The nature of the capitalist economic system and its effects on the natural environment is a subject of much debate. This article begins by exploring the basic economic theory that explains why capitalism may result in patterns of production and consumption that ultimately lead to environmental degradation. Next, the article explicates two polar views on capitalism and the environment, first examining the steady state argument, which proposes that the economic freedom that forms the basis for capitalism is at the heart of the environmental crisis. The counterpoint view of the market apologists is then presented; this group of thinkers contends that economic growth and the technological innovation spurred by the market system will produce solutions that will ultimately reduce or even solve environmental problems. After ...

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