Perhaps socialism was not an alternative to capitalism, but its heir. It will inherit the earth not by dispossessing the rich of their property, but by providing motives and incentives for behavior that are unconnected with further – and unnecessary – wealth accumulation.
LONDON – In 1995, I published a book called The World After Communism. Today, I wonder whether there will be a world after capitalism.
That question is not prompted by the worst economic slump since the 1930’s. Capitalism has always had crises, and will go on having them. Rather, it comes from the feeling that Western civilization is increasingly unsatisfying, saddled with a system of incentives that are essential for accumulating wealth, but that undermine our capacity to enjoy it. Capitalism may be close to exhausting its potential to create a better life – at least in the world’s rich countries.
By “better,” I mean better ethically, not materially. Material gains may continue, though evidence shows that they no longer make people happier. My discontent is with the quality of a civilization in which the production and consumption of unnecessary goods has become most people’s main occupation.
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