Tongue firmly in cheek, Peter Knight offers corporate America the advice it wants to hear

American captains of industry are being driven to despair by the weak yuan and tough Chinese competition. But they can relax because I have found the solution to their problem.

Actually, that’s not quite true. Republican political strategists preparing for the next presidential election have pinpointed the problem: America’s social and environmental standards are far too high.

It’s quite simple, really. The causes of America’s decline are far too much environmental regulation; misplaced concerns about human rights; unnecessary worry about so-called socially responsible investors; and pandering to the views of those anti-business folks they call stakeholders.

In short, the quickest way to create US growth and prosperity is to trash this thing called the sustainability business case, which advocates a pursuit of quality, fairness and long-term thinking. We have no option but to pollute and pillage our way to prosperity.

It’s good to note that a star-spangled race to the bottom has begun in earnest. In the first nine months of this year the House of Representatives – Republican controlled – voted 168 times to dilute water and clean air legislation. At the same time it blocked proposals to protect public lands, provide protection against oil spills and do something about that taboo subject, climate change.

This is terrific news. Most US environmental laws – which many deluded foreigners mistook for leadership when they were passed in the 1960s and 1970s – have done nothing but hobble America’s industry.

How can you possibly compete with the Chinese when you have to treat your wastewater and send your hazardous leftovers to expensive specialists? A hole in the ground is all you need – it’s cheap and it creates jobs for the unskilled.

As for climate change, well, that pseudo-science mumbo-jumbo has been seen off, and not before time. It’s inspiring that only one (loser) candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, John Huntsman, pays any credence to the idea and is supported by a maximum of 2% of Republican voters.

Pleasing too is Barack Obama’s silence. When elected he promised a “new chapter in American leadership on climate change” but now assiduously avoids any mention of the subject – he is an astute politician and knows the climate holds little interest for voters.

Say no to carbon tax!

But America must keep on its guard. Just look how the silly Australians have passed a carbon tax and the bankrupt Europeans are trying to lay carbon charges on American aeroplanes that are foolish enough to land in Europe.

It’s true that energy prices continue to rocket and it makes sense to use those new-fangled light bulbs and maybe a fewer cylinders under the bonnet. But those nice Canadians have got lots of oil. True, it’s a bit tarry and mixed with sand, but it’s simple to pipe the gunk from the frozen north to Texas where America has the expertise to separate and refine it.

All that lefty moaning about the resultant carbon emissions means nothing because, as you know, carbon dioxide makes trees grow faster, greening the environment.

It’s clear the rot started in American industry when employers were hoodwinked into allowing unions to operate and they began to make all sorts of economically debilitating demands about human rights.

The sustainability people have perpetuated this: just look at the Global Compact, that daft set of “principles” (more standards!) that the United Nations keeps foisting on business. The Chinese workers are glad to have a job and really don’t mind being locked in factories for long hours or going back to the village if they get pregnant.

The quicker American workers get real about the sad state of the economy, the better. Just look at how much money is wasted on safety training and all that unnecessary equipment like fire extinguishers and hard hats.

Much of this nonsense is pressed on business by these so-called socially responsible investors, Swiss teenagers who go around ranking companies on their level of responsibility. Responsible to whom? They say “stakeholders”, but who are these mysterious people that industry must appease?

They are supposed to be big-wig academics, policymakers, and other impressive types who influence consumers and investors. The only stakeholders the Chinese worry about are the numbers around the roulette tables in Macau.

The best way out of America’s troubles is to beat China at its own game. That means trashing the sustainability business case and dismantling restrictive environmental and social standards. And fast. We have to go down before we can go up. It’s simply good science.

Peter Knight
is president of Context America.



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