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If you've followed the discussion over at Creative Capitalism, the book version of the debate is now available for purchase (at under $18 for the hardcover version, creative capitalism is looking cheap these days!). Conor Clarke, one of the participants in the debate, points out that it's available "just in time for the holidays." He also asks tough questions about the relevance of the concept in the face of the ongoing financial crisis:

Capitalism has done a lot of soul-searching recently (along with some collapsing). Creative Capitalism isn't particularly relevant to much of that process. Actually, one of the big themes of this discussion -- "how can we expand the wonderful incentives of capitalism into areas where they have not previously operated?" -- seems woefully ill-timed. But another one of the themes -- "should companies pursue goals besides profit maxmization" -- strikes me as pretty relevant.

Although I agree with the general sentiment, I think Clarke is wrong when he says that the theme of expanding the incentives of capitalism into new areas is ill-timed. In fact, this is the time to redouble our inquiry into that question. In the face of a financial crisis and imminent recession, governments around the world face tough trade-offs between the goals of ensuring financial stability and of promoting access to financial services for the poorest. (On these trade-offs see, for instance, a discussion from CGAP on consumer protection and a paper on subprime mortgages and emerging markets.)

One other thing - Clarke's post announcing the release of the book garnered one very shrill remark from a commentor named Paula Hall, which contained this gem:

Only those who persist in affixing the label "capitalism" to the mixed economy we now have refer to the current crisis as a crisis of capitalism. Capitalism is about individual rights and free markets, not our present hopeless crush of economic regulations.

Somehow, this line of thought reminded me of the strained thinking of many communists, who defended communism before the collapse of the Berlin Wall by claiming that a truly communist state had not yet arrived. Perhaps we have not yet seen "true capitalism" either, but I suspect we never will. It might be more useful to focus our attention on "really existing capitalism," warts and all.



Ryan Hahn

Operations Officer

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