I’m delighted to report that the thesis of America Beyond Capitalism has been the subject of thought-provoking commentary from across the political spectrum.
In the New York Times blog “Economix,” Professor Nancy Folbre of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst wrote a piece last month entitled “Utopian Capitalism.” She discusses the admission among capitalists like Richard Branson of the Virgin Group that the “short-term focus on profit has driven most businesses to forget about the long-term role in taking care of people.” She continues:
If all owners, bankers and corporate executives were virtuous souls, capitalism might function flawlessly. Adam Smith outlined a similar argument in the mid-18th century, in “The Theory of Moral Sentiments.” The pursuit of economic self-interest, he explained, would generally be tempered by natural morality.
Most economists, whatever their political stripes, generally put more emphasis on incentives than on virtue. And most ordinary people understand that the incentives built into the global capitalist system tend to reward some very bad behaviors.
Large corporations can often squelch their competition. They can minimize their costs by dumping waste products into the environment, contributing to pollution and global warming. They can use their profits to buy political influence. If they don’t like the regulatory policies of one nation-state, they can simply shift their operations to another.
Can we do something to minimize the perverse incentives that our current form of capitalism creates and move closer to our free enterprise ideals?
The idea of empowering workers and communities to be able to control the economic decisions that directly impact their lives has even been welcomed on the website of the business magazine, Forbes. In “Are We Wandering Toward Socialism?,” contributor Erika Andersen writes approvingly of a community-based conception of “socialism”: Read More