The pandemic has exposed deep inequalities and injustices, and opened up fears and resentments. It is hard to argue that free enterprise is working. Is it time to tear up our traditional thinking on the economy and replace it with a value-based approach?
Over the past year, so many of us have had our beliefs fundamentally challenged. If the financial crash in 2008 proved an insufficient trigger for change, the stark social divisions exposed by Brexit and the fragility of a global system laid bare by the coronavirus crisis have transformed the way we think about the world.
Instead of being relegated to the bottom of the social hierarchy, the workers in our hospitals and care homes, on our streets and in our supermarkets, have become the front-line heroes, battling against an existential threat. We have started to place much more value on resilience – in the health service, in our labour market and in our lives – as we struggle to cope with new and unpredictable demands. We value our neighbours and our communities more. In economics, too, what we value, how we measure it and what economic goals we are aiming for as a society have suddenly come to the forefront of debate, popularised by economists such as Kate Raworth and Mariana Mazzucato.
Indeed, the concept of “value” formed the centrepiece of former Bank of England governor Mark Carney’s recent series of Reith Lectures and seems even to have reached as far as the Vatican. Pope Francis, in his recent book, Let Us Dream, cites both Raworth and Mazzucato as voices that are “signs of the times”, calling for us to use the current moment of crisis to “think big, to rethink our priorities – what we value, what we want, what we seek – and to commit to act in our daily life on what we have dreamed of … and for a new approach to economics, which puts ‘the poor and the planet at the heart of new thinking’”. So, is it time to tear up our traditional thinking on the economy and replace it with a value-based approach to economics in what is becoming known as “Common Good Capitalism”?