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Solutions beyond partisanship

The Australian recently published my op ed on why the Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, should act decisively and boldly to create economic incentives for business to invest in a low carbon economy.

You might be wondering how I managed to convince a conservative publication to run an op ed about a “progressive” issue like climate change. It’s precisely this ability to cross - or transcend - the traditional partisan divide that I believe is a strength of the Universal Commons framework.

For those of you who don’t obsess about the shortcomings of capitalism every day, here is a very brief recap of our framework.

The Universal Commons Project supports capitalism, whereby private property and markets are the prime drivers of economic activity and resource allocation. At the same time, it acknowledges that when the rules governing capitalism are inadequate, business is able to profit at the expense of the common good.

We brand this behaviour as “Parasitic Capitalism”. Importantly - and this is when the Universal Commons framework eludes classification as either “left” or “right” - we agree with Milton Friedman that the business of business is business. It is merely a tool of society, just like the judiciary or the public service.

We do not blame business when the rules it follows are unsatisfactory. We do not blame business for emitting CO2e. In the absence of rules taxing or limiting CO2e emissions, a business that invests in emission reductions will be at a cost disadvantage to one that does not. If, however, CO2e emissions were taxed or capped, their true cost would be reflected in the market, and business would quickly work out how to make profits with lower carbon emissions. Those who could not adapt would quickly fail.

This framework makes it possible to create a narrative for change in the middle ground between left and right: we are pro-market, and yet we recognise that it's the rules, from property rights to environmental regulations, that make markets work.

This framing enabled me to argue that while the business of business is to make a profit, capitalism depends on a rule-making process that isn't distorted by private interests. Business lobby groups who oppose climate action are simply destructive. They undermine the market on which we all depend, and they must be stared down by a strong leader who serves the common good of Australia.


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