By Henry Paulson










In the midst of the market turmoil, the pressing priority for US and global policymakers is to repair the financial system and restore the economy. Just as important, however, will be addressing the serious flaws exposed by this crisis. This process of reflection and reform will be critical to restoring confidence and enabling market-based capitalism to rebuild our economies. We must recognise the real possibility that because the crisis is not behind us, there may be lessons to learn and problems to address that are not now obvious. Yet many lessons are obvious and I take confidence from the commitment of world leaders – in the US, Europe, China and elsewhere – to pursue comprehensive regulatory reform and co-ordinate internationally.

First, this will be a big, multi-year undertaking. The crisis has exposed serious flaws in many aspects of our financial system. There will be proposals for more effective regulations in areas ranging from over-the-counter derivatives and short selling, to the practices of financial institutions, investors, mortgage originators and credit rating agencies. We will need to reflect on the long-held premise that sophisticated investors have the wherewithal to look out for themselves and require minimal, if any, supervision. In these areas and others, regulations must be crafted to foster market stability while maintaining the fundamental tenet of capitalism: if investors are to reap the rewards of taking risks they must also bear the negative results of their risk-taking.

Yet updating our regulations and market practices will not be enough. We must also fundamentally reform and modernise our regulatory architecture and authorities. While regulators have co-operated in addressing this turmoil, it is clear that their overlapping jurisdictions, gaps in jurisdictions and authorities, uneven capabilities and competition among themselves created the environment in which excesses throughout the markets could thrive. Consequently, to focus only on new regulation would fall short: we must also modernise the regulatory system and authorities in the US.

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By Trevor Manuel

Can Ulysses bind himself again to the deck, having succumbed for so long to the sirens’ allure?

Global growth has slumped and its financing is in disarray. Once again the limits to institutional rationality are self-evident. It is not that we were not warned. The historical record repeats itself: confidence gives way to exuberance, panic is followed by decline, retrenchment precedes reconstruction. From Adam Smith’s defence of moral sentiment before economic self-interest to Debreu’s algebraic articulation of the informational requirements for a welfare-maximising equilibrium, economists have been clear that markets are incomplete and cannot be left to themselves.

Political economists since Thomas Hobbes and Adam Smith have understood that capitalism relies on state power to impose instrumental checks on greed and abuse of influence.

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By Nigel Lawson

That capitalism has been shown, in practice, to be endemically flawed should come as no surprise. That is the nature of mankind. What is more important is that history, notably the history of the world after the second world war, has demonstrated beyond dispute that every other system of economic organisation is far worse. So capitalism both deserves to survive, and will survive, just as it did after the even greater economic disaster of the 1930s.

But there is another lesson of the 1930s. It is that although capitalism survives it is capable of retreating behind a protectionist shell, at great cost to global prosperity. This is a real danger today. The “Buy American” provisions in President Barack Obama’s fiscal boost are an ominous sign. The impulse to resort to protection when economic hardship suddenly strikes is, of course, always present. But there is today a dangerous new factor which magnifies the threat. The leaders of some of America’s largest corporations have already joined up with organised labour (the AFL-CIO) to urge Congress to impose tariffs against imports from countries (such as China, for example) which are understandably unwilling to bear the heavy costs of an obligation to curb their carbon dioxide emissions. There is considerable support in Europe, notably within the European Commission and in France, for a similar approach.

It is essential, both in the US and in Europe, that this is resolutely rejected. The first and most important requirement for the future of capitalism is the preservation of globalisation, and the massive benefits it confers on mankind, in particular in the developing world. There are, inevitably, costs of globalisation; but they are hugely outweighed by the benefits. So resistance to protection, whatever arguments may be used in its favour, must be rigorously maintained. Nor is this an exclusively economic argument. It is a moral imperative, as well. Moreover, a trade war with China could well have unpredictable, and potentially highly damaging, political consequences.

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By Paul Kennedy

Ingram Pinn illustration









US presidents, in confronting crises, have often let it be known that they are serious students of history and biography. George W. Bush, an unusually voracious late-night reader, devours books on the lives of Great Men, including his hero Winston Churchill, (who in turn liked to read about his illustrious ancestor, Marlborough). Barack Obama looks to biographies of Abraham Lincoln for inspiration.

Given the enormity of the banking, credit and trade crisis, might it be worth suggesting to Mr Obama and his fellow leaders that they study the writings of the greatest of the world’s political economists, instead? After all, we may be in such a grim economic condition that the clever direction of budgets is a greater attribute of leadership than the stout direction of battleships.

By Richard Layard

What is progress? The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has been asking this question for some time and the current crisis makes it imperative to find an answer. According to the Anglo-Saxon Enlightenment, progress means the reduction of misery and the increase of happiness. It does not mean wealth creation or innovation, which are sometimes useful instruments but never the final goal. So we should stop the worship of money and create a more humane society where the quality of human experience is the criterion. Provided we pay ourselves in line with our productivity, we can choose whatever lifestyle is best for our quality of life.

By Amartya Sen

Exactly 90 years ago, in March 1919, faced with another economic crisis, Vladimir Lenin discussed the dire straits of contemporary capitalism. He was, however, unwilling to write an epitaph: “To believe that there is no way out of the present crisis for capitalism is an error.” That particular expectation of Lenin’s, unlike some he held, proved to be correct enough.

FT editorial

As a shell-shocked world tries to fathom how its economic collapse happened, commentators are busily outbidding each other with claims about the exceptional nature of this crisis. But the most astounding fact is how familiar its physiognomy and physiology look compared to past financial crashes.

By Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva

For me, capitalism has never been an abstract concept. It is a real, concrete part of everyday life. When I was a boy, my family left the rural misery of Brazil’s north-east and set off for São Paulo. My mother, an extraordinary woman of great courage, uprooted herself and her children and moved to the industrial centre of Brazil in search of a better life. My childhood was no different from that of many boys from poor families: informal jobs; very little formal education. My only diploma was as a machine lathe operator, from a course at the National Service for Industry.

FT Editorial

J.K. Galbraith wrote that 1929 stood alongside 1066, 1776, 1914, 1945 and 1989 in its importance. The world today was shaped by the efforts of governments to overcome the economic meltdown of the 1930s – and the consequences of their failures. Even if this economic crisis is not as bad as the Great Depression, it will have epoch-moulding consequences. This week the Financial Times starts a series on the Future of Capitalism. Much, however, depends on the success of next month’s meeting of the Group of 20 in London and how successful governments are at ending this worldwide crisis.

By Robert Shiller

Lydia Lopokova, wife of the economist John Maynard Keynes, was a famous ballerina. She was also a Russian émigré. Thus Keynes knew from the experience of his in-laws the horrors of living in the worst of socialist economies. But he also knew first-hand the great difficulties that come from unregulated, unfettered capitalism. He lived through the British depression of the 1920s and 1930s. Thus Keynes was inspired to find a middle way for modern economies.

The Future of Capitalism

The free-market model that dominated thinking for 30 years has been discredited. Where to now? Join the debate here and follow the series in full at

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