Capitalism: Reject or Retool?

Neither, says Larry Summers, former Treasury Secretary and president of Harvard. In these tight times, health, education and social protection are the industries most in need of reinvention.

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The long-term problems implied by the world's current economic slump are very real, says Larry Summers. The former Treasury Secretary and president of Harvard says people are right to wonder if capitalism is effective at promoting employment and sustaining a broad-based middle class. In finding a solution to our impasse, Summers flags two questions as especially relevant: "Do today’s problems inhere in the present form of market capitalism or are they subject to more direct solution? Are there imaginable better alternatives?" 

What's the Big Idea?

Everywhere capitalism has taken root, it ability to create wealth better than any other system is undeniable, says Summers. But he also concedes there are serious questions about its fairness. The advance of technology has limited employment gains (even Chinese employment is down) and helped concentrate wealth in the hands of a lucky few. Worse, industrialized countries with fairer taxation policies and more substantial social benefits are bankrupt. Thus health, education and social protection are most in need of reinvention.

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