Amongst the myriad of half-baked schemes, concepts and dogmas being promoted by our political overlords, one might have encountered innocuous and seemingly harmless mantras such as “Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance” (ESG), “Stakeholder Capitalism” and “Diversity and Inclusion”. This article will explain why these, amongst others, must necessarily become smokescreens for increasing state control over the means of production.
The basic problem underpinning human society is scarcity. At any one time, the demand for an economic good is greater than the available supply. For instance, if there is only one apple, it is physically impossible for that apple to be eaten by both you and me. Thus, if we both desire the apple, then there needs to be some mechanism of determining which, out of the two of us, should get to eat it. Libertarians solve this problem through the right to private ownership. He who is either the first possessor of the apple (“user-occupier”) or who has received that apple later through voluntary trade has the exclusive right to dispose of it.
It is not only consumer goods such as apples that are scarce at any one moment. So too are all of the machines, tools and factories that make up the totality of capital goods – goods which are used to produce other goods. By applying the same rules of private ownership to capital goods we form the basis of trade and exchange, market prices, profit and loss, capital accumulation and a flourishing economy. This, in the long run, will produce more consumer goods for everyone, vastly ameliorating the condition of scarcity over time. In short, there will be more apples available at lower prices.
Socialism has usually been tolerant of the private ownership of consumer goods. It rejects, however, private ownership in the realm of capital goods (“the means of production”), preferring instead “collective ownership”. But the notion of “collective ownership” is clearly nonsensical. The whole purpose of ownership, in response to the condition of scarcity, is to ensure that one person’s ends, vis-à-vis the good in question, are fulfilled, while the ends of others must yield.