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Change systems not people: the folly of Anglo Saxon capitalism

A friend writes to me from Poland, bemoaning their Anglo-Saxon inspired recycling system for plastics which has pushed the onus onto the consumer, such as it is. Companies lobbied for this back in the day, (the 1990s) of course.

Meanwhile Private Eye magazine (essential reading if in/interested in the UK) reports that rather than invest further in much needed cost effective rail, we subsidise the tracks for licensed operators, then allow them to charge passengers huge fees for peak time seats, many of which then run empty.

These two anecdotes, and many others like them, remind us of the constant folly of pushing costs down to the consumer, making them pay for bad systems that then don’t get fixed.

Living in a more sustainable world is going to mean being a lot smarter about how we solve problems like plastics recycling or rail provision.

Anglo-Saxon capitalism loves to focus on the individual, as we all know.

It looks down on systems change as sounding socialist, and being dangerous.

In the past, under Communism, it was.

But now we’re going to need to rebalance our ideology and make systems better without turning then into blunt instruments.

The “change systems not people” argument is gaining traction with me more and more each day.

It’s no longer about whether we do it, it’s how and when.

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