18.104.22.168 Safeguarding Quality of Life
A key aspect of economic legitimacy is safeguarding quality of life for the population, protecting them and the environment from harm
An economy can deliver growth and be perceived as fair, but can nevertheless have an adverse effect on people’s lives. Businesses would always prefer to be unregulated, but it is essential for the common good that some aspects of their operations should be regulated:
● They should be prevented from harming consumers (22.214.171.124).
● They should be prevented from doing environmental damage (126.96.36.199). A paper mill, for example, might be more profitable if it were to discharge chemicals directly into a nearby stream – but that might have an adverse impact on people’s health or on other businesses, such as fishing, downstream.
● Working conditions should be safe and humane, allowing employees to limit their working hours, raise children, and recover from sickness for example. These provisions for safeguarding quality of life, and other ‘socio-economic rights’ such as unemployment and disability benefits, are ultimately decided politically (6.7.1).
Whilst having more money is an important contribution to people’s wellbeing, these other aspects of their lives should not be ignored. Businesses cannot be expected to see clearly what would serve the common good, even if they have local stakeholders on their boards of directors. Such matters are often a matter of contention, more properly resolved by politicians. As Larry Summers argued: “support of stakeholder capitalism will include legislation and regulation”.
This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books. An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/3593a.htm