Prof. Don Carlson '83 on the Evils and Perks of Capitalism

January 18th, 2019

At the last log lunch, visiting economics and sustainability professor Don Carlson gave a talk on the benefits and disadvantages of capitalism in the context of climate change. Professor Carlson is teaching at his alma mater as a “reverse sabbatical” from a fruitful career in investment banking and venture capital, a field most associate with greed, corruption, and disregard for the environment and social issues.

Economics student Josemaria Silvestrini ’19 (right) with Don Carlson (left)

However, Carlson illuminated some of the ways in which economics and politics can come together to create a society in which capitalism works to end climate change. There is no doubt that capitalism has caused climate change, but Carlson argues that it can use its enormous power to decrease carbon emissions. He cited the “Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act of 2018” recently passed in Canada, which is carbon dividend, not a tax, that reinternalizes the price of carbon at an individual level. Something like this in the US could vastly decrease carbon emissions and get people thinking about their carbon footprint in economic terms instead of moral ones.

While there are certain structural and cultural impediments to investing in a transition to a renewable energy company, proactive investment in smart companies doing the hard, important work to ignite the shift to a cleaner world is a solution we can bet on seeing in the coming years.



—Jane Tekin ’19