Capitalism, but not as you know it: how I’d fix it
Homelessness is soaring. Addiction is out of control. Companies and conglomerates control the world while millions starve. So it might come as a surprise to you that I’m now more capitalist than ever.
Having had the privilege of working with some of the most intelligent, informed and hardened private sector people on the planet, I’ve realised that a lot of the problems I’ve historically had with the absurdity that is capitalism are the product of monopolies, sexism and a lack of equity. Capitalism doesn’t exist in a vacuum: it takes a continuous iron to flatten out the lumps in the culture that underlies it.
So, as a noisy 23 year old, here are my five quick fixes to reform capitalism. Let’s call this system Hansonism in case you want to nick it or install me as your monarch.
1. Education, Education, Education
Educational Equity is the foundation of any social mobility.
Don’t confuse this for total equality: it makes no sense to fund me through professional soccer training (I’d probably ask for a tennis racket). We need to fund education that respects difference and diversity: you’ll have kids who excel in chemistry, and kids who are extraordinary athletes. Celebrate and support them, and offer polytechnics, practical courses and fast paths for the brightest and best among them.
Ensure those who suffer from the roadblocks of poverty, exposure or birthright are properly supported: offer scholarships, mentorship and tuition. Part of this goes towards gender or class too: I dearly wish I had been made aware of venture capitalism or strategic commercial planning as a teenage girl. It’s too late for me now (it would be a bit daft to take CeFS at 23) but it isn’t for the next generation of young women. As a loud, inventive schoolgirl I was only taught that politics and media were open career paths for me: honestly, being persuasive and creative is just as useful in business and finance. And they make more money, as traditionally masculine fields. Anyway.
Make ambition and sky-high horizons possible for all children, from all backgrounds.
2. Break up the Monopolies
Make the market competitive to avoid social collapse.
I believe in the principle of a free market. And that means companies should be allowed to fail as much as they should be allowed to rise. If your product, service or outlet is rubbish, of course you shouldn’t be in business. If your quality is so low your consumers want to go to a competitor, they should be able to do so. That’s capitalism. And that’s a good thing. You should go out of business if you suck. The government shouldn’t protect that at the cost of quality and progress.
So how do you keep a market competitive? You place limits on the proportion of a market that one body can own. If Madelaine’s Coffee™ takes over Coffee A™ and Coffee B™, I, as CEO, can lower the quality of all of them and you can’t do anything about it as a consumer because now the market collectively sucks while I take the profit on something you have to buy. If I’m banned from owning 100% of the market, and two-thirds have to remain external to my income, then I’m forced to actually compete with other businesses to offer a good service. Or Americano.
Capitalism is at it’s worst when enormous companies can treat their employees, consumers and products with incredible levels of contempt because they aren’t forced to compete with anyone else. Think of any company you hate: I’ll bet that this is a factor.
3. Reinstall Asylum and Emergency Care
Introduce protections and sanctuaries for the most vulnerable citizens.
One of the things that tipped me into light socialism at university was the poverty faced by the struggling and vulnerable. I’d walk home through mansions and gardens with addicted people wandering into the traffic hoping for death. I’d see confused, frightened people with schizophrenia shouting on the trains, lost and filthy with no one caring if they lived or died. And I’d think; “Is this what we do with the most desperate people in our countries? Forget about them?”
We need compulsory, free care for those who need round the clock supervision, medication and support. I know for a fact that there are philanthropists and benefactors who can and would pay for this. It’s disgusting that we have made serious disorders and life-risking addictions something for the individual to handle, not us as a society. We need to get to the root of what ‘asylum’ means: a safe place. A haven. Protection. Love. Not some archaic Victorian prison, but a place for people to get back on their feet, get treatment, get medication, and get warm. No one should be freezing on the streets, however much you ‘blame’ them for their ‘life choices’.
4. Tighten the Rights of the Individual
Safeguard the bodily autonomy and safeties of citizens.
Another major criticism I had of capitalism as a super cool teenager was that capitalism saw profit as more important than safety and freedom. And that’s true, for many places (Nestle, baby milk) but not something that’s incompatible with capitalism. Sweden, Denmark and Finland have handled this excellently: tight regulations on quality and safety, and a lot of freedom around creativity and market transformation.
So here’s what you do: carefully legislate against harmful substances (arsenic in baby toys, lead in makeup) and enshrine bodily autonomy in the constitution (the right to buy contraception, the right to ownership of your own organs). That way, while the market can come up with whatever crazy new technologies or systems it likes, and grow accordingly, you don’t have to worry about your fundamental rights within that system. Profit isn’t first: you are. The market has to profit with you. Not through you.
5. Regulate The Megadollar Vote
Place limits on the influence one person can have on elections.
So Dominic Cummings is clearly detested, and with good reason. I too am disgusted, horrified and disillusioned by the idea that a rich man can buy an election or referendum for his own gain. I think any person who believes in democracy should be appalled, frankly.
And I agree, capitalism shouldn’t allow the top players to buy out the system from everyone else. It shouldn’t be that we are reliant on ultra-patrons to behave well in order not to live in some dystopian hellhole under some crazed egomaniac on a power high. We need limits, under the new capitalism, on how much influence the super-rich have on our politics. I’m talking FOIs on every single meeting, every single expense and every single billboard.
I’m talking recordings of every meeting where money crosses the table for campaigns, I’m talking total disclosure of any emails or documents between campaign teams and investors. Can it be done? Maybe. We’ll see. I’m an optimist.
But I believe that if you want utopia, you have to at least try and attempt it first.