Book Reviews | Oct 16 2017
FNArena book review: Political Economy of Tomorrow, by Marc Chandler
By Rudi Filapek-Vandyck
Global Head of Currency Strategy at Wall Street's Brown Brothers Harriman, Marc Chandler, has written a book about modern society in evolution. The author himself insists his book is about capitalism, its future and how it remains deeply misunderstood by many. Others might think Chandler's book, really, is about money ("capital"), and how it changes the world.
Ultimately, it doesn't matter as all these different terms and concepts are closely intertwined anyway. But few would have drawn a direct correlation between more equal rights for women, constitutional protection of civil rights and capital's inevitable drive for profitable multiplication, yet that's exactly what Chandler is trying to explain.
Capitalism is not challenged because of its many weaknesses. It is challenging itself, and us, through its inner strength, explains Chandler. Few among us understand this and see it this way because we still think in terms of "scarcity". With "us" the author is referring to today's economists, politicians, business leaders, journalists, thought leaders and central bankers. Yet capitalism, explains the book, moved beyond "scarcity" a long, long time ago. Its modern modus operandi is "surplus". Journalist and US presidential advisor Charles Conant understood this more than a century ago.
Chandler's "Political Economy of Tomorrow" is as much a refreshing take on global society's past centuries as it is an homage to Conant's views and ideas which, alas, have been largely ignored and forgotten. The story that develops in front of us is one that explains modern capitalism's biggest flaw: it creates ever larger surpluses, and this means the world, the economy, our society has to change to accommodate these surpluses in finding a profitable destination.
Not that that is such a bad thing, considering this is what drove the United States to replace trading barriers with a global sphere of influence; this is why most adults today have the right to vote, to be educated and to seek a job and earn an income, why we have social security nets and why women are participating in the workforce. And evolution doesn't stop here. Already, the traditional concept of "a job" is changing (back to what it was in the nineteenth century, mind you), technology is helping the world to turn into a global village with information flow fast as lightning and practically uncontrollable, and large multinationals are eroding the sovereignty of governments.
Next come space travel, a permanent colony on the moon, a cure for cancer, machine learning and robots in manufacturing, and renewables replacing fossil fuels; but you already knew that. What you didn't know is that capitalism's constant struggle to cope with surpluses is the big driver behind each and all. (These are my own extrapolations after reading the book, by the way).
Scarcity has been conquered, writes a triumphant Chandler, we can now focus on building a better world for more people. For it is only now that we have successfully left scarcity behind that we can truly aspire to achieve humanity's full potential.
Marc Chandler. Political Economy of Tomorrow. 249 pages. St Jeannine Press, New York. ISBN 978-0-692-82429-0
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