The Environmental Endgame: Mainstream Economics, Ecological Disaster, and Human Survival

By Robert L. Nadeau | Go to book overview

8
AN UNNATURAL RELIGION
The Telos of the Market Consensus

Free trade is the religion of our age. With its heaven in the global economy,
free trade comes complete with comprehensive analytical and philosophical
underpinnings. But in the final analysis, free trade is less an economic strategy
than a moral degree. Although it pretends to be value-free, it is fundamentally
value-driven.

DAVID MORRIS

The eighteenth-century authors of new narratives about democratic sys- tems of government and free-market economies posited the existence of two sets of natural laws that they viewed as ontologically equivalent to the laws of Newtonian physics. They assumed that one set of natural laws governed the movement and interaction of people in political reality and that another governed the movement and interaction of people in eco- nomic reality. Virtually all of these figures firmly believed that both sets of laws originated in the perfect mind of the Creator of the mechanistic universe. But they did not assume that the two sets of laws operate in con- cert, or that the existence of democratic governments was dependent on the preexistence or simultaneous development of what the French more accurately call laissez-faire market systems.

My intent in this chapter is to demonstrate that the market or Washing- ton consensus is predicated on this assumption and functions as a quasi- religious belief system. In this belief system, the primary article of faith is that the lawful or lawlike mechanism associated with the natural laws of economics will necessarily result in a new global order in which all eco- nomies will be free-market systems and all governments will operate in accordance with the principles of democratic capitalism. Later in this chapter, we will examine the origins of the market or Washington con-

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