Long-Term Capitalism

What We’re Reading: October 2021

October 29, 2021  • 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. Last month, we asked whether the U.S. economy might be settling into a new normal characterized by lingering disruptions of COVID-19 to labor markets and global supply chains. This month provides further evidence for this view. We may be in for a long ride.

The Economy

The U.S. Recovery Slowed in the Third Quarter as the Delta Variant Surged (Ben Casselman, The New York Times) A good, succinct overview of the current issues facing the U.S. economy.

America Is Running Out of Everything (Derek Thompson, The Atlantic) Globalization, offshoring, specialization, just-in-time production, supply and labor shortages: A deeper dive into the core issues of supply-chain weaknesses and how we can escape this “veritable hydra of bottlenecks.”

Governments Must Relieve Supply Chain Turmoil, Says Shipping Boss (Leo Lewis, The Financial Times) At what point is it time for industries to ask for help, and what form should that help take?

Worker Voice

Why Are So Many Americans Quitting Their Jobs? (Greg Rosalsky, NPR) In the U.S. recently, millions have handed in their notices. How are labor market shifts, the pandemic and other factors changing the way we view our lives and the world of work?

U.S. Workers Are Realizing It’s the Perfect Time to Go on Strike (Alana Semuels, TIME) A powerful account of worker actions in a month some have dubbed “Striketober,” which also puts these current events in an important historical context.

Purpose of the Corporation

ESG Funds Are Surging. Without Standards, They Remain ‘Buyer Beware.’ (Jean Case, Barron’s) “We are living in an extraordinary time in which the idea that capital and business can play a strong role in strengthening our society and our environment is coming to life. We have a unique opportunity to use capital for both financial returns and to help solve some of our world’s greatest challenges.”

The Meaning of Mission Statements (The Economist) “Mission statements contain multitudes… They can tell you which stakeholders matter most to a firm.” How can investors and others separate signal from noise?


Facebook Wrestles With the Features It Used to Define Social Networking (Mike Isaac, The New York Times) “The mechanics of our platform are not neutral.” Can Facebook revamp its products in ways that defang the worst effects, without undermining their core business?

How Etsy Is Giving AI to Its Army of 5 Million Artisan-Entrepreneurs to Build the Anti-Amazon (Steve Bertoni, Forbes) A rosier point of view on the crisis of global supply chains: “The world’s supply chains had locked up. You couldn’t get face masks. Yet Etsy’s supply chain was just two hands making.” As we search for a path out of the current supply chain puzzle, what can we learn from pandemic successes?

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