From Elinor Ostrom’s speech upon receipt of the 2009 Nobel Prize for Economics: Christmas has been largely hijacked by capitalism, it is true – but the underlying desire to meet another’s need and fulfill a loved one’s dream has neither died, nor is it likely to as long as human beings exist. Many of us shop ‘til we drop to find that perfect gift.
Of course, we all now realize that there is another invisible price tag attached to what we buy: it has to do with human health and the environment on which our health depends. That second price tag also involves the poor health of slave labourers in those countries to whom our profit-hungry corporations outsource as much work as possible, and our own health when we buy goods made by that slave labour – goods often laced with all kinds of chemical toxins in fabrics, foods, furniture, electronics, etc. The wealth of a nation can now be readily interpreted in terms of the health of its people. The pursuit of profit has brought a great deal of sickness to people and to our natural support system – the world of plants, animals, water, earth, and air. The core problem, however, is something very unemotional: economic inefficiency based on illusions about reality and negative assumptions about human nature.