Long-Term Capitalism

What We’re Reading: May 2019

May 20, 2019  • Creating the Conditions for Long-Term Capitalism

What We’re Reading is a roundup of current news around the challenges and opportunities of aligning business with the long-term health of society. This month we highlight work worker voice, the role of business in tackling inequality and other grand challenges, and more.

The Business Cycle

Fears of Recession in America Have Faded (The Economist) At the end of last year, economists at JPMorgan Chase put the chance of a recession in 2019 at 65%. Since then, the accepted narrative of where the US economy is going has changed so quickly that one economist called it “eye-popping.” What’s behind this re-think of US economic prospects?

World Economy Rebound Thrown Into Doubt by Escalating Trade War (Enda Curran, Rich Miller and Xiaoqing Pi, Bloomberg) Of course, the big question for many is what will result from the twists and turns of the global trade war.

Booming Buybacks Aren’t Likely to Wane Despite Market Volatility (Jessica Menton, The Wall Street Journal) Stock buybacks are still going strong. Is this a sign that companies are not worried about global growth, or a way to support share value in the market? And how do buybacks contribute to inequality between shareholders and workers?

Purpose of the Corporation

Amazon and Walmart Promise Meaningful Careers in Their Postings for Low-Wage Jobs (Michelle Cheng, Quartz at Work) “Find a job you’ll love”: Two of America’s biggest employers have adopted the language of purpose, but does it make a difference in the lives of low-wage workers?

One Way to Close the Wealth Gap: Make Employees Part Owners (Eillie Anzilotti, Fast Company) In the United States, providing benefits, including asset building for retirement, is a key function of the corporation. Yet, common offerings like 401(k)s have systematically reinforced inequality between white men on the one hand, and women and people of color on the other. This piece highlights a way to tackle the wealth gap while improving benefits for workers across the board.

Uber Is Going Public: How Today’s Tech I.P.O.s Differ From the Dot-Com Boom (Karl Russell, Stephen Grocer, The New York Times) The recent wave of public tech offerings rivals that of the 1990s, but many of these companies are more mature and sometimes struggle with profitability. The next question is, where do they go from here, and who will benefit?

Worker Voice

Solidarity in Silicon Valley (Brishen Rogers, Boston Review) “The tech giants are facing a moment of reckoning.” Tech companies are far from democracies and innovation has outstripped the law on many fronts. How can workers build power and exert influence from within the system?

Inside Google’s Civil War (Beth Kowitt, Fortune) Google has gone through a number of transformations and not everyone is pleased with the results. Who gets to determine the character of a company, and “what happens when an empowered tech workforce rebels?”


TV Networks Emerge as Obstacles on YouTube’s Hunt for Ads (Paresh Dave, Sheila Dang, Reuters) Not long ago, it seemed inevitable that YouTube would dominate the advertising business as titans of television lost ground to the digital video pioneer. But YouTube’s failure to effectively moderate toxic content has created lucrative business opportunities for traditional TV networks.

Uber and the Doublespeak at the Heart of Silicon Valley (Alex Rosenblat, Fast Company) Efforts to regulate the tech sector are gathering steam at the state and federal level. What’s the best way to proceed given the sector’s ability to set the terms of debate?

Why Amazon is Gobbling Up Failed Malls (Wall Street Journal Video) Not a read but a watch, and well worth the few minutes to see how the growth of the 21st century economy follows tracks laid down in the 20th century—literally.

International Highlights

French Report Adds to Pressure on Facebook over Regulation (France24) It’s time for social media companies to tackle the problems of disinformation and hate head on, but how? What will it take for us to trust the internet again?

Germany Staves off a Retail ‘Apocalypse’ — For Now (Nik Martin, DW) The pressure of online shopping has been slow to hit Germany, but nothing lasts forever. Will the country’s retail traditions be enough to stave off uncertainty, and what lessons do they have for other economies hit by online market pressures?

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.)