In view of my (qualified) support for Steven Pinker, some people will be surprised that I think the inclusion of opposition to capitalism in the list of 'extreme' positions under the Prevent programme for schools is wrong and foolish. My personal inclination is to favour a regulated form of capitalism (that is, regulated in ethical terms, not just standardised products) but I realise that may be impossible. Globalisation of crises and economic activity alike ensures that public regulation of capitalism and its corporations (already collectives in a sense) would have to be global in reach.

This is where Pinker's deepest problem comes in: popular identities and loyalties across the world, that is, human emotions, refuse to sanction a global authority that could exercise such reach.

The most powerful points made by Pinker's critics relate to global problems, like the precipitous decline of vertebrates, which threaten to render 'progress' a nonsense. As Goldin points out, nature does not respond to prices - his illustration is that a rise in the price of rhino horns does nothing for reproduction of rhinos.

Such thoughts point me to the nasty conclusion that steering capitalism in a healthy direction from a global perspective would require a (global) power able to ignore popular sentiment. At the same time, it is all too easy to imagine such a power without democratic accountability becoming oppressive and corrupt. In turn, if the effect of Prevent and its listings is to prevent young people from having the chance to think about such issues, then Prevent needs to be scrapped.


Blog home Next Previous