A New Progressive Political Economy

LONDON – In an article in Foreign Affairs entitled “The Future of History,” Francis Fukuyama pointed out that, despite widespread anger at Wall Street bailouts, there has been no great upsurge of support for left-wing political parties. Fukuyama attributed this – rightly, I believe – to a failure of ideas.

The 2008 financial crash revealed major flaws in the neoliberal view of capitalism, and an objective view of the last 35 years shows that the neoliberal model has not performed well relative to the previous 30 years in terms of economic growth, financial stability, and social justice. But a credible progressive alternative has yet to take shape.

What should be the main outlines of such an alternative? First, a progressive political economy must be based on a firm belief in capitalism – that is, on an economic system in which most of the assets are privately owned, and markets largely guide production and distribute income.

But it must also incorporate three defining progressive beliefs: the crucial role of institutions; the need for state involvement in their design in order to resolve conflicting interests and provide public goods; and social justice, defined as fairness, as an important measure of a country’s economic performance.