Reforming Markets

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I want to use this page to collate different approaches to reforming capitalism or markets.


Tom Attlee on strategies to reform capitalism and markets


"I'm personally fascinated by the seemingly blind collective intelligence power of mass self-organization-through-self-interest (as contrasted with "collaborative dialogue towards wisdom for the common good" which is the primary factor in my theories). Although my own theories do not adequately address market-type collective intelligence, I think that the self-organizing power of markets is fairly obvious and potentially very useful....

The trick with markets (as with other social systems) is to design them so that individual actors acting in their own self-interest NATURALLY act in the interests of the whole, as well -- or at least their collective actions add up to benign/beneficial outcomes for the whole. The fault with current markets is with their design. The current design alienates, fragments, and destroys. But that is not the fault of market operations, per se, even though they are based on self-interest. It is the fault of the particular market designs we use."

First Approach: Internalize all costs into the prices of goods and services. Currently many of the social and environmental costs of production, promotion, distribution, delivery, use and disposal of goods and services are paid by consumers or by the society at large in ways disconnected from those products and services. For example, taxes finance cleanups of business-generated toxics... everyone's health care costs rise to cover treatments for cancers caused by specific carcenogenic economic activities... everyone's lives are stressed by the overwork and pace of modern economic activity... insurance and food costs are rising rapidly due to the wild weather characteristic of global climate change triggered by corporate decisions about fossil fuels.... If such costs were internalized into the prices of things, self-interested consumers would prefer benign, sustainable products and services simply because they were cheaper than harmful products and services. Under these conditions, the market would work its wonders on behalf of the whole instead of only on behalf of corporate profits -- even though it was based on financial self-interest.

Second Approach: Consumers, investors and taxpayers bring ethical and other considerations to their choices regarding the use of their money. Stockholder activism, "triple bottom line" business (good for profits, society and the environment), socially conscious investment, socially conscious consumerism (including the simplicity movement, buy-local programs and consumer boycotts) and various taxpayer initiatives (including war tax resistance) and socially conscious taxes (like "green taxes") are all manifestations of this trend. In this case, public pressure (often guided by leaders who can show how social and environmental health serve people's self-interest) moves economic and political decision-making beyond the reductionist bottom line. One of the most powerful proposals is William Greider's suggestion that the six trillion dollars of pension funds -- the invisible thousand pound gorilla of the investment world -- be turned to socially responsible investments (see his The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy, or a summary like (

Concept and Movements overview

Non-capitalist Markets - Sylvio Gesell

Markets without Capitalism

Peer Arbitrage in Markets

Cooperative Capitalism

Natural Capitalism

Key Books to Read

The Ecology of Commerce. Paul Hawken.

Capitalism 3.0. Peter Barnes

The Soul of Capitalism. Wiliam Greider.