The circular economy is the future – even without a nanny state backing it

Stephanie Holmes

July 4, 2022

The circular economy is neither a niche idea nor inherently hostile to consumer and business choice. Contrary to popular belief, it arises independently of the nanny-state — instead advancing from market changes.

Take the S&P 500. Constituents that include the circular economy in their business plans have higher revenues. This is not a result of government policy. Companies are tapping into new revenue streams, such as repair services, and saving costs by increasing the usefulness of their resources.

Spikes, troughs and risk breed a fiery desire for the financial certainty that the dynamism of a circular economy can bring. The negative paradigm shift in resource acquisition is creating new market support for the non-linear model – as it has the potential to shore up financial planning.

Current modes of extraction cannot be sustained by businesses or the planet, where we use 60 per cent more than the earth can provide. So naturally, companies are going full-circle. Even the United Nations, European Union and China have officially recognised the equitable and environmentally-friendly premise of the circular economy. This model is no longer a fringe idea, it is at the centre of modelling and we need to accept it as such.

Despite said top-down planning – let me debunk the myth of environmental economics’ regulatory rigamarole. Overcoming the inertia of the linear-status quo is not only a unique selling point for companies, but also a strategic advantage. As in time, businesses will have adopted the inevitable model that markets are moving toward. But some supporters ask: why is the unsustainable choice on the market anyway? Rather, why wait for market shifts? 

Eradicating financially accessible or commonly desired items from the market is loathsome. But just like how VHS machines became a thing of the past, market mechanisms are pushing for environmental innovation, protecting consumer choice. Opponents should stop bowing down to nanny-state rhetoric, and accept the circular economy can be implemented by supply-side mechanisms – not those of government.

In France, however, new legislation bans the destruction of unsold goods. As this idea spreads globally, companies will ineluctably pursue industrial symbiosis and offer repair schemes at competitive prices. The Industrial Park, for example, recycled 83 per cent of its waste and experienced economic benefits from saving energy, material, and water. Yet even without the destruction-prohibition discourse, bringing new revenue streams into business is always attractive. Higher profit and employment benefit us all.

Like any fated socioeconomic shift, liberals must present their case for how it should work, and do so promptly. By supporting the model, they will push through to the 21st century and be the forefront cheerleaders of the circular economy.

It is time to challenge common perceptions that model change and the nanny-state are joint at the hip. The former is inevitable, and even the most deregulated market will become circular in time. It seems there is no downside to offering it support.

So with greater net gains in financial and eco-freedom, we should all be excited by the promise of a circular economy without the need for a nanny-state.


  • Stephanie Holmes

    Stephanie Holmes reads Bsc Politics at the London School of Economics and is interested in the role of science in public policy-making.

Written by Stephanie Holmes

Stephanie Holmes reads Bsc Politics at the London School of Economics and is interested in the role of science in public policy-making.

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