People walk past the logo of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) at the Fiat Mirafiori car plant on May 27, 2019 in Turin, northern Italy.
Marco Bertorello—AFP/Getty Images
By Alan Murray and David Meyer
May 28, 2019

Good morning.

I spent some of the Memorial Day weekend reading The Future of Capitalism by Paul Collier. The book is not new—it was published in late 2018. But it was called to my attention last week, first by former Arconic/Alcoa/Siemens CEO Klaus Kleinfeld, and then by Bill Gates, who put it on his short list for summer reading. It’s the best diagnosis I’ve read to date of what ails Western society, or what Collier calls WEIRD—Western, educated, industrial, rich, developed. And it offers some interesting, if not always convincing, solutions.

Collier points to three great fissures that have emerged: one geographic (the regions against the metropolis), one educational (the have-mores versus the have-lesses), and one global (the developed versus the left behind—particularly Africa, which has been the subject of much of Collier’s work). At the core of his analysis is an argument that we lack a moral framework to heal these rifts. The right pursues a blind allegiance to the belief that freedom for “economic man” to pursue productivity and prosperity can bridge the chasms, while the left pursues an agenda of lawyerly rights and benefits for disenfranchised identity groups. Both sides ignore the moral obligations that have always made successful societies work.

Collier has suggestions for the firm, the family, the state, and the globe. For the firm, he writes:

“Modern capitalism has the potential to lift us all to unprecedented prosperity, but it is morally bankrupt and on track for tragedy….If capitalism is to work for everyone it needs to be managed so as to deliver purpose as well as productivity.”

WEIRD society worked from 1945 to 1970, Collier argues, “because it lived off a huge, invisible and unquantifiable asset that had been accumulated during the Second World War: a shared identity forged through a supreme and successful national effort.” You have to wonder what sort of shock it will take to regain that sense of common purpose. In any case, the book is well worth a read.

Meanwhile, for those who believe capitalism “works just fine as it is”—which, by our numbers, is 24% of Fortune 500 CEOs and about 10% of CEO Daily readers—there was an affirming leader in this week’s Economist, documenting the unprecedented jobs boom and rising wages. “The zeitgeist has lost touch with the data,” it argues.

And in the man-bites-dog department: Congress actually did something worthwhile last week. Read TIAA CEO Roger Ferguson’s commentary on the SECURE Act, here.

News below.

Alan Murray


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