Goals of Capitalism and those of Democracy

“… the central problem of free-enterprise capitalism in a modern democracy has always been how to balance the role of the government and that of the market. While much intellectual energy has been focused on defining the appropriate activities of each, it is the interaction between the two that is a central source of fragility. In a democracy, the government (or central bank) simply cannot allow ordinary people to suffer collateral damage as the harsh logic of the market is allowed to play out. A modern, sophisticated financial sector understands this and therefore seeks ways to exploit … government’s concern about inequality, unemployment, or the stability of the country’s banks.

The problem stems from the fundamental incompatibility between the goals of capitalism and those of democracy. And yet the two go together, because each of these systems softens the deficiencies of the other.

I do not seek to be an apologist for bankers, whose hankering for bonuses in the aftermath of a public rescue is not just morally outrageous but also politically myopic. But outrage does not drive good policy. Though it was by no means an innocent victim, the financial sector was at the center of a number of fault lines that affected its behavior. Each of the actors— bankers, politicians, the poor, foreign investors, economists, and central bankers— did what they thought was right. Indeed, a very real possibility is that key actors like politicians and bankers were guided unintentionally, by voting patterns and market approval respectively, into behavior that led inexorably toward the crisis. Yet the absence of villains, and the fact that each of these actors failed to bridge the fault lines makes finding solutions more, rather than less, difficult.

– Rajan, Raghuram G. from Fault Lines: How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the World Economy

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