William Greider's book is as much a return to his roots as a journalist as it is an explication of some hard truths about capitalism, as well as some hopeful praise. Greider's main task was to search out and explain those all too rare people and enterprises who are exploring how to make capitalism sustainable and to conform with our social values of family, equity, and basic decency.
Greider has created a genuinely optimistic and forward-looking roadmap for how we can start to bring capitalism back under the control of our democratic institutions, and make it work to serve our deepest values.
Greider's work will be of use to policy makers who wish to stop enabling the destructive aspects of capitalism, as well as for people who yearn to invest for long term value and build economic enterprises that reflect their values. Most of the ideas explored are in practical use in some form, or are plausible attempts to creatively address current socio-economic ills, such as corporate welfare and environmental degredation.
Much of Greider's prescription for curing capitalism of its anti-social behavior lies in the turning the interests of the common man into a powerful decisionmaker in our system of capital finance. Many of the conclusions about what reforms are needed parallel those of John Bogle's "Battle for the Soul of Capitalism", which I reviewed previously. Many of the practical ideas for how to accomplish that goal originated with Louis Kelso, who pioneered the Employee Stock Ownership Plan and many other alternative financial models for democratizing capitalism, and with the pioneers of Socially Responsible Investing, which prioritizes sustainability, workplace equity, and stakeholder outcomes, higher than has generally been the case in the investment decisions of institutional investors.
Here are some helpful resources on the book:
- Greider's article about his book in The Nation
- A review by SRI advisors
- An interview of Greider about the book with Diane Rehm (Realplayer)
- A NYT Book review by John B. Judis
- A summary of a keynote address by Greider on workplace democracy
I strongly recommend the book to Democrats who wish to find a responsible and practical voice on the issue of economic development. Greider's grounding in practical solutions addresses both the concerns of capitalism's critics and the demands of the marketplace, and can be the basis for a constructive Democratic critique of business as usual. Only by standing for genuinely viable improvements to our current dysfunctional capitalist system by offering creative and socially responsible alternatives can Democrats offer an alternative to the 'me-too' boosterism of the DLC. The DLC's sychophantic alliance with finance capital has placed Democrats on the side of elite institutions and corporate management, and has left the party estranged from the interests and asperations of average citizens in the marketplace. To return to a lasting Democratic majority, we have to articulate a vision of the good life that preserves the best of American capitalism and sustains the values that make us human.