Book Review: Sustaining Capitalism

Sustaining Capitalism: Bipartisan Solutions to Restore Trust & Prosperity. Steve Odland and Joseph J. Minarik. 2017. The Conference Board, Inc.

The threat to capitalism is mistrust, asserts Sustaining Capitalism: Bipartisan Solutions to Restore Trust & Prosperity.

Authors Steve Odland and Joseph J. Minarik with the Committee for Economic Development (CED), make a case for how capitalism can return to its former glory and getting people to trust and embrace it is key. (Odland is CEO and Minarik is Senior Vice President and Director of Research for CED, a business-led public policy group.)

The millennial generation in particular, they write, “expresses its disillusionment with American style capitalism,” and is more open to the concept of becoming a socialist economy.

Public policy, from campaign finance reform to education can begin to rebuild that trust and make people believe in the current economic system, even if the recovery from the Great Recession is slower than expected or hoped. They also suggest the end of cronyism and short-termism, which they describe as short term gains without directors and corporate executives considering the greater community.

“Business short-termism refers to the claim that owners (shareholders in the case of corporations), boards, and executives are too focused on short-term success and payoffs, at the expense of longer-term value and results,” they write. “Business short-termism is causing real harm to capitalism’s sustainability. In this chapter we’ll catalogue some of those harms, describe the pressures driving corporate short-termism, and then propose solutions to turn the tide toward a more sustainable capitalism, including a return to a multi-stakeholder model of corporate governance.”

The book comes out at a time when financial-sector regulation is in the new administration’s bullseye, but the authors of the business-led CED aren’t looking to jump on the deregulation bandwagon.

They encourage a more reasoned approach:

“Business leaders could better serve their own and the public interests by helping policymakers design and maintain regulations that promote greater competition and vibrancy in the market economy.”

~ Reviewed by April Hall