I read with great interest an article by Umair Haque about capitalism and socialism and would like to share part of his views with you, adjusted partly to my own thinking and its possible application in the Philippines when we talk about inclusive growth.
It all started the other day when I was talking to someone and in the middle of a perfectly civilized conversation about our impending doom, he blurted out: “but you’re a socialist!”
Whoa. I’m not any of these things, capitalist, socialist, atheist, any-ist. I believe in three things only: tennis, no stress and healthy food. My only role and goal when it comes to the world is to observe. And here’s what I see, here where I live and beyond:
The genuine opposite (or maybe endpoint, if you want to think dynamically, not statically) of both pure capitalism and socialism are kleptocracy, oligarchy, authoritarianism—what results when political economies are run by and for tiny elites.
The great lesson of the last century is very simple: first extreme socialism failed, and the Soviet empire fell. Also extreme capitalism is slowly failing, and America is falling, whether Trump agrees or not. Two mighty kingdoms—one single lesson: yesterday’s extremes have both failed. Cutthroat competition in every aspect of life soon becomes abuse. Enforced cooperation soon becomes unendurable. So what now?
Today, capitalism and socialism are not opposites. They are complements. The global economy of this century must and will be built on new synthesis: capitalism and socialism working together, each strengthening the others’ weakness, a kind of yin and yang of human organization. We see this already at work in the world’s most successful societies, like Sweden or Canada!
They seem to have the basics of a genuinely good life. What are the basics?
Aristotle, Buddha and Jesus all spelled it out millennia ago: food, shelter, income, safety, security, opportunity.
Today we might update that list with things that didn’t exist in their time, but are clearly in the same spirit: transportation, health care, education, environment, relationships, etc.
If you think about it, no matter how much money you have, you can’t really buy such things unless a society has invested in them first.
“things” are what I call “fundamental goods.” They are what makes a life good
at its root. Through them, everyone can be happy, and grow into their
potential—without them, no one can be, no matter what your latest
self-help best seller says.
Without a few meals a day, a little bit of money in the bank, and your health, no amount of positive thinking can get you to happiness—nor should it. Human beings are not all born to be monks— they are born to dare, risk, defy, rebel, imagine, create. And to do all that, they need the basics. Without the basics, democracy can’t survive, society can’t cohere, people can’t flourish, and lives can’t be fully lived.
So. The two great systems of the past are learning to work together. Where do we see it happening? As I said, all over core Europe and Canada, of course. There, capitalism and socialism are being mixed together in sophisticated and bold ways. Those societies are prospering because they are getting the formula of human possibility right: socialism provides the basics, and capitalism offers endless idle pleasures which only really count if you have the basics.
It’s a big world, and an endless future. But it’s also one with big problems. Demagoguery, extremism, inequality, instability, stagnation, mass extinction, climate change, the growing threat of war. Choose your apocalypse. These are the stakes of this troubled age.
If humanity is to survive, it’s going to have to grow. Up. It is going to have to mature beyond the simple, crude polarity of yesterday and learn to synthesize its great lesson. The new synthesis is social capitalism, or capital socialism.
And that is what growth really is. It clearly leads us to get involved in “sustainable development” and a focus on “inclusive growth.” In other words, we cannot continue to hunt for maximum profits without “investing” into the sufferings around us: extreme poverty, hunger, health and nutrition issues, inadequate education, etc.
I am expecting heavy “attacks;” you can e-mail me at email@example.com.