The U.N. Special Envoy on Climate Action and Finance calls for a rethinking of capitalism “to build an economy that works for all.”
As a G-7 governor in Canada and the U.K., Carney instituted reforms that helped address the global financial meltdown of 2007 and that looked ahead at such challenges as climate change. At root, he writes, is a problem of values, that sticky realm of morality and ethics, in a time when value is perceived as determined solely by the market. Today, we live in a market society, “and this is now undermining our basic social contract of relative equality of outcomes, equality of opportunity and fairness across generations.” With that undermining and its dog-eat-dog ethos, the world has been largely unequipped to deal with the current pandemic while climate change and other crises have been fueled by a market fundamentalism that takes it as a matter of faith that markets are self-correcting, moral, and unimpeachable. This fundamentalism has expanded its reach “into spheres of life previously governed by non-market norms,” including health care, education, and criminal justice, further weakening social bonds and privileging wealth. Against this, Carney proposes an emphasis on solidarity and the enhancement of the social capital on which economic capital relies for its long-term health. The author extols corporations and leaders committed to “socially driven purpose” and urges community building and infrastructure development, including stricter regulations for carbon taxes, all overseen by the state. “Nations—not companies—must set these ground rules for markets to be fair,” he writes. It helps to have some knowledge of economics to follow the technical aspects of Carney’s argument, though it’s not a prerequisite. He writes clearly and well of the need for “a life of moral, not market, sentiments,” an argument that will send Chicago School acolytes into despair.
Readers interested in environmental economics, inequality, and like matters will benefit from Carney’s discussion.