If you’re betting on capitalism, ask for good odds.
It looks like the leftie radicals, socialists and unionists might finally start to win a few, even though their arguments have been ignored and mocked for almost a generation by the likes of Brian Mulroney, Stephen Harper and chamber of commerce shills too numerous to count.
Capitalism’s death knell isn’t necessarily sounding, but it is on a gurney in the emergency ward as rescuers desperately try to revive it.
This week, the annual World Economic Forum is being held in Davos, Switzerland, where presidents, prime ministers and CEOs from around the world gather to gab about, well, economics.
High on the agenda is the need for capitalism to evolve to meet the needs of a changing world — a message that came from Occupy tents in dozens of cities before they were unceremoniously removed, and which now finds some measure of agreement among the well coiffed in Davos.
Klaus Schwab, the founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, was reported in the New York Times to have said in advance of this year’s event that, “Capitalism, in its current form, no longer fits the world around us,” and political and business leaders “have failed to learn the lessons from the financial crisis.”
Schwab, presumably, does not live in a tent, but his sentiments are surprisingly similar to those expressed by thousands of Occupy protesters and their sympathizers.
Unfortunately, most politicians and board of trade types perennially utter banalities about austerity and prosperity and so on.
Harper’s habit of boasting about job creation backfired this week, when the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce reported that many new jobs are bad jobs, i.e., low-paying.
In fact, there were four times as many low-paying jobs available than high-paying jobs, the CIBC said.
The need for substantial change in the economic system has been obvious for years. Strangely, prime ministers and corporate presidents seem unable to comprehend it. Maybe they will, now that even the attendees at Davos are talking about it.
Perhaps they will finally realize rising inequality and the ongoing decimation of the middle class doesn’t benefit anyone — certainly not average income earners, and not even those at the top of the economic pyramid.
A declining middle class — both in terms of numbers and real income levels — will ensure a stagnant economy. A message to the country’s CEOs: you want recovery? Pay up.
Everybody’s amazed by China. Well, not by their human rights record and their authoritarian political system, but by their seemingly superhuman ability to produce widgets. Need a widget? Chances are, it’s made in China.
Some years ago, the brain trust in North America decided — this being the modern era and the Information Age — that producing widgets was no longer important. Something newer and more admirable arose, and it was dubbed the Knowledge Economy. Its deity was Free Trade.
Demand for plywood skyrocketed in Canada and the U.S., as factories were boarded up.
Meanwhile, China now has something that is only a distant memory for Canadians and Americans: an expanding and increasingly affluent middle class.
Capitalism in North America has become so decrepit that the crisis envelops not just workers, but retirees — current and potential. A healthy economic system would not be facing a massive pension crisis in both the public and private spheres. Freedom 55? A few years ago, it was a dream; today, it is a punch line.
Optimism is consistently contradicted by the headlines.
This week, the U.S. Federal Reserve extended its estimated duration of the current recession/depression, saying it will continue until the end of 2014.
But not in China.
Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.