Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Is Green Intervention Capitalism or Socialism?: The Case of British Superbike


Currently, I am on the Green Transportation team of the Green Market Forum at the American Chambers of Commerce. As environmental awareness grows, some governments consider green interventions to enhance competitiveness of their countries in the global market. US President Barack Obama launches his idea of the Green New Deal to overturn the Bush administration’s policy. Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso is also keen on keeping up with green trends in America and Europe. But is this capitalism or socialism?

The case of British electric superbike will give us a clue to this question. Britain has developed an electric racing bike named TTX01 through its governmental organization UKTI (UK Trade & Investment) and a professional group called the IET (Institution of Engineering and Technology). This breakthrough technology paves the way to diversify electric vehicles. “Electric vehicles are seen as crucial in reducing carbon emissions from the UK's transport sector, which accounts for around one-quarter of the UK's total emissions” (“World's fastest all-electric motorbike unveiled at show”; Guardian; 27 November 2008). In addition, this motorbike is lighter than similar-sized conventional one (“Look Out for the TTX01 Electric GP Motorbike”; Electric Bikee; 7 February 2009), and it hardly makes noise (“125mph electric bike ready to burn rubber”; Guardian; 28 November 2008).

According to TTXGP, a consortium founded by UKTI and the IET, this motorcycle will compete in the race in the Isle of Man on June 12 this year.

UKTI was founded in 1997 under the Blair administration. Its mission is to enhance the competitiveness of companies in the UK through overseas trade and investments; and attract a continuing high level of quality foreign direct investment. Tony Blair is a centrist who believes in the market economy, but not laissez faire capitalism. The superbike project is pursued with Blairite economic and environmental policy.

Diehard conservatives in the United States may say a project like this is socialistic. However, this is not completely socialist, because the government sponsors research and development, but not the race itself.

Remember! All Soviet athletes in the past were Ivan Drago type of élites who enjoyed generous sponsorship and privileges offered by the Red Government. But there are no Ivan Drago monsters in this race.

TTXGP project has extensive policy implications to capitalism in the era of environmentalism and anti-neoliberalism. Tony Blair explored the Third Way when he was the prime minister, and Gordon Brown succeeds this. Barack Obama may explore governmental interventions something similar to this project. Will he turn America into socialism, or show the model case for government-business partnerships?