It is an accepted axiom of modern life that disruptive change is all around us. Almost every aspect of our lives has been altered irrevocably in recent years.
In this process there have been winners and losers, just as in every other great social upheaval. This time, however, the consequences have been even more profound, leading in large measure to the social dislocation, anger, and fear we see today.
Part of the reason is that the disrupters, who created so much of the change, and got rich doing it, now claim to be the only ones able to solve the problems they created. This, says Anand Giridharadas in his attention-grabbing new book, Winners Take All, is a little like the arsonist insisting on heading the fire brigade.
In this WhoWhatWhy podcast, Giridharadas explains to Jeff Schechtman the damage that has been caused over the past 30 to 40 years of citizens construing government as their enemy. In so doing, they have unwittingly undermined the very public institutions that have traditionally moderated and sometimes even democratized change.
What that means in practical terms, Giridharadas says, is that innovators are doing things in private that publicly we don't know how to police.
Using cryptocurrency as an example, Giridharadas says, “We have no idea how to tax that stuff, we have no idea how to find that stuff. Look at all the ways in which wealthy people use tax havens and tax shelters…”
Giridharadas maintains that, for most of US history, democratic government and capitalism have worked together relatively successfully to create a thriving mixed economy built on a foundation of a strong democracy.
That collaboration has gone off the rails over the last few decades, he says. Now, in his words, we need to pivot from an age of “fake change” to an age of genuine reform, in which we rebuild our vital public institutions to be able to keep step with a changing world.