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<TITLE>E.3 Does economic power affect pollution controls? </TITLE>
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<H1>E.3 Does economic power affect pollution controls? </h1>
<P>
In the last section (<a HREF=secE2.html>E.2</a>), we noted that wealth can affect how
environmental and other externalities are dealt with in a capitalist
system. This critique, however, deliberately ignores other important
factors in society, such as the mobility of capital and its resulting
economic and political power. These are important weapons in ensuring
that the agenda of business is untroubled by social concerns, such as
pollution.
<P>
Let us assume that a company is polluting a local area. It is usually the 
case that capitalist owners rarely live near the workplaces they own,
unlike workers and their families. This means that the decision makers do
not have to live with the consequences of their decisions. The
"free market" capitalist argument would be, again, that those affected by the
pollution would sue the company. We will assume that concentrations of
wealth have little or no effect on the social system (which is a <B>highly</B>
unlikely assumption, but never mind). Surely, if local people did
successfully sue, the company would be harmed economically -- directly, in
terms of the cost of the judgement, indirectly in terms of having to
implement new, eco-friendly processes. Hence the company would be
handicapped in competition, and this would have obvious consequences for
the local (and wider) economy.
<P>
Also, if the company were sued, it could simply move to an area that 
would tolerate the pollution. Not only would existing capital move, but
fresh capital would not invest in an area where people stand up for their
rights. This -- the natural result of economic power -- would be a <B><I>"big
stick"</B></I> over the heads of the local community. And when combined with the
costs and difficulties in taking a large company to court, it would make
suing an unlikely option for most people. That such a result would occur
can be inferred from history, where we see that multinational firms have
moved production to countries with little or no pollution laws and that
court cases take years, if not decades, to process.
<P>
Furthermore, in a "free market" society, companies that gather lists of
known "trouble-makers" would be given free reign. These "black lists" of
people who could cause companies "trouble" (i.e. by union organising or
suing employers over "property rights" issues) would often ensure
employee "loyalty," particularly if new jobs need references. Under wage
labour, causing one's employer "problems" can make one's position
difficult. Being black-listed would mean no job, no wages, and little
chance of being re-employed. This would be the result of continually
suing in defence of one's "absolute" property rights -- assuming, of
course, that one had the time and money necessary to sue in the first
place. Hence working-class people would be in a weak position to defend
their "absolute" rights in free market (or "libertarian") capitalism 
due to the power of employers both within and without the workplace. 
<P>
All these are strong incentives <B>not</B> to rock the boat, particularly if
employees have signed a contract ensuring that they will be fired if they
discuss company business with others (e.g. lawyers, unions), 
<P>

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