Saving Capitalism | Robert B. Reich

Summary of: Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few
By: Robert B. Reich

Introduction

Welcome to the fascinating world of ‘Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few’ by Robert B. Reich, a book that delves into the problems many capitalist societies face today. In this summary, you’ll discover the surprising role that governments play in creating and shaping markets, despite the popular belief in ‘free’ markets. Uncover the five building blocks of capitalism – property, monopoly, contracts, bankruptcy, and enforcement – and how they are intricately intertwined with the economy and society. As you journey through the American economic system, you’ll learn about the importance of private property, the influence of monopolies, the impact of wealth on political power, and potential solutions to save capitalism for the benefit of the majority.

The Role of Government in Capitalism

Capitalism is an economic system based on private ownership and free markets, but governments play a crucial role in creating and regulating these markets. While some people believe in minimal government intervention for efficient markets, government oversight is necessary to establish property laws, limit monopolies, define contracts, handle bankruptcy, and enforce rules. These building blocks are essential for capitalism to function and shape societies. Without government, there can be no free markets.

Private vs Common Property

The debate between private and common property revolves around how government defines the ownership of goods, under what conditions, and for how long. Although private property is advantageous, political decisions influence its definition. Intellectual property rights deserve attention since they are granted to companies whose drug patents can be renewed, enabling them to make huge profits at the expense of those who need the medicines. Amazon’s de facto monopoly enables it to control publishing houses, but antitrust law ensures fair competition. Ultimately, politicians are responsible for deciding if private property rights benefit the common good.

Three Building Blocks of Capitalism that Favor the Wealthy

The rules of our economic system protect the interests of corporations and the wealthy, often at the expense of the less privileged. One way this happens is through contracts that force unfair provisions on partners. For instance, employment contracts often require that all disputes be settled through arbitration, which is often skewed in favor of the employer. Additionally, corporations and the rich can use bankruptcy to avoid facing the consequences of financial missteps. Meanwhile, employees have no such protections. Finally, the wealthy can undermine the enforcement of laws they don’t like by stripping funding from enforcement agencies. By understanding these three building blocks of capitalism, we can better see the ways in which our economic system privileges the powerful.

Worth Beyond Wages

Meritocracy is a farce; wages don’t reflect worth but rather inheritance, connections, and discrimination. Socially important yet undervalued professions like teaching, nursing, and care work should be earning more while hyper-wealthy individuals earning millions, like hedge fund manager Steven A. Cohen, are not actually worth it. CEO pay has skyrocketed in recent years and cannot be justified by the meritocracy ideology.

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