Long-Term Capitalism

What We’re Reading: January 2023

January 31, 2023  • 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. This month, we explore an unusual inflection point for the U.S. economy: an economic slowdown dominated by layoffs of white-collar workers. But even amid chatter of a “richcession,” power imbalances against low-wage workers persist and may even be increasing.

The Economy

Inflation Is Cooling, Leaving America Asking: What Comes Next? (Jeanna Smialek, The New York Times) A snapshot of American lives impacted by the economic ups and downs of the pandemic-era, in a moment of hope. For a less sanguine view, see The U.S. Consumer Is Starting to Freak Out (Harriet Torry and Joe Pinsker, The Wall Street Journal), and in particular the data on declining savings rates.

‘White-Collar Recession’: Major Companies Lay Off More High-Earners Amid Economic Downturn (Jillian Smith, The National Desk) “At the height of the pandemic, the U.S. saw layoffs in some blue-collar industries. Now, as employers and employees re-evaluate how they view and do work, it appears the opposite is happening with mass layoffs at big corporations…The big question now is: where are we headed next?”

Worker Voice

Exclusive: ‘I Feel Like I’m Drowning.’ Survey Reveals the Toll of Working For Amazon (Billy Perrigo, Time Magazine) Even as white-collar layoffs in the tech sector are making the headlines, it is important not to lose sight of the ongoing challenges faced by their less-well-compensated colleagues. Their physical labor makes the consumer conveniences of the digital economy possible—at a steep cost.

Checking In With the Starbucks Union as a Supreme Court Labor Decision Looms (Jaya Saxena, Eater) Past months of What We’re Reading have catalogued the remarkable groundswell of union organizing at Starbucks locations around the country. Will a decision from the nation’s highest court turn the tide?


Net Zero Asset Management and the Fiduciary Duty Dilemma (Tom Gosling, Executive Fellow of Finance, London Business School, writing in Forbes) An excellent piece that precisely responds to major objections to ESG. Learn what the author identifies as the legal risk that is “…easy to demonstrate and courts are unlikely to be sympathetic to the asset management industry.”

Wall Street’s New ESG Money-Maker Promises Nature Conservation — With a Catch (Natasha White, Bloomberg) Sovereign debt relief in exchange for countries’ commitments to preserving biodiversity—what might go wrong? A look at a variety of risks.

BuzzFeed Stock Rises 150% as Company Plans to Use AI to Create Content (Alexandra Canal, Yahoo News) As our January 2023 edition of What We’re Reading goes to publication, AI software ChatGPT is the topic du jour. But will reducing human capital costs really lead to long-term profitability?

The Hidden Cost of Cheap TVs (Justin Pot, The Atlantic) Production of cheap, disposable goods has long been a source of criticism of business. In recent years, the use and misuse of consumer data has emerged as a novel, 21st-century controversy. What if these two trends are also mutually self-reinforcing?

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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