Capitalism and the future

I landed in New York City on Tuesday morning, and a friend of mine had sorted out tickets to a debate at New York City Public Library. The subject of debate was ‘Capitalism and the Future’. The panel included some heavy hitters like Eric Schmidt – CEO of Google, Indra Nooyi – CEO of PepsiCo, Niall Ferguson – the respected historian and Harvard Professor and finally…Nassim Taleb – author of ‘The Black Swan’

So what do they think the future holds in summary? What will the economic system look like in the weeks ahead, what are the innovations  shaping the future and what will the role of business be in the future?

Capitalism, in the current climate, can be seen as a bit of a dirty word. One of the key outputs from this debate was that this shouldn’t be the case and capitalism ultimately creates innovation, jobs and opportunities… There was however a slightly uneasy moment when Indra Nooyi, paraphrasing Gordon Gecko in ‘Wall Street’ perhaps went one step too far by suggesting that ‘greed is good’ (to be fair – she did say that necessary precautions need to be taken), but it didn’t sit that well with me in a period of time when greed has led to taxpayers picking up the tab for excessive risk in the pursuit of financial gain…

Niall Ferguson who was very impressive throughout raised his fears about the danger of state monopolies. he argued (brilliantly) that politics should be kept away from business, that the business world should be about survival of the fittest, not the fattest and that we need to move away from state monopolisation. He made a great point that I loved that said that we live in capitalist times when things are good and there are profits…but we want to revert to socialism when we face losses… RBS being a particularly relevant example of this…

Eric Schmidt was very optimistic and argued that the economic structures put in place since the financial crisis began are working. He suggested that the future was bright and summarised the future rather nicely here…

“Technological innovation and entrepreneurial activation will be the only way to develop mass growth in the future”

It seemed a very succinct way to sum up all the arguments…



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