Whose Problem? Part 2: The Government

December 13, 2011 § 1 Comment

Last week, I asked myself, and all of you, a seemingly simple question. Whose problem is sustainability? The government? Businesses? Individuals? Schools? I’m about to continue showing you how not simple this question is, while trying to cover multiple sides of the issue.

Today’s topic: The government. What can/can’t they do? Is it their problem?

Why it is.

Business regulation. Under the current interpretation of our constitution, Congress and other governmental bodies DO have the right to regulate business. Therefore, they make it their business to regulate corporate CO2 emissions, waste, etc. They also, at more local levels, provide for sanitation systems, therefore making how much waste you produce very much their problem. Lastly, the government is there to “provide for the common welfare.” If we can’t breathe because our air is polluted, the public welfare has not been provided for. Clearly, the responsibility then falls to the government to fix this situation.

Why it should be.

Many philosophies (cynicism, the work of Hobbes, etc) are based on the belief that humans are inherently bad. Therefore, government is needed to step in and force them to do the right (in this case the sustainable) thing. Empirical evidence also shows that with many other policies (racial equality and civil rights, for example) that to most seem pathetically obvious, required intense government intervention to make happen. Likewise, the government should treat this as a similarly important situation and fix it now.

Why it isn’t.

Once again, free enterprise. By this belief, businesses have the right to do as they please, no matter what. More so, even when the government goes against free enterprise, businesses often just ignore the regulations, as enforcement is not usually very effective.

Why it shouldn’t be.

As I’ve said before, free enterprise is considered by many to trump everything else. Additionally, many believe that under this doctrine, businesses and individuals need to take matters into their own hands. Importantly, if these businesses would take matters into their own hands, it almost always shows financial gain if done right.
And so the tangled web expands. Keep watching for tomorrow’s post, where we look at the significance of the individual.

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