Magazine article The Futurist

One World: The Coming Synthesis of a New Capitalism and a New Socialism

Magazine article The Futurist

One World: The Coming Synthesis of a New Capitalism and a New Socialism

Article excerpt

ONE WORLD The Coming Synthesis of a New Capitalism and a New Socialism

Global economic integration is propelling most nations toward a similar blend of democracy and free enterprise, serving both social and economic values.

Think back a few years when the world was still gripped in a Cold War between capitalists and communists. In our wildest dreams, who would possibly have imagined that: * The Soviet Union would hold free elections? * Eastern Europeans and the Chinese people would revolt against their communist governments? * The Berlin Wall would fall? * The superpowers would consider slashing their defense budgets in half? * England, France, Germany, Italy, and other old enemies would be planning to merge into a "United States of Europe"? * The Japanese would dominate American consumer markets, operate hundreds of businesses in the United States, and buy choice real estate like Rockefeller Center? * American corporations like Lockheed, Avis, and Polaroid would be owned by their employees, seat labor leaders on their boards, work with government, and cooperate with their competitors?

Just as these dramatic events would have been unbelievable a short time ago, they may pale in comparison with the even greater upheaval that should occur soon when the underlying trends driving this transformation reach their logical conclusion. Today's wave of change is simply the beginning of a transition to a remarkably different social order based on the unique imperatives of information technology. A high-technology, unified global economy is emerging that should transform our present world roughly the way the Industrial Revolution transformed the agrarian Middle Ages into the industrial civilization of the past two centuries.

The key to understanding this newly forming global order is to see that the "Old Capitalism" and the "Old Socialism" seem destined to evolve into modern equivalents that should be far more powerful and compatible with one another - a "New Capitalism" and a "New Socialism" based on the same economic and political realities of the Information Age.

Inventing the New Socialism

A widespread misconception is that the recent revolts against communism, as stunning as they are, prove that socialism is dead and that capitalism reigns triumphant. In a notable example, Francis Fukuyama of the U.S. State Department gained worldwide attention in 1989 with his claim that the decline of communism marks nothing less than "The End of History": "What we may be witnessing is . . . the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the emergence of Western liberal democracy (capitalism) as the final form of government."

Yes, it is now clear to all that central planning must go because markets are essential to manage the exploding complexity of today's high-tech global economy and because modern people want their freedom. But that hardly means that the Soviet Union, China, and other major communist powers will abandon their hardwon socialist principles to emulate what they regard as the brutal chaos of American capitalism. Does anyone believe the Soviet Politburo will permit raiders like T. Boone Pickens to dismantle their carefully controlled state enterprises? Can one imagine that China would allow neo-robber barons like Donald Trump to play Monopoly with the real estate in Beijing?

Rather, our studies show that most members of the socialist bloc are likely to develop their own form of market system that will be designed to foster the public welfare rather than private gain - a New Socialism. A strong "social ethic" persists in much of Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union, China, and other socialist countries because their cultures value economic security and they are fearful of the risks and inequalities of capitalism. That's why half the world moved to socialism in the first place. A recent poll shows that 86% of Soviets dislike the basic idea of profit. …

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