Long-Term Capitalism

What We’re Reading: November 2023

November 28, 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. As the end of 2023 nears, do many in the U.S. find themselves resigned to a winter of discontent? Certainly, that’s the impression many headlines make. This edition of What We’re Reading examines the choices (and challenges!) facing consumers, workers, investors, and even the Department of Defense in pursuit of happier outcomes.

The Economy

Don’t Read Too Much Into Those Black Friday and Cyber Monday Spending Totals (Elisabeth Buchwald, CNN) Consumers are increasingly seeking cheaper goods, a possible portent for deflation in the year ahead. Nonetheless, the title may be a little too pessimistic, as the piece goes on to say that consumer spending is strong.

Even Most Biden Voters Don’t See a Thriving Economy (Lydia DePillis, The New York Times) Your What We’re Reading editors would be the first to admit that we’ve seen headlines like this many times before. Still, the piece does manage to cut through the clichés with this concisely phrased insight: “The demographics of Mr. Biden’s 2020 supporters may explain part of his challenge now: They were on balance younger, had lower incomes and were more racially diverse than Mr. Trump’s. Those groups tend to be hit hardest by inflation, which has yet to return to 2020 levels, and high interest rates, which have frustrated first-time home buyers and drained the finances of those dependent on credit.”

Worker Voice

Why Is Everyone So Unhappy at Work Right Now? (Vanessa Fuhrmans and Lindsay Ellis, The Wall Street Journal) “The upshot is that the newest workers are among the least satisfied, Qualtrics data show—a reversal of the higher levels of enthusiasm that fresh hires typically voice.” One of the biggest economic stories of the pandemic was the huge shift of workers into new jobs. Does the fact that many are so unhappy, despite better pay and benefits, suggest the need for better strategies to hear and engage workers?

Six Leader/Worker Disconnects Affecting Workplace Well-Being (Jen Fisher, Dr. Jay Bahtt and Amy Fields, Deloitte) How can leaders do more to promote worker well-being? This report argues that they should start by recognizing that their perceptions often don’t match workers’ reality.


‘ESG’ Is Too Important to Ax, Investors Say (Tim Quinson, Bloomberg) As we near the end of a year of headlines about the supposed “ESG backlash” spearheaded by local and national politicians, a Business Insider survey of investors found that 89% consider use of ESG to be “mainstream,” and 85% believe ESG leads to “better returns, resilient portfolios and enhanced fundamental analysis.”

Putting politics aside, how does the economic picture for companies advancing sustainable business practices look at the end of 2023? Hedge Funds Are Shorting Stocks That Biden’s IRA Was Meant to Help (Ishika Mookerjee and Sheryl Lee, Bloomberg) suggests a more complex business story than just better returns on sustainable business practices—at least, in the short term.

If anything, the story of sustainable business in 2023 highlights one of the challenges involved in long-term value creation: Inflation Is Killing Long-Term Climate Bets (Robinson Meyer, Heatmap). And yet: “Our allies are waiting. Our competitors are watching. Like it or not, now is the time for the U.S. and industry to prove itself. We’ve gotta have moxy.”


The White House May Condemn Musk, but the Government Is Addicted to Him (David E. Sanger and Eric Lipton, The New York Times) “Neither Elon Musk, nor any private citizen…can have the last word when it comes to U.S. national security,” says Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island, in a piece detailing the challenges confronting a growing movement to lessen the influence of one of the world’s richest private citizens on national security.

I Guess We’ll Just Have to Trust This Guy, Huh? (Alex Kirshner, Slate) Musk isn’t the only tech billionaire in the headlines this month. “Any notion of OpenAI becoming some sort of enduring bulwark against capital’s domination of A.I. has gotten less realistic since the board took on Altman and lost.” But does that mean we just have to sit back and hope for the best?

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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