A new capitalism for a big society

04 February 2011

We’re at a crossroads, and decisions about how to reshape a discredited capitalism will profoundly affect whether the coming years will be ones of depression, stagnation, or renewed prosperity. Instant analysis since the collapse of the financial system in the fall of 2008 has produced no end of ideas about what to do—ranging from those of free market ideologues (let the market do its work and damn the consequences) to extreme government interventionists determined to keep the animal spirits of capitalism penned up. But if there is anything worse than toxic financial assets it is toxic ideas. We need to reject the old orthodoxies and conventional wisdoms. This talk will take a step back and analyze what can be learned from financial crises of the past—from the Tulip Craze of the seventeenth century through the Great Depression of the 1930s, Japan’s Great Deflation, and the Long-Term Capital debacle of the 1990s to the unprecedented interventions of the government during the past year—to set the agenda for a reformed twenty-first-century capitalism.