The left – environmentalists in particular – have long had an affinity for the jungle. The majesty and biodiversity of unmolested nature have inspired generations on the left to protect the jungle from man’s adulterous hands. In response, the right has often scorned such appreciation as the sentiment of mere hippies and tree-huggers. The jungle becomes a battleground between conservationists and capitalists.
But while the left claims the ‘righteous path’ of stewardship of the jungle, there is a lesson found in there that offers profound support to the beliefs of the right. If one spends a small quantum of time in a jungle, it becomes apparent that it is a prime metaphor for capitalism.
At first this may seem contradictory. After all, the common understanding the jungle is the epitome of nature, while the market is the embodiment of man’s conquest of nature. However, the fact often overlooked is that the market-system is nature. Men, in their hubris, often try to separate the world of mankind from the natural, forgetting that although humankind certainly has an inordinate power to alter his landscape, it still operates within the system of nature.
The beauty and biodiversity of the jungle arise from the same source that fosters the market-system – competition. Every actor in the jungle, whether plant or animal, is operating in its own self-interest, for its own survival. And while many environmentalists attempt to hang their hats on the concept of balance-of-nature, what is missed is that this balance comes spontaneously and is in no way planned. The panther is not a noble creature that consciously oversees the inner workings of jungle, but a selfish individual that takes what he can to provide for his own survival. If he fails, he dies; if he succeeds, someone else dies. There is no concept of justice, simply a self-correcting balance.
This leads to a high level of competition and subsequently specialization. This becomes abundantly clear if one looks at the profusion of wildlife and the niche roles that each species plays in the jungle system. Not only does competition develop this specialization, but it leads to a tangible wealth. The wealth of the jungle is a rich mosaic of life, of colors and of activity. In practice, the world of Charles Darwin is not that far from the market system of competition as elucidated by Adam Smith.
What is striking is that so many environmentalists stand against the notions of capitalism and never realize that they grow from the same source. This does not mean to disregard the natural competition in which environmentalists and capitalists engage over the use (or lack of use) of natural resources – which obviously puts them at odds. However, what is significant is that many can recognize the beauty of this natural, competitive process in the environment, while simultaneously dismissing it in the human environs of the world. In truth, those that appreciate this magnificence in nature should, at least in a philosophical sense, fall closer to the capitalists of the right, than the socialist planners of the left.