Je kapitalizem (še) mogoče popraviti?

Jeff Kehoe je v Harvard Business Review, na podlagi zadnjih knjig o stanju kapitalizma in povečane neenakosti (Reich, Stern, Milanovic) napisal odličen komentar zadnjih trendov na področju družbene blaginje, kot izvirajo iz spremenjene distribucije ustvarjenega med družbenimi skupinami. Kot kažejo mnenjske raziskave (glej včerajšnji post Zakaj se mladi Američani odrekajo kapitalizmu), kapitalizem danes za mlade tudi v najbolj liberalni državi ni več prijetno okolje za živeti. Mladi v kapitalizmu ameriškega tipa ne vidijo več svoje perspektive, zato se vse bolj navdušujejo nad alternativami.

Kehoe ne daje odgovorov, pač pa postavlja nekaj ključnih vprašanj o pravičnosti kapitalizma in ali ga je (še) mogoče popraviti (tako da spremenimo pravila igre)?

Če mene vprašate: jasno, da je kapitalizem mogoče popraviti. Ponekod, v mnogih evropskih državah, je kapitalizem v socialdemokratski verziji povsem znosen družbeni red, predvsem pa boljši od njegovih alternativ. Vprašanje pa je, kako tak, socialdemokratski, kapitalistični red ohraniti v obdobju pritiskov intenzivne globalizacije in avtomatizacije? Najbrž bomo morali razmišljati v smeri zajezitve globalizacije, skrajšanja delovnega časa ob isti plači in večje redistribucije (univerzalni temeljni dohodek).

(Pa ne mečite kamnov vame, do teh sprememb bo neminovno moralo priti, če nočemo, da nam naš majhen ali globalni svet eksplodira v obraz. Morda ne danes in jutri, gotovo pa pojutrišnjem)

One-on-one basketball offers two ways to play: In “winners,” the person who scores gets the next possession and a chance to do so again. In “losers,” whoever is scored against gets the ball and a chance to even it up. As a kid, I played “losers” on the little court behind my house, because it seemed inherently fairer. But when I was on someone else’s court, or up against a bigger, stronger player, I often had to play “winners.” My opponent made the rules.

For a while now, mounting evidence has suggested that the United States’ economy and society are moving toward the “winners” model, leaving more and more citizens feeling like “losers”—frustrated and resentful. We call the result of this trend income inequality—or just inequality.

Inequality is a lot like climate change: Many denied or ignored it until the data became irrefutable. Today reams of research confirm a 40-year decline in average hourly wages for the bottom 90%, even as GDP, corporate profits, and the incomes of the top 10% have risen. Best-selling economics tomes such as Robert Gordon’s The Rise and Fall of American Growth and Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century have theorized about how and why inequality grows and put it in historical context. Most recently we have seen the societal and political effects playing out in a volatile U.S. presidential campaign, with candidates railing against a “rigged system” and preying on people’s fears.

How did we get here, and what can we do? Three new books provide a deeper understanding of inequality, sharp arguments, and some ideas for fixing the problem.

Saving Capitalism, by Robert Reich, the former U.S. secretary of labor, should be read first, and it is likely to make you angry. […]

He goes on to offer a range of thoughtful ideas for restoring what John Kenneth Galbraith called “countervailing power” to average people and leveling the playing field. Among these, not surprisingly, are a higher minimum wage and stronger antitrust laws. Reich also calls for a “reinvention” of the U.S. corporation toward a “stakeholder” model, in which organizations are responsible to employees, customers, and the community as well as shareholders.

A more unorthodox idea, mentioned at the end of the book—paying a basic minimum income to all citizens—is taken up in much more detail in Raising the Floor, by Andy Stern, former president of the Service Employees International Union. His big picture largely aligns with Reich’s, but the focus is different. Stern sees rising inequality as an effect of the job losses caused by recent technological transformation, including automation. The resulting economic insecurity, felt by millions of families, has, he says, turned the U.S.A. into “the United States of Anxiety.”

While Stern zeroes in on a specific remedy for one country, economist Branko Milanovic’s book Global Inequality zooms out to give the world view. […]

Milanovic’s marshaling and analysis of the data are an achievement in themselves. But I also appreciated his imaginative vision and probing sensibility, especially in the fascinating final chapter, in which he poses 10 big questions, offers predictions and proposals, and outlines a future filled with both possibility and peril. Will economic growth still matter? Will inequality disappear as globalization continues? Will winner-take-all remain the rule?

One thing becomes clear after reading these three books: Although it may be necessary to treat inequality as an economic problem, it is not sufficient. The U.S. as a country needs to ask, and answer, some basic questions—Who gets to set the rules? What values should they reflect? What’s fair? What do we owe to one another?—and reshape our society accordingly.

Vir: Jeff Kehoe, Harvard Business Review

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