri, 21 Feb 1997 03:01:12 GMT

For more, please see
The Hyperforum on Sustainability.

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