The Environmental Crisis and Capitalism

Fred Magdoff: What I would end with is just a couple of ideas — not to give you a blueprint of another type of system but a couple of ideas of what it might be like.  I would say one in which basically the economy and politics are both under social control, under democratic social control.  Right now the economy is not under social control at all, it’s under very much private control, and I would say a good part of our political system is also under private control even though theoretically it’s under social control. . . .  So what you need is really a regulation of the economy and politics by the democratic process.  Goods and services would be produced for the purpose of satisfying real human needs, not manufactured ones, and not for the purpose of profit.  I think it was Richard Levins . . . who said: “Agriculture is not about producing food,” agriculture is “about profit.  Food is a side effect.”  The health care industry is not about producing health, it’s about producing profits.  Health is a side effect.  So, what I’m saying is that we need a system where agriculture is about producing food for people, it’s not about producing profits for Monsanto or any of the other companies.  This really will necessitate an economic plan.  If you are going to produce something for a purpose, you’ve got to have some system of planning.

Fred Magdoff is professor emeritus of plant and soil science at the University of Vermont.  He is co-author (with John Bellamy Foster) of What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know About Capitalism (Monthly Review Press, 2011).  This panel discussion (with Daniel Fireside and Lawrence Susskind) on 11 March 2013 was sponsored by the Technology and Culture Forum at MIT.  Video by Doug Greene.  The text above is an edited partial transcript of Magdoff’s talk.

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