Letter: Putting a price on the environment

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The Independent Online
Sir: John Gummer's "real anger" (Letters, 5 July) at Labour's lack of environmental commitment would be more convincing if he had not been supporting the international effort of some neo-liberal economists to "monetise" nature and amenity.

Their theory is that human lives should be valued according to whether they are lived in rich countries or poor ones, so that the life of a North American or a West European is many tens of times more valuable than that of a Bangladeshi.

The same doctrine seeks to find a money value for individual components of the environment by asking what financial compensation affected individuals might accept for the loss of them.

Both these doctrines are expressions of that monetarist philosophy which has proved incapable of understanding that, in allowing misuse of "the environment", governments are exacting subsidies from today's poor, and from all future generations, for the benefit of today's fat cats. These subsidies are what need sorting out by the world's official economists, including Mr Gummer's, and they can't do it using the vocabulary of "the market".

WAYLAND KENNET

(Lord Kennet)

House of Lords

London SW1

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