mazzucato50_Andrea BonettiGreek Prime Minister's Office via Getty Images_popefrancis Andrea Bonetti/Greek Prime Minister's Office via Getty Images

For the Common Good

Tackling our biggest challenges and reversing the undue concentration of wealth and power will require a fundamental change in political economy. Currently, the principle of the common good is seen as merely a corrective for the current system’s excesses, but it should be the system's primary objective.

LONDON – After leaders of government, business, and civil society met at this year’s World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, the observation that we are living in the age of a “polycrisis” has spread. The simultaneous occurrence of multiple catastrophic events is a cornerstone of today’s socioeconomic and geopolitical climate.

In the face of challenges as immense as global warming, broken health systems, a growing digital divide, and financialized business models that are driving income and wealth inequality ever higher, it is no surprise that disillusion with politics is mounting – ideal conditions for populists promising quick fixes. But the real solutions are complex and will require investment and regulation, as well as social, organizational, and technological innovations, not only by government or business, but also by individuals and organizations across civil society.

Governments, believing that policy can at best fix market failures, often do too little too late. Even public goods (like funding of basic research and development) are seen as fixing a positive externality problem, while carbon taxes are fixing a negative externality problem. Achieving transformative change that produces inclusive and sustainable growth requires less fixing and more shaping and creating of markets. This requires complementing the notion of public goods with that of the “common good,” which is not just about the what, but also the how.