Nicolas Sarkozy, the leading contender in the French presidential election, recently lashed out against what he called “speculative capitalism,” and says he wants to “moralize the financial zone” created by the euro. What does Sarkozy mean by “speculative capitalism?” Something immoral, apparently, but what? The term has rarely been used before, and seems to be redundant. After all, capitalism is practically a synonym for speculation, isn’t it?
Sarkozy is expressing a wave of sentiment that is neither unique to his party nor to France. At stake with his comments are emerging ideas and attitudes that will inform the twenty-first century economy. So we should think hard about what “speculative capitalism” means.