By Paul Collier and John Kay
- Greed Is Dead; Politics After Individualism (2020)
- Other People's Money: The Real Business of Finance (2015)
- The Truth about Markets: Why Some Countries Are Rich and Others Remain Poor (2003)
- Greed Is Dead; Politics After Individualism (2020)
- The Future of Capitalism; Facing New Anxieties (2018)
Two of the UK's leading economists call for an end to extreme individualism as the engine of prosperity
Throughout history, successful societies have created institutions which channel both competition and co-operation to achieve complex goals of general benefit. These institutions make the difference between societies that thrive and those paralyzed by discord, the difference between prosperous and poor economies. Such societies are pluralist but their pluralism is disciplined.
Successful societies are also rare and fragile. We could not have built modernity without the exceptional competitive and co-operative instincts of humans, but in recent decades the balance between these instincts has become dangerously skewed: mutuality has been undermined by an extreme individualism which has weakened co-operation and polarized our politics.
Collier and Kay show how a reaffirmation of the values of mutuality could refresh and restore politics, business and the environments in which people live. Politics could reverse the moves to extremism and tribalism; businesses could replace the greed that has degraded corporate culture; the communities and decaying places that are home to many could overcome despondency and again be prosperous and purposeful. As the world emerges from an unprecedented crisis we have the chance to examine society afresh and build a politics beyond individualism.
Richard V. Reeves on Brookings Institution wrote:
"In Greed Is Dead, a brief but dense polemic, Collier and Kay contend that this individualist ethos is 'no longer intellectually tenable'. They have two broad targets in their sights. The first is Economic Man — described as the 'repellent' invention of market fundamentalists who believe people act only to maximise their self-interest and must be monitored or bribed with bonus payments to serve the interests of their organisation. [...] Their second target is the self-righteous activist who loudly asserts an ever-expanding set of individual entitlements and legal rights — whether to intellectual property, housing, tertiary education or gender determination. [...]
The authors are democratic in their criticism: they are as scathing about the moral superiority of know-it-all academics or public sector workers (distinguished only by their better pensions) as they are about social media influencers [...] They are also refreshingly apolitical. The rejection of Economic Man is not a rejection of the market or of business — Titus Salt, the 19th-century textile magnate who spent his fortune on housing his workers, is held up as a model of what business can achieve in a community. [...] They are largely convincing — although many of their policy proposals are familiar, and do not depend on the intellectual framing they are given here."
"Paul Collier and John Kay, two of the most thoughtful economists writing today, argue that our problem runs deeper than hubris and complacency. The cause of our current malaise is, as they see it, a ‘half-century of extreme individualism’ – a long and damaging departure from the communitarian norms that ought to shape human societies. It is unclear how far they think the disease of individualism has spread. [...] The idea that humans are naturally pro-social and that collaboration has helped us to flourish is not a novel one, of course. It is a staple of evolutionary studies. It is also one of the best arguments for free markets that facilitate exchange and cooperation. Collier and Kay distance themselves from ‘market fundamentalists’ who ‘claim that the freest possible markets are required in order to harness the ineradicable power of human greed for public benefit’ (it would be hard to find many such people, I’d wager). But they insist that markets themselves are good, in that they allow for ‘disciplined pluralism’. ‘If experiments fail – and most do’, they write, ‘the market economy provides rapid feedback. Failures are abandoned, successes imitated.’ We neither need nor want a National Bread Service. In fact, a striking absence in the book is any call for economic or corporate reform. Indeed, the authors are against changes to corporate law or any of the main features of the economy. Instead, they are after that most elusive of transformations: one in culture. [...] The big problem they face, and never solve, is the one faced by all communitarian thinkers. They know what they are against – the ‘self-righteous narcissism of expressive individualism’ – but are hazy on what they are for, beyond the obvious."
Table of Contents of Greed Is Dead
- What Is Going On Here?
Part I - The Triumph of Individualism
- Individualist Economics
- From Civil Rights to Expressive Identity
Part II - Government: Symptoms of Distress
- The Rise and Fall of the Paternal State
- Shifting Political Tectonic Plates
- How Labor Lost the Working Class
Part III - Community
- Our Communitarian Nature
- Communitarian Governance
- Communitarian Politics
- Communitarianism, Markets and Business
- Communities of Place
- Epilogue: Shelter from the Storm
About Paul Collier and John Kay
Paul Collier is Professor of Economics and Public Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government and a Professorial Fellow of St Antony’s College, University of Oxford. From 1998–2003 he took a five-year Public Service leave during which he was Director of the Research Development Department of the World Bank. He is currently a Professeur invité at Sciences Po and a Director of the International Growth Centre. He has written for the New York Times, the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post. His research covers the causes and consequences of civil war; the effects of aid and the problems of democracy in low-income and natural resources rich societies; urbanization in low-income countries; private investment in African infrastructure and changing organizational cultures.
John Kay is one of Britain’s leading economists. His work is centred on the relationships between economics, finance and business. His career has spanned academic work and think tanks, business schools, company directorships, consultancies and investment companies. Kay has been a Fellow of St John’s College, Oxford since 1970 and has held chairs at London Business School, the University of Oxford, and the London School of Economics. He is a Fellow of the British Academy and the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Kay is a director of several public and private companies. He is the author of many articles and has contributed regularly to the Financial Times for over 20 years.