All about ideas…

FT: What will Capitalism look like in the future?

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If you didn’t see CSPAN’s Washington Journal this morning, you may not know of the terrific series being run in The Financial Times. For the next couple of weeks, FT will be printing articles and commentary on “The Future of Capitalism.”

Under discussion worldwide is the form which capitalism will take – and should take – once the current economic crisis has passed. As Amartya Sen writes in Adam Smith’s market never stood alone,

The question that arises most forcefully now is not so much about the end of capitalism as about the nature of capitalism and the need for change. The invoking of old and new capitalism played an energising part in the animated discussions that took place in the symposium on “New World, New Capitalism” led by Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, and Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, in January in Paris.

The crisis, no matter how unbeatable it looks today, will eventually pass, but questions about future economic systems will remain. Do we really need a “new capitalism”, carrying, in some significant way, the capitalist banner, rather than a non-monolithic economic system that draws on a variety of institutions chosen pragmatically and values that we can defend with reason? Should we search for a new capitalism or for a “new world” – to use the other term on offer at the Paris meeting – that need not take a specialised capitalist form? This is not only the question we face today, but I would argue it is also the question that the founder of modern economics, Adam Smith, in effect asked in the 18th century, even as he presented his pioneering analysis of the working of the market economy.

These articles and editorial commentaries seem propitious right now, as Ponzi-king Berney Madoff is led off to jail and the Republican Party has abdicated its intellectual thinking to Rush Limbaugh. The years of reckless ego-gratification spending and moral abstinence may finally be over as people grapple with a new notion – or discussion – of what the best form of capitalism is…and how it should function.

For all the economic pain and fear that envelopes the human psyche right now, it’s a great time to be alive. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes out this crisis. If Adam Smith and Maynard Keynes were able to synthesize quintessential economic theory before WWII began, surely some bright new economic genius can develop a whole new theory of economics that fits both the world economy and humane requirements. Or at the very least refine Smith and Keynes for this new era of global economics.

Good reading!

Written by Valerie Curl

March 12, 2009 at 7:43 PM

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