Last week, amidst the coldest weather I’ve endured since Haerbin (-23 degrees!) Tuck hosted speakers from across the U.S. for its leading graduate student-run annual conference on sustainability and responsible business.
Thanks to our panel managers’ keen eyes for talent, and the moderation of our professors-in-residence, discussions were kept “pithy, provocative, and particular” – not to mention humorous.
But, while most panelists yeah-sayed in reply to this year’s theme (“Is Capitalism Sustainable?”) what really struck me were two recurring points raised throughout the conference:
1) Capitalism fails to effectively deal with externalities and long term horizons; and – perhaps more importantly
2) People value consumption, not efficiency.
Either one of these notions is a discussion unto itself but the second point is of specific interest and – having worked for a company that promotes efficiency – concern. As our GEM (General Accounting for Managers) professor instructs us that ‘pushing out the PPF’ (Production Possibilities Frontier – aka “the hill of happiness”) is always better I can’t help but wonder: is it?
Every time technological advances have increased energy efficiency, for example, increased consumption has pushed energy use back out to its original level or beyond. But can we continually increase our consumption without consequence?
I think, quite clearly, the answer is no. So where do we go from here?