Long-Term Capitalism

What We’re Reading: April 2024

April 30, 2024  • Creating the Conditions for Long-Term Capitalism

What We’re Reading is a roundup of current news and commentary on the challenges and opportunities of aligning business decisions with the long-term health of society. If there’s a theme to this month, it may be the imperfect alignment of economic theory and our current economic reality. The narrower-than-expected impact of high interest rates is just one example. There is also the lag between policies intended to benefit workers, and the impact being felt in their pockets. Is progress just a matter of time?

The Economy

Imports Hold Back US Economy in First Quarter, Inflation Flares Up (Lucia Mutikani, Reuters) In a month when so many headlines went with some variation of “U.S. economic growth slows sharply,” this piece offers a more nuanced view. Even so, it has fodder for naysayers of the “soft landing” thesis.

Chipotle Keeps Raising Prices. Gym Rats and Millennials Are Still Buying Burritos. (Heather Haddon, The Wall Street Journal) The title of this piece may be lighthearted, but the content has us asking about the unique contours of economic discontent in this moment. What are the broader economic (and political) implications of an economy where prices keep rising, but middle-and-high-income consumers keep swallowing them? This piece looks for some additional answers beyond burritos: High Fed Rates Are Not Crushing Growth. Wealthier People Help Explain Why. (Jeanna Smialek, The New York Times).

Worker Voice

America’s Most Powerful Union Leaders Have a Message for Capital (Rana Foroohar, The Financial Times) A fascinating set of interviews with four of the most influential labor leaders in the U.S. explores a major question: “If the Reagan‑Thatcher revolution was about crushing union power,” could the pendulum now be swinging back the other way?

Could the Union Victory at VW Set Off a Wave? (Noam Scheiber, The New York Times) This article rightly emphasizes the significance of this union victory in the historically least-unionized region of the United States. But what we especially appreciate is how the article examines the conditions that enabled this victory: namely, that Volkswagen is a German firm. “Volkswagen and Mercedes have been relatively friendly to unions outside the United States, and a recent German law could prompt financial penalties against companies that crack down on union organizing.”


ESG Poster Child Unilever Waters Down Green Pledges (Dasha Afanasieva, Bloomberg) We appreciate this piece for how precisely and succinctly it captures what Unilever’s revised commitments mean for people and planet. More than that, the reporting in this piece raises so many vital questions: about the causal relationship of purpose and profits, the impact of anti-greenwashing regulations on sustainability commitments, and the difficulty of standing for social good in times of global geopolitical conflict.

World’s Largest Sovereign Wealth Fund Says Green Backlash Is a Chance for It to ‘Phase In’ — Not Out (Sam Meredith, CNBC) “[W]e think the fact that some other people are pulling away gives us a better opportunity to kind of phase in. So, really interesting times.” Are investors outside America’s current political fray about to eat our lunch?


US White-Collar Job Growth Stalls, Even in Pandemic Boomtowns (Augusta Saraiva, Skylar Woodhouse, and Paulina Cachero, Bloomberg) True, this article isn’t just about the tech sector—but let’s face it, it’s also very much about the tech sector. Even so, our final article may signal hope on the horizon for workers in tech.

Noncompetes Are Dead—and Tech Workers Are Free to Roam (Amanda Hoover and Paresh Dave, Wired) Is this a win for workers? Under the FTC’s new rule, “tech workers will probably experience a rise in the outside opportunities that they face,” says Evan Starr, an associate professor of business at the University of Maryland who worked on this research. “They’ll have more freedom to work where they want; they will be more likely to be paid higher wages.”

For more on our work to align business with the long-term good of society, sign up for our publications and visit our website. (Please note, the purpose of this newsletter is to highlight what Aspen BSP staff are reading, and is not intended as advertisement or endorsement of content or viewpoints.)

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