Is There a New Way Forward for Capitalism?

TED Talks are getting more attention with the self-isolation and quarantine requirements of COVID-19 realities. This presentation by Nick Hanauer caught my attention and I thought it was worth sharing.  It’s entitled “The dirty secret of capitalism-and a new way forward.”  It is resonant for Alberta’s social-economic reality even though his context is American.

Are the past five years of Alberta austerity going to continue under the Kenney-controlled UCP government?  Will our federal government-funded TMX west-coast pipeline move us towards more globalization of our oil industry?  Is more austerity and less oil and gas prosperity the predictable future for Alberta?

Where does our prosperity actually come from?  Is it due to more competitiveness or better cooperation?  Does neoliberalism help or hinder the equilibrium of supply and demand?  These are only some of the questions the challenge the conventional “wisdom” of Alberta’s destiny.

Hanauer raises some provocations we need to consider.  There is a myth that the price of something is always equal to its value.  Look at the market price for oil these days to dispel that myth.  Also, CEOs do not get paid what they are worth.  They get paid based on what they can negotiate.   Neoliberalism has made employers more powerful compared to labour, and that has created a “protection racket for the rich”  according to Hanauer.

There is a lot more in this video.  It is 17 minutes well spent.  It debunks the presumption that selfishness and self-interest in competitive markets are the best ways to grow and prosper for everyone.  If we are inherently cooperative, reciprocal and intuitively moral creatures then cooperation, not selfishness is the force behind genuine progress.  We are still a ways off from adopting that mindset but COVID-19 is potentially a game-changer in our consciousness.

How do we move beyond neoliberalism and accept the increased reality of complexity being the path to sustainable prosperity in a 21st-century economy?  How do we build a more sustainable, prosperous and equitable society?  He says the new economy is driven by five principles:

Successful societies are not jungles, they are gardens that need nurturing.  Inclusion, not exclusion creates economic growth. Corporations are not just to enrich shareholders and mangers but to improve the welfare of all stakeholders.  Greed is not good, and rapaciousness is just destructive sociopathic behavior.  The “laws of economics” are cultural and social normative choices and not immutable laws of physics.  The bottom line is we can change the way we seek and define prosperity- if we want to…or if we are forced to.

What do you think?  Can we get beyond the destructive nature of and limitations of market-based capitalism?  Can we co-create a more responsible, sustainable, inclusive, equitable economic prosperity in Alberta?  Can we do it with the current government?


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