Things are not going well. OK, maybe a little too harsh? For the vast majority (99%?) of people, things are not going well. How about: For way too many people, things are not going well enough. No matter how full or empty you like to describe your glass, some amount of space exists between the level of the liquid and the top of the glass. And, that is a problem.
So, what do we do? What do we have to do? What should we do? What are we going to be forced to do? What should we be forced to do? The answers are not the same. And, that too, is part of the problem.
Do we have too much capitalism? Too little?
The wrong kind? Not competitive enough? Too competitive? Does our capitalism need an upgrade? Do we have to take it all the way to 2.0? Or, is 1.6 enough? Or, maybe we’ve tried 2.0, and now it’s time for Capitalism 3.0 (or 4.0?). Has Marx finally stayed Adam Smith’s invisible hand? Is Smith’s hand stronger than ever? Since the only possible answer to all of these questions is “yes”, that too is part of the problem.
One aspect of any possible solution lies in understanding and thinking about “prosperity”.
My own research points out that prosperity is a multidimensional concept whose dimensions and values vary from country to country, city to city, and person to person. What is really important to one person or one group may be of no importance whatsoever to another and vice versa. Prosperity is not just about growth, development, economic performance, GDP, wealth, and income – although those things do matter. They can be incredibly important and can be even more important as
contributing factors to generating other dimensions of prosperity like health, education, well-being, and happiness. As someone wisely told me, “Money might not solve all my problems, but it certainly solves my money problems.”
Social enterprises, new models for organizations, new ways of organizing markets, completely new approaches to organizing social and political economies – all have their place. Each can be
right. Each can be very wrong. Understanding and predicting trends and directions is tricky. As the wise Jedi Master Yoda said, “Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future.” Yet, these ideas are about constructing or reconstructing that future.
The challenge is that prosperity is a variable, multi-dimensional concept. And, given the desire
to find ways to not only grow but also equitably distribute that prosperity, the challenge is multiplied. We first need to figure out what we have, what is needed and what is wanted. Only then, can we determine what has to be done. If I don’t know where I’m going, how am I going to know if I’ve gotten there?
In this issue of Thinkers a collection of very smart, thinking people talk about their questions, their problems, and some potential solutions. Read them. Agree with them. Disagree with them. Think about what they’ve said. And, then, think again. These are challenging problems – these problems aren’t just ‘wicked’ – they are downright nasty and malevolent. The answers when they come, will not come easily. They will require thinking and thinking some more and then rethinking.