Long-Term Capitalism

What We’re Reading: March 2020

March 29, 2020  • 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’re devoting extra space to cover the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy, worker voice and much more.

The Economy

Coronavirus Recession Looms, Its Course ‘Unrecognizable’ (Nelson D. Schwartz, The New York Times) Commentators have frequently sought comparisons to past events such as recessions or wartime privation, but this thorough look forward explores why it is likely to be a singular event.

Red April (Henry Grabar, Slate) This piece poses the question: What happens on the first of the month when residents, restaurants, and retail stores don’t pay rent? By the time you read this, the US may start to see the answer. This piece is worth reading to understand the stakes and state of play.

Will the Coronavirus End Globalization as We Know It? (Henry Farrell and Abraham Newman, Foreign Affairs) For decades, business leaders have viewed having more inventory on hand than is necessary as a waste of warehouse capacity. That view is now being tested. What might come next?

Worker Voice

A Grocery Store Clerk Explains What It’s like on the Front Lines of Coronavirus Panic (Luke Winkie, Vox) “I have a realistic outlook. I do not expect to get through this horrible pandemic without getting sick at some point.” How are workers navigating day-to-day life—and what measures might support them?

“We Will Not Risk Our Safety”: Instacart Workers Announce Emergency Strike over Coronavirus Concerns (Li Cohen, CBS News) As US consumers increasingly turn to services like Instacart to purchase necessities during the pandemic, what becomes of workers at these services?

Amazon’s Warehouse Workers Sound Alarms about Coronavirus Spread (Jay Greene and Elizabeth Dwoskin, The Washington Post) The pandemic-induced stresses on digital delivery systems extend well beyond the storefronts where products are stocked.

Purpose of the Corporation

Remembering What Comes First is More Important Than Ever (Leo Strine, The Financial Times) As business leaders face the demands of an extraordinary moment, what does law say about balancing the needs of workers and the demands of shareholders?

Columbia Sportswear CEO Tim Boyle Cuts Own Salary to $10k, Retail Employees Receive Regular Pay (Samantha Swindler and Jeff Manning, The Oregonian/OregonLive) One of the most remarkable details of this story is that it isn’t just the CEO taking a pay cut—this is a team effort by executive leadership.

US Coronavirus Testing Is Slowly Ramping Up, but Way Too Late (James Temple, MIT Technology Review) Interesting accounts of how private labs are attempting to accelerate the response to the outbreak.


Now that Everyone’s Using Zoom, Here Are Some Privacy Risks You Need to Watch out For (Rae Hodge, CNET) Overnight, it’s become a platform where everything from work to yoga classes takes place. All the more reason to understand its workings.

Why All the Warby Parker Clones Are Now Imploding (Maya Kosoff, Medium) Written before the economic disruption of the pandemic, it is nonetheless still worth considering how the business model that defined the recovery from the last recession will fare in the aftermath of this one.

The Importance of People People (The Economist) An interesting piece on the changing role of human resources professionals, and how the pandemic is accelerating the field’s shift to an increasing integration with cutting-edge technology.

For more on our work to align business with the long-term good of society, sign up for our monthly newsletter 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.)