Creating a Global Sustainable Future
The free market, limited government development model has been an ecological and social disaster for the developing world. Sustainable and equitable development is possible only with the active involvement of a strong central state that can guide the economy, protect the environment and prioritize meeting its people's basic needs.
In his latest book, The Sustainable State, Chandran Nair shows that the market-dominated model followed by the industrialized West is simply not scalable. The United States alone, with less than 5 percent of the world's population, consumes nearly a quarter of its resources. If countries in Asia, where 60 percent of the world's population lives, try to follow the western lead, the results will be calamitous. Instead, Nair argues that development must be directed by a state that is willing and able to intervene in the economy. Corporations, which demand ever-expanding consumption, need to be directed toward meeting societal needs or otherwise restrained, not unleashed. Development needs to be oriented toward the greatest good—clean drinking water for the many has to take precedence over swimming pools for the few.
Nair provides three compelling case studies demonstrating the benefits of such strong state governance and the failings of weak state governance. This will mean rethinking the meaning of concepts such as prosperity, freedom, and rights and whether democracy is always the best way to ensure responsive government. As Nair writes, "A democracy that cannot work to improve the life of its citizens is not better than a non-democracy that can actually improve quality of life." Many people will find these to be challenging ideas, but what Nair offers is a model suited to the realities of the developing world, not the assumptions of the dominant culture.
The Commonwealth Club
110 The Embarcadero
Toni Rembe Rock Auditorium
San Francisco, 94105
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