Natural capitalism and social ecology offer viable alternatives to capitalism. Natural capitalism favors a form of collectivism which flows from the needs of the many to meet the needs of the few. Natural capitalism does not deny the importance of profit in society or the ability of a market system to create wealth. Rather, it acknowledges that profit is necessary for proper investment and growth, and it supports and encourages the development of various forms of enterprise ranging from small-scale enterprises to large-scale projects. This ideology also tends to minimize the role of private property in the process of economic development.
Natural capitalism believes that natural systems can provide the means for humans and other life forms to survive and flourish. Natural capitalism also places a high importance on the rights of the landowner to regulate their ecosystem. Natural capitalism also favors the development of social ecological systems through voluntary action and private property ownership. It also favors an economic model based on individual and community self-sufficiency and environmental sustainability.
Contrary to popular belief, a "natural" capitalism does not necessarily equate to a "social" capitalism. In fact, there are several notable supporters of natural capitalism who are part of the conservative right wing in modern society. Most Tea Party members, for instance, are avid opponents of big government programs, particularly those that help provide health care and assistance to the poor and disabled. However, many more on the far right are outspoken advocates for home-based business, favored by the Koch brothers and others in the free-market movement. Natural capitalism and social ecology are fundamentally different philosophies, but they do share some common notions about the way in which the economy should function.
Both capitalism economic systems deny the existence of a hierarchy in society. Natural capitalism assumes that people and businesses are self-employed equals. It also believes that wealth is produced through the process of entrepreneurial enterprise. The only real hierarchy in the economy occurs through the institution of gender roles. Women usually are the primary wage-earner while the husband is the provider of care and family.
Natural capitalism also places great emphasis on the ability of markets to determine the value of goods and services. It does not believe that government intervention is needed to level the playing field. In the case of the free-market system, competition drives prices down to consumers' real cost, forcing producers to lower their prices to remain in business. Natural capitalism, however, believes that government action is necessary to protect consumers from fraud or other manipulation. In the case of businesses, the lack of government regulation allows corporations to use their power to extract high rates of profit from labor and resources.
Natural capitalism differs from social ecology in its support of free markets. Social ecology, in particular, opposes the ability of large corporations to manipulate and benefit from the natural resources of the society in which they operate. Natural capitalism believes that the free market allows both producers and consumers to set appropriate prices. Natural capitalism also believes that large companies have a duty to their customers to respond to the needs of their consumers by offering them relevant products and services. However, a company that operates within this paradigm often fails to do so because it believes it is its responsibility to maximize profits at all costs.
Social ecology believes that humans should interact with nature and that the earth's ecosystems provide optimal living conditions for all of the inhabitants. Because of this belief, it opposes the wasteful use of earth's resources such as oil, forests, and coal. It also advocates the development of "green technology" such as solar and wind power in order to eliminate dependence on foreign sources of energy. Green capitalism also promotes community involvement and environmental education as ways to make corporations more responsible corporate citizens.
Natural capitalism and social ecology oppose each other politically and fundamentally in their ideology. Because of this, these ideologies are rarely compatible. Natural capitalism is a cause of concern to environmentalists whereas social ecology is not. This difference has led to a lack of cooperation on the part of the environmental left. This has been a particular problem in the United States, which has led some groups to focus exclusively on environmentalism.
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