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Left, Right & Christ: A Book Excerpt
THE REGULATION OF GOVERNMENT
"The ultimate solution," Karnani says, "is government regulation. Its greatest appeal is that it is binding. Government has the power to enforce regulation. No need to rely on anyone's best intentions." In a WSJ podcast interview Karnani uses the problem of pollution as an example:51
Karnani: When companies manufacture certain products, they pollute the environment. The only way to produce less pollution is for the company to make less profit. We cannot expect companies to do this voluntarily out of some sense of corporate responsibility motive. So, now we need society to set pollution standards. That is the role of government. That is the role of the political mechanisms we have set up in society to determine the appropriate pollution levels that we are willing to tolerate.
Interviewer: Does that regulation also impact shareholders of the company?
Karnani: Absolutely. When we regulate pollution like that it will penalize the company, because it will have to follow these standards. So, for example, companies are not allowed to burn sulfur coal and they are mandated to put in place some pollution-reducing equipment. This clearly hurts profits, but we think it's in society's interests to do this.
Interviewer: So, maybe the shareholders are less upset about taking those necessary steps?
Karnani: They might be upset, but they have to follow the law. And it's up to society to make these trade-offs between profits and, in this particular case, pollution.
Author and historian Clifford Cobb, makes several practical recommendations for the dismantling of global neo-liberal, free-market capitalism. In addition to government regulation of multi-national corporations, Cobb recommends debt forgiveness for undeveloped and developing countries, the end of privatization of natural resources, and land reform such that the people who work the land own it--not multi-national corporations. In ancient Israel, God constructed a system where the Israelites could only lease land, because the land was for the good of the nation not individuals and ultimately it belonged to God. Likewise, land reform might only allow corporations to lease land under regulatory standards set by the developing country and with the understanding that the people own the land.52
Cobb also recommends restructuring taxes by doing away with wage and consumption taxes, which make the bulk of the burden fall on workers and the poor. Rather, Cobb says, "If justice is to be done, most of the taxes should fall on property ownership and not on wages, not on people."
In God's economy and in today's world, justice for all humanity requires appropriate limitation of liberty for businesses. It requires that we bow to the will of God concerning the well-being of people made in God's image. It requires that we value people more than money. It requires that we repent from our addiction to growth and consumption. Businesses don't have to be empires. It is usually best for society when they are not. Above all, we must depose the dominion of the market. The market is not God. God is God.
For more conversation and resources on Left, Right and Christ, visit the Patheos Book Club here.