Clearly we need to rethink the old approaches to governing the global economy. But rebuilding public finances and restoring long-term confidence in the financial services industry will require more than government intervention and new rules; it’s becoming clearer that what’s needed is a new modus operandi based on new principles like transparency, integrity and collaboration.
Clearly the financial system is not the only institution that’s in desperate need of a makeover. A string of recent events suggests that many of the institutions that have served us well for decades — even centuries — are frozen and unable to move forward. The failure to reach a meaningful agreement on climate change in Copenhagen has further undermined confidence in the ability of international institutions to provide effective leadership in dealing with a growing list of global challenges. The disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico provided yet another reminder that the world is grossly under-investing in green energy alternatives that could at last break our perilous addiction to fossil fuels. And despite Obama’s historic reforms, the government’s own projections suggest that the world’s richest nation will still struggle to rein-in the spiraling health care costs that threaten to cripple government budgets in the years to come.
Sure, one could argue that the industrial economy and industrial-age institutions brought us centuries of unprecedented productivity, knowledge accumulation and innovation that resulted in undreamt-of wealth and prosperity. But that prosperity has come at a cost to society and the planet and it is clear that the wealth and security enjoyed in advanced economies may not be sustainable as billions of citizens in emerging markets aspire to join the global middle class. Indeed, as the world’s main economic engines continue to sputter, there is growing consensus that we are finally entering a very different kind of economy. Economist Robert Reich asks, “What will it look like? Nobody knows. All we know is the current economy can’t ‘recover’ because it can’t go back to where it was before the crash.”