It is highly controversial whether the market economy brings prosperity to society. Yet, free economy advocates that “prosperity exists where liberalism and free market principles are firmly in place,” missing the second golden age from 1950s to mid-1970s derived from government intervention. Besides, they argue that countless problems such as absolute poverty, environmental problems, and so on can only be solved based on concrete adaptation of market economy (though it is often blamed for such troubles).
I remember one time when the lecture was about “Market Economy and Environmental Policies.” Increasing concerns on environmental problems is no longer a matter of a country but that of the global society. Traditionally, industrialization and market economy had been blamed for numerous social and environmental problems–with the notoriety of “race to the bottom.” The lecture, on the other hand, pinpointed how developed countries have better environmental standards than developing countries. It is a fact that developed countries are putting time, money, and effort to improve the environmental status while developing countries are expecting exemption on adopting environment-friendly regulations and moving toward “green growth.”
Considering the case of South Korea, it seems quite convincing that economic prosperity is making the situation better. In the 1960s, when South Korea was as poor as Ghana, Seoul was often referred to as “black city”–standing for impoverished environment due to industrialization. South Korea now has the 13th largest economy in the world. With pursuit of sustainable development, environment-friendly policies have been imposed by the government and South Korea is stepping towards the “green city.”
Some years ago, the Kyoto Protocol has been a hot potato that increased people’s interest in environment protection. Regardless of the fact that it ultimately failed, it still has meaning in the sense that it was the developed countries that gathered up and discussed about their duties and responsibilities toward environment.
Yes, it is the market economy that is taking responsibilities and solving problems of the globe today. Yet, no one should overlook the fundamental causes that led to such a mess.