The pandemic has led to a global re-appraisal of the power of companies to deliver, halting a groundswell of anti-capitalist sentiment. Our broken and poorly regulated markets, however, put our future at risk. Let me explain.
There has been a global re-appraisal of the power of companies to deliver as they efficiently continued to supply food, goods and services throughout the pandemic. Global drug companies, empowered by governments, invented and supplied remarkably effective vaccines in unbelievably short timescales.
Medieval monarchs granted licenses for markets to be held in towns and created guilds to regulate the production of goods that were sold in them. Since then, authorities have tamed and regulated markets to deliver better outcomes for the communities they serve.
Free markets and capitalism have created untold wealth, health, choice and happiness for much of the world. Our governance structures are however, like our future, now broken.
Over many decades we have built a complex system to both protect market participants and guarantee them certain rights and freedoms. Over complicated by bureaucracy – they now do neither.
How can it be, that in a well governed world, we live in societies where wages are subsidized by in-work government benefits and many hardworking people depend on foodbanks to get by.
We have digitalised the marginal labour of individuals through the gig economy. In theory this gives people freedom to choose when they work, but in practice it monetises almost every aspect of how people work and earn. Our spending is increasingly being driven into subscription models so that our income is being allocated with less and less choice to fewer and bigger companies.
The effect of this has been to add trillions to the value of billionaires at the expense of billions of people whose income has been marginalised and expenditure compartmentalised.
This is a massive failure of governments to lead with consensus in a world that is demanding action on poverty and climate change, yet the freedom to make the choices that only free markets can deliver.
Our leaders are beginning to agree on a mechanism to tax global big tech but are failing to address the issue of a much-needed carbon pricing mechanism.
Climate change is imminent and urgent – likely to cause trillions of dollars of damage through severe weather events. We need tax revenue from both these sources to invest in de-carbonising our economy. Otherwise, the current pandemic will seem like an economic and social walk in the park in comparison to the absolute chaos of uncontrolled climate change.
We need a global carbon taxation structure to better reflect the real costs of the goods we consume. If democratic governments do not take the lead in governing and guiding markets for the benefit of their electorate, we will end up with more civil unrest, more autocratic government structures and a shift away from the inherent safety and benefits of democracy.
Let’s get busy repairing the future.