February 22, 2019

On the factory floor, 1940. Credit: Jack Delano, Library of Congress

Capitalism is a recurring theme among the ever-growing list of Democratic presidential candidates. But many Americans of all political stripes have concerns about our free market economy and whether it is working for them, according to Steven Pearlstein, a Pulitzer-Prize winning columnist for The Washington Post and author of “Can American Capitalism Survive: Why Greed Is Not Good, Opportunity Is Not Equal, and Fairness Won’t Make Us Poor.”

We talk with Pearlstein about the importance of fairness in economic growth, and consider some ways to reinvent capitalism.

Three Takeaways:

  • Research shows that, in the past few decades, many Americans have lost hope in the free market economy. Pearlstein says that the winner-take-all approach has offended some people’s moral sensibilities and undermined their trust and willingness to cooperate with each other.
  • Equality of opportunity need not come at the expense of economic growth, according to Pearlstein.
  • Pearlstein suggests that, to limit income inequality and create a fairer and more sustainable economy, everyone should have a share in the distribution of wealth. That means a “universal basic income” which, he thinks, should be $3000 a person, and should come with an obligation to do some sort of government service or community work.

More Reading:

  • Data shows the gap between productivity and a worker’s pay has increased dramatically since 1973. 
  • Former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers explains why fairness and economic growth are not mutually exclusive.
  • Learn more about minimum wage increases at the local level from the Economic Policy Institute. 

economics, Steven Pearlstein, capitalism, economy

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