Teddy Goldsmith

A both odd and endearing figure. It\’s worth reading \”A Blueprint for Survival\” (it\’s out there on the net if you cannot find a paperback version).

Yes, lots of it is wrong but it was one of the first places (outside of the academic literature like Pigou etc) where we see the essential point: that externalities have to be put into market prices. He described it as people must pay the true cost of their actions, but it\’s the same point.

Monbiot has been hugely influenced by him and at the heart of both of their view of the world is this point:

I realised that the root problem was economic development.

That this is crazed lunacy still doesn\’t mean that Teddy didn\’t make some interesting points as well.

1 thought on “Teddy Goldsmith”

  1. An interesting read.

    “Yes, lots of it is wrong but it was one of the first places […] where we see the essential point: that externalities have to be put into market prices.”

    Huh? I thought what he said was that his fantasies had to be put into market prices.

    The problem he recognised was that all the things he believed were happening to bring about the eco-Apocalypse, the market took absolutely no account of. He figured that they must therefore be externalities, and would have to be inserted artificially. The possibility that the market didn’t account for them because they weren’t actually true apparently never occurred. Although he was told, it seems:

    “The prospect of severe food shortages within the next thirty years is not so much a fantasy as that of the continued abundance promised us by so many of our politicians.”

    Tch! Politicians, eh? If only they had brought back rationing, while there was still time…

    There’s a fundamental problem with accounting for externalities – without a market, there is no market mechanism for trading costs and setting an optimum price – so it’s purely a matter of opinion what price you should put on them. Usually that’s the opinion of the person demanding that everybody else should obey their personal wishes.

    Theoretically, it could work, but in practice the cure is often worse than the disease. And as Teddy showed, there’s nothing to stop someone declaring their whims and fantasies to be “externalities” and imposing them on the market, too.

    Anyway, according to his figure 1, we all ran out of energy and died in 1990. So there’s no point in trying to discuss it now, as we have no electricity to power our computers. This is probably all a hallucination brought on by starvation.

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