Solving vs. Profiting from Problems

One of the classic conservative critiques of legal system is that lawyers just redistribute resources; they don’t actually create them. Given the state of countries that lack a strong rule of law, I’ve been skeptical of characterizations of lawyers as “mere redistributors.” But I’m wondering if those who find America “overlawyered” might be willing to extend their critique to military spending as well. For example, Naomi Klein notes that

[T]here are two distinct business models that can respond to our climate and energy crisis. We can develop policies and technologies to get us off this disastrous course. Or we can develop policies and technologies to [conduct] resource wars . . . while simultaneously shielding ourselves from the worst of both war and weather. . . .[D]espite all the government incentives [for green technology], the really big money is turning away from clean energy technologies and banking instead on gadgets promising to seal wealthy countries and individuals into high-tech fortresses.

Regardless of what one thinks of Klein’s politics, she raises serious questions about whether market forces will lead to a clean energy–or will simply lead to more investment in the type of miltary might that can guarantee access to resources. She quotes a venture capitalist on the risks of the former strategy:

Douglas Lloyd, director of Venture Business Research, a company that tracks trends in venture capitalism[, says] “The failure rate of security businesses is much lower than clean-tech ones and, as important, the capital investment required to build a successful security business is also much lower.” In other words, solving real problems is hard, but turning a profit from those problems is easy.

Or perhaps easy enough to be skeptical of claims that the miracle of the market will solve all our problems.

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