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Journal 6: Who's in control
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Journal 6: Who's in control

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  • 1.   Who’s  in  control  ?     Journal  entry  29/10/2010   Steven  Lauwers     If   the   market   controls   policy,   or   even   imprisons   it   as   Charles   E.   Lindblom   i   argues,  how  do  we  strike  a  balance  between  the  interest  of  the  market  and  the   interest  of  “we,  the  people”?  Who  controls  whom?  And  how?       Firstly,   I   would   like   to   specify   the   market   I   talk   about   in   this   journal   as   the   market  as  economists  would  define  it:  the  place  where  sellers  offer  a  good  and   buyers  buy  the  good  at  a  certain  price.  In  economic  theory,  a  perfect  market  is   one   where   aggregate   consumer   and   producer   surplus   is   maximized   without   government  intervention.  In  reality  a  market  cannot  be  seen  as  the  interaction  of   only  the  consumer  and  the  producer.     Earlier   this   week   I   listened   to   an   extremely   interesting   talk   by   Joseph   Nye   on   TED.  ii  He  acknowledges  the  market  as  a  key  power  in  global  society,  but  also   emphasizes  that  it  is  merely  one  of  the  powers.  I  think  it  is  too  easy  to  just  say   the  market  controls  policy  and  that  is  just  the  way  it  is.  I  do  not  want  to  minimize   the  influence  of  the  market  on  society:  I  agree  with  the  general  train  of  thought   of  this  week’s  readings  in  that  markets  exert  a  very  strong  influence  on  policy   making.   I   would   however   argue   that   this   influence   is   kept   in   balance   by   all   players  involved  in  policy  making  and  that  the  market  does  thus  not  imprison   nor  control  today’s  society.  At  least,  no  more  than  it  is  allowed  to  by  society.     Normally  the  actions  of  a  democratically  elected  government  reflect  what  “we,   the  people”  want.  So  if  a  substantial  influence  of  environmentalists,  as  Keleman   and   Vogel   iii   describe,   is   able   to   push   the   political   agenda   so   much,   that   EU   member  states  become  very  vocal  supporters  of  environmental  policy,  I  wonder   in  how  far  the  market  was  part  of  this  change?  Granted,  the  government  will  not   be   able   to   push   the   most   extreme   environmental   regulations   that   will   reduce  
  • 2. firm’s   profit,   but   neither   will   it   be   able   to   defend   no   regulations   at   all   to   its   voters.  Is  this  not  merely  finding  a  balance  between  all  players  of  society?       As  J.  Nye  concludes  in  his  talk  iv,  I  would  also  like  to  think  the  interaction  with  the   market  is  not  necessarily  “zero  sum”,  your  loss  is  my  gain.  I  would  rather  like  to   think  we  are  playing  a  –  difficult  –  game  of  “positive  sum”:  my  gain  (for  example,   the  gain  of  society  from  carbon  emissions  reductions:  increase  in  health,  less  de-­‐ forestation,  reduced  costs  on  health  care,…  )  does  not  have  to  be  your  loss,  but   can   also   be   your   gain   (firms:   healthier   workers,   increased   sales   because   of   a   better  image  of  the  firm,…).  At  least  that’s  what  I’d  like  to  think.                                                                                                                     i  Lindblom,  Charles  (1982).  The  Market  as  Prison.  Journal  of  Politics,  44:  323-­‐336.   ii  TED  (2010).  Joseph  Nye  on  global  power  shifts.  Internet.   http://www.ted.com/talks/joseph_nye_on_global_power_shifts.html.  24.10.2010   iii  Kelemen,  R.  Daniel,  Vogel,  David  (2010).  Trading  Places:  The  Role  of   the  United  States  and  the  European  Union  in  International   Environmental  Politics.  Comparative  Political  Studies,  43(4):  427-­‐456.    

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