Long-Term Capitalism

What We’re Reading: January 2019

January 25, 2019  • Creating the Conditions for Long-Term Capitalism

What We’re Reading is a roundup of breaking news and commentary on the challenges and opportunities of aligning business decisions with the long-term health of society.

I Tried to Block Amazon From My Life. It Was Impossible.
Kashmir Hill, Gizmodo 
What happens when you try to escape the power of the world’s biggest retailer?

The Remoralization of the Market
David Brooks, The New York Times  
This piece from David Brooks reflects a shift under way across the political spectrum: The amorality of markets is no longer accepted as inevitable and necessary.

Larry Fink’s 2019 Letter to CEOs 
Larry Fink, BlackRock 
In his highly anticipated annual letter, Larry Fink urges investors and companies to embody a “fundamental reason for being” beyond profit in order to address “frustration with years of stagnant wages, the effect of technology on jobs, and uncertainty about the future” around the globe. According to Fink, “Purpose is not the sole pursuit of profits but the animating force for achieving them.”

Globalisation has Faltered
The Economist
The trade wars and local upheaval that gripped the world in the last two years are adding up to a new version of economic integration, in which global integration recedes and regional integration increasingly takes its place. Will it solve the problems of globalization or just create new ones?

One Man’s Obsessive Fight to Reclaim His Cambridge Analytica Data
Issie Lapowsky, Wired
How companies utilize the data consumers generate when using online services and platforms has become a new front in the social impact of business. The issue can seem so technical that it’s hard to begin to think of what it means in practice. This engaging long-read maps the challenge of taking control of data on the level of an individual.

As STEM Majors Soar at UW, Interest in Humanities Shrinks — A Potentially Costly Loss
Katherine Long, The Seattle Times
Since the recession, humanities programs have suffered institutional losses as Science, Technology, Engineering and Math majors have been promoted as better bets for employment after graduation. The irony is that this is starving STEM departments of financial resources they need to operate.

As HuffPost and BuzzFeed Shed Staff, Has the Digital Content Bubble Burst?
Jim Waterson, The Guardian
Strong overview of changes in the media ecosystem, with a succinct breakdown by numbers of what’s happening to some of the digital darlings of the last decade. Key quote: “In some ways, for journalism to succeed as a business it needs patient investors who are content with incremental growth and modest returns on investment.”

Chilling Davos: A Bleak Warning on Global Division and Debt
Andrew Ross Sorkin, The New York Times 
“It is not hard to imagine worsening social unrest among a generation,” [Mr. Klarman] wrote, “that is falling behind economically and feels betrayed by a massive national debt that was incurred without any obvious benefit to them.” Will rising debt, social tensions and lack of leadership lead to another global economic crisis? If so, what should be done? 

Investors Criticise German Executive Pay Reforms
Olaf Storbeck, The Financial Times
In the United States, Elizabeth Warren’s call for worker representation on corporate boards has contributed to interest in Germany’s system of corporate governance, where such practices have long been in place. So, what’s the latest over there?

A Davos Debate: What is Finance For?
James Mackintosh, The Wall Street Journal
“Caisse’s Michael Sabia fears finance has forgotten its original purpose as backers of corporate investment.”