It’s the Profits, Stupid!

The Triumph of Colonial Ideology

To many, the climate emergency appears inevitable and insoluble. The average colonized journalist ignores the most obvious options, hampered by a corporate colonial ideology that removes such options from the table. The old, and outdated analysis, which simplistically paints the world in terms of “public” versus “private”, or, “socialist” versus “capitalist”, cannot recognize “common sense” as the antidote.

To start from square one, is to analyze an economy (and a society) in terms of its productive capacity, its economic surplus (the product of its resource endowment and its collective labour) and the allocation of that surplus to maximize the welfare of its citizens in accordance with its values.

Free of the colonized ideology, it doesn’t take a genius to see that the allocation of our social and economic surplus today is woefully out of line with our professed values and inappropriate to the challenges we face collectively. Instead, as previous posts have pointed out, our current system rewards the very forces that threaten our, and the globe’s, survival.

How can that be? Clearly, it results from our handing the job of distribution to the private marketplace, dominated as it is today by massive monopolistic corporations, that operate outside of, or under ineffective, state control. We have been brain-washed into believing we are better off ceding those crucial decisions to a self-interested, incredibly well-heeled social minority. That’s not common sense. That’s colonization!

Our democracy, which we might have expected to provide us with the tools to rectify the situation, has also been captured by these undemocratic economic monsters, whose self-serving definition of the world now determines what is acceptable in our discourse.  

The belief that private sector decision-making is inherently more efficient (more effective) than public decision-making is not credible on the face of it, but like all manifestations of fundamentalism, it is powerfully espoused by its adherents, despite all evidence to the contrary.

The market, such as it is, is anything but free and private, dependent as it is today on the public sector to shield it from its true costs and externalities.

A prime example:

Canada’s largest oil companies like to talk about their commitment to the questionable technology of carbon capture and storage as their answer to their production emissions. But, after a year of unprecedented profits (more than $40 Billion and counting), the industry has allocated peanuts to back up that commitment. Instead, the industry is whining about the need for billions more in public support for what is in free capitalist terms, a cost entirely attributable to their production.

A market that allocated all true costs of production, including environmental externalities, to the enterprises responsible would by now have made further investment in Alberta’s oil sands uneconomic. Colonized government and public indulgence are the key factors behind the industry’s record profitability.

Another example:

A new report from Clean Energy Canada concludes that new wind and solar installations, combined with battery storage, are now cheaper to build than new gas-powered generation facilities for grid-scale electricity. That is true even here in Alberta with our abundant natural gas resources, and even more so in Ontario.

In both provinces, privatisation and captured energy regulators hamper the possibility of doing the right thing – cancelling plans to expand more expensive gas generation and replacing it with investment in wind and solar generation and storage.


This is not the free market at work. There is no such thing. This is the result of private corporate decision-making abetted by a captured, corrupted political system, and a colonized public discourse that prevents us from seeing clearly.

We could do something about it if we chose to, but not without decolonizing our thinking and welcoming common sense back to the table.

One other ingredient would help – true political leadership, strangely absent when we need it most. More on that in a future post.

By Peter Puxley

Hi, I'm Peter Puxley, an economist, geographer and urban planner by academic training, and a political organizer/activist, development educator, journalist, policy wonk, researcher and political staffer by practice. I have tried my hand at poetry, fiction and non-fiction writing, some of which has been published.

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