Why is Capitalism Facing Challenges Right Now?
Thanks for the introduction Al. I’ll be answering a series of eight questions over the coming week, and would be interested in hearing any comments or questions that readers may have. To start, I’ll talk a little bit about why capitalism is at a crossroads.
Q. Why is capitalism facing challenges right now? Is this time period very different from previous history?
Think of it this way: In my lifetime alone, the human population has ballooned from about 2 billion to more than 6.5 billion. If I live to a ripe old age, I could easily see 8 billion or more people on the planet. Thus, in a single lifetime, the human population will have grown from 2 billion to more than 8 billion. This growth is truly unprecedented. Never before in human history has a single generation witnessed such explosive change. Combine this population growth with humans? insatiable use of resources and you have global impact of truly epic proportions. Indeed, every major living system on the planet is now either overused or in decline?fisheries, forests, soils, watersheds, and atmosphere, just to name a few. Yet, with only 800 million of the wealthiest people accounting for well over three-quarters of the current resource use, the impacts could multiply further if the 4-5 billion poor emulate the development path of the rich.
And with the revolution in information and communication technologies over the past decade or two, more and more of those at the ?bottom? of the economic pyramid understand?and emulate?the lifestyles of those at the top. Others, however, are becoming increasingly disenchanted by the current development path, producing a rising tide of ?anti-globalization? sentiment. Terrorism is only the most extreme expression of such sentiment. Make no mistake: global capitalism truly does stand at a crossroads. Without significant change of course, the future of globalization and multinational corporations appears increasingly bleak. It might be argued, in fact, that global capitalism stands at a juncture similar to the one faced in 1914. Between 1914 and 1945, world war, depression, fascism, and communism almost succeeded in eliminating capitalism from the face of the Earth. The problems global capitalism now faces?international terrorism, the backlash against globalization, global-scale environmental change) are no less daunting. Constructively engaging these challenges will be the key to ensuring that capitalism continues to thrive in the coming century?to everyone’s benefit