Wednesday, October 24, 2007

 

Monbiot Hits Northern Rock Bullseye


Sometimes George Monbiot's columns, though mostly excellent, can seem a bit heavy or depressing but I thought he was right on the money yesterday when discussing Matt Ridley, the widely published scientist and former head of Northern Rock. Ridley, in addition, to once chairing a bank is a robust defender of unfettered capitalism, which he views in Darwinian terms.

In his books Ridley argued that we all pursue selfish aims but that if people behave altruistically economically- with generosity and cooperation- they realise they earn the trust of others, thereby advancing their own interests. It followed, he argued, that if left alone by government, this genetic predisposition would enable mankind's benign behaviour to blossom and benefit us all.

Monbiot's counter argument is to accept the premise about selfishness but to argue that if left unfettered, by government or close community, we behave not well but badly, exploiting, maximising self at the expense of others. The history of capitalism in the 19th century and in its current globalised incarnation, proves Monbiot correct in my view.

But the bulls-eye hit in the article is the juxtaposition of Ridley's quote that:

-The little-known ninth law of thermodynamics states that the more money a group receives from the taxpayer, the more it demands and the more it complains.-

with the fact that this highly principled Darwinian's axiomatic beliefs lasted just as long as his company needed to stretch out its prehensile paw for that little matter of the state's £16 billion. No wonder he didn't get any pay-off.

Comments:
I'm not so sure. The C19th wasn't based on the free market. Rather, the corn laws and other protectionist measures reveal that it was a century of conservative capital and aristocracies.
 
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