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CAPITALISM’S CRISIS?

By Michael Strelcheck

The recent coronavirus outbreak has rattled the world and gripped its full attention. The ripples of its expression have brought many things to light including the “interconnectedness” of the international economies. As growing concerns over the potential of the virus’ economic impact spread, a dynamic reaction in the world financial markets followed, leaving many governments to wonder how to mitigate the impact on both their populations and economies.

As the seriousness of the pandemic has progressed, the crisis has highlighted the divide between different political viewpoints and their effectiveness in serving their citizenry. This has brought on critical comments towards various world governments and their responses, which have strained their relationships. For example, China, being a communistic country, was able to completely isolate large populated areas in order to try and contain the virus, whereas democratic nations felt obligated to focus first on preventive measures without drastically limiting their citizens and their industry. Although different responses, they make sense for those nations and their systems of governance.

Our country’s response has also been shaped by our ideology due to our capitalistic form of government and its commitment to prosperity. Democracies like ours tend to allow individuals to respond in the way they feel is best, but there’s a heated debate about whether our nation’s unique response was too influenced by economic concerns rather than humanitarian ones.

The threat of the pandemic has intensified the pressure on our nation’s political process and the need to heal the gulf between our political parties. On one hand we have our system of capitalism, which has been highly successful that’s being challenged by a growing interest in socialism and it’s values. The question that’s facing the American conscience is, “Where does the line between business and individual concerns need to be drawn?” Or, due to the present crisis, could this be a time for a bold new perspective?

Recently, Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, wrote an article in TIME Magazine entitled, HOW TO SAVE CAPITALISM: Businesses and governments must collaborate better to create opportunity for all. His thoughts got my attention for he seemed to be proposing a common sense pathway for how to solve our country’s current divide – that of active collaboration. Dimon begins with, “Capitalism may be at a tipping point. For too long, policymakers, governments and business leaders have done a poor job of helping those who have been left behind, and lost sight of how capitalism can create more opportunity for all. It’s not hard to see why some are losing faith in our system, particularly the younger generation.”

How to save our system is the question. Interestingly, there is a committed movement being generated by large corporations to do just that. In August of last year more than 180 CEO’s of leading companies signed the “Business Roundtable” statement of corporate purpose, committing to creating economic opportunity for all customers, employees, shareholders and communities. “It’s a call to action to do more for everyone who works for us, and society in general.” said Dimon.

It seems that this is a serious effort for these companies are putting money “where their mouth is” with JPMorgan Chase investing $200 million in the city of Detroit, and United Technologies investing $1.3 billion through its Employee Scholar Program, helping workers earn more than 40,200 educational degrees. To some this may seem like too little too late, where others may herald these investments has overly generous and enabling, but these actions do provide a “fertile ground” for further discussions on “collaboration” to take place.

Dimon ends his comments with, “Capitalism has been the most successful economic system in history. But we can improve upon it to help solve society’s problems and lift up our people. Now is the time.”

Dimon’s comments are eerily prophetic, for the pandemic has suddenly increased the urgency for our government to come together. Perhaps America’s “abundant” future lies in fusing the separate interests of “capital and labor” into a mutual relationship where both can gain. Maybe it’s finally time for our country’s psyche to lose the selfish attitude that there can only be one winner! I think Dimon and many other corporate executives are beginning to realize that financial success is much richer when shared.

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