Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol. 36, No 11 May 30th, 1973
Turnovsky's Shirts Versus The N.Z. People
Turnovsky's Shirts Versus The N.Z. People
When it was suggested in Salient (March 21) that the main ecological problem was capitalism, certain people expressed disbelief and shock. But if these doubters missed a lecture given by Mr Turnovsky, President of the Manufacturer's Federation, to an Ecology Action group on May 2, they missed an opportunity to dispel their doubts. Mr Turnovsky's illogical arguments in defence of capitalism, and his economic questionable economic theories, betrayed the villain in his lair. One member of the audience was so shocked that he felt obliged to conclude that the New Zealand Manufacturers' Federation was opposed to the interests of the New Zealand people.
The Economics of Shirt Packaging
Mr Turnovsky, the man who acknowledges the concern of manufacturers for the environment, started with a discussion of shirts and their packaging. Shirt packaging makes the shirt look nice, sell better and it also makes the shirt cheaper!!! He cited the case of a manufacturer who tried to sell his shirts without packaging, and who lost sales as a result. For as long as competition exists, the packaging and promotion of shirts is necessary. Packaging can only be eliminated if competition is abandoned: if the principle of production for profit is replaced by the principle of production for use.
Mr Turnovsky was then faced with a dilemma: it was suggested to him that if shirts were not packaged they would be cheaper, and that therefore people might buy more of them. To answer this charge, two lines of approach were necessary. Firstly, the removal of packaging from shirts would cause fewer shirts to be bought in total. Although Mr Turnovsky dislikes the inconvenience of shirt packaging, he buys more shirts because they are packaged! He must be some kind of masochist.
To help to try and make this argument seem rational, he tried to prove that un-packaged shirts would be more expensive! There were two reasons for this; one was that transportation costs would be higher for unpackaged shirts because they would not be in uniformly-sized boxes. Never mind the reduction in both size and weight because of the removal of packaging, pins, etc from the shirt! However, it was also claimed that packaging costs would be outweighed by "economics of sale". The implication being that unpackaged shirts would result in the loss of the benefits of large-scale production. This statement is a nonsensical lie: there is no relationship whatever between packaging and the achieving of economies of scale. Such bullshit arguments as these are the justification of forcing people to pay an extra dollar for their shirts.
The Litter Problem is All in the Mind
But, says Mr Turnovsky, the environment conscious manufacturer, it is not right to blame industry for the littering. After all, it is people who do the littering they get the environment they deserve. Littering is a social disease of modern society, the only remedy for which is to force people to change their views. Plastic packaging enables goods to be presented to the consumer in a convenient manner and cleanly, and if the packaging is inconvenient to dispose of and thus becomes litter, then that is the fault of the consumer. But as Mr Turnovsky pointed out, plastics constitute a mere 0.3% of solid waste, and therefore non-biodegradable plastics cannot possibly be a problem ecologically. He also said that because 95% of bottles are returned, there is no glass waste problem either. Perhaps Mr Turnovsky should go and look at a few beaches covered in broken glass, or cut his foot on a half-buried broken beer bottle. But our environment-minded gentleman sees manufacturers as being entirely innocent of the littering of the country with cans, and bottles, and plastic containers.
Z.E.G. entails Z.P.G.
What Mr Turnovsky had really come to talk about was economic growth. It was useless, he said, to talk about zero economic growth while population was increasing, because this could only result in declining standards of living. This assumes that those people who call for zero economic growth do not presuppose zero population growth but they do. Even the Values Party managed to make Z.P.G. a precondition for zero economic growth.
The main argument that was used to emphasize the importance of economic growth was that growth is necessary if we are to be able to afford to clean up the environment, and to provide more and better cultural and recreational facilities. In terms of economic theory, this argument is totally invalid. These facilities, and the costs involved with them, can be provided by diverting to these ends the resources that would otherwise be used for growth.
To say, with Mr Turnovsky, that manufacturing has the growth potential to generate wealth to combat pollution is a "Mitsubishi" argument. Mitsubishi create industrial complexes, and then get the contracts to build the motorways to facilitate the Japanese government's policies of decentralisation. Mitsubishi are the pillar of Japanese heavy industry, but in one year, 1972, they sold $170 million worth of anti-pollution equipment in Japan alone. But Mr Turnovsky thinks that it is good business for the polluters to make profits out of combatting pollution — after all, it is necessary for the survival of Tokyo.
Another reason advanced for the necessity of economic growth, especially in manufacturing, was the reduction of dependence on agricultural exports that would result. Mr Turnovsky managed to give a good reason for economic growth, even if he was not able to explain the argument behind it. The problem is that New Zealand has what might be descibed as a colonial economy, since it is primarily an exporter of raw materials. This means that, because of the economic growth that is taking place in the countries that are our markets, the proportion of agricultural produce consumed in these countries is declining, and hence the relative prices of New Zealand's agricultural exports must be declining. But a policy of zero economic growth will preferably be implemented in the world's most advanced countries first, or otherwise the extremes in wealth that already exist throughout the world will be accentuated.
Attacking the Environment
Mr Turnovsky then raised the argument that zero economic growth had no relevance to environmental and conservation issues any way. While the National Government had held power, there had, for a time, been no economic growth, but the environment had still been attacked with power projects and other such schemes. But, here again, our environment-minded manufacturer appears to have missed the whole point at issue. Admittedly the depletion of natural resources can still take place while there is zero economic growth, but a drastic change in attitude is implied. When zero economic growth is aimed at, there is no need to build a road over the Heaphy Track to increase the numbers of tourists passing through the Westport and Collingwood areas, in order to increase total Japanese and U.S. spending in this country. There is no need to establish a beech forest industry to increase employment on the West Coast and to increase our foreign exchange earnings of Japanese yen. For zero economic growth means zero new industrial development. When industrial development policies might have been in conflict with the environment, industrial development will lose out. Also, zero new industrial development implies that there is no longer any rationale for industry to earn profits for itself. In fact, it is very likely that as business continues to earn profits, a state of over production will develop, and a great economic depression will occur. This is the Marxian description of the condition for the end of capitalist society. Perhaps that is why Mr Turnovsky is so hostile to the policy of zero economic growth.
The Hypocrisy of the Values Party
Mr Turnovsky introduced another argument in favour of economic growth in the form of an attack upon the qualifications of those who advocate zero economic growth. There are people in New Zealand who can be considered poverty-stricken. However, the people who advocate zero economic growth are those who have sufficient material wealth — from which it appears that our true-blue, but environmentally aware capitalist recognises the inadequacy and hypocrisy of the Values Party. Mr Turnovsky has apparently consulted the F.O.L. on this point. According to him, Mr Skinner desires economic growth because it will increase the real incomes of his workers. This could be interpreted as yet another instance of the Muldoonist attitude to industrial relations that the F.O.L. leadership adopt from time to time: the view that trade union action should be directed solely at increasing wages, and that other aspects of workers' welfare should be either assumed to not exist, or be ignored. As I pointed out above, zero economic growth would, of necessity, outlaw profits, and this must inevitably either increase real wages or permit a reduction in the hours of work. And of course, socialism's benefits to the worker are immeasurable — working class ownership of the means of production is just one of these. And with a more equitable distribution of the wealth of society, there could be plenty for everyone. It must be remembered that such a policy is directly contrary to the interests of Mr Turnovsky as a manu-facturer, whether he is conscious of environmental issues or not.
No Classes in this Society
But perhaps Mr Turnovsky's greatest problem is his view of New Zealand society. He denied flatly that there was any sort of class structure in this country, and proved his assertion by stating that he lived in the same street as Maoris and workers. In Mr Turnovsky's eyes, the interests of the Manufacturers' Federation are the interests of all New Zealanders. From what Mr Turnovsky says, we are led to conclude precisely the opposite: that there is a class of capitalists working above all for their own interests and in opposition to the interests of New Zealand and its people.