Background Ideas & Consultation Topics

Free market economies in the past have generally been important platforms for creating wealth, but today the downsides of market economies are also becoming all too visible: ecological problems, increasing inequality, financialization, inadequate resource allocations, short-termism, stress on social relationships and on the middle class, new power concentrations and psychological overstretch. These problems have been exacerbated by the earlier credit crisis and by the Covid-19 crisis today. Time to rethink the future of European market economies!

Better Standards for Human Flourishing

In recent years, economists and social scientists have developed much more inclusive standards than GDP for measuring how we are doing. The new measures of integral human flourishing, such as the UN-Sustainable Development Goals, combine social and ecological standards. In addition to taking stock of the present, they also give a clear direction for rethinking and transforming our future market economies.

However, on a day-to-day-basis we are clinging to old thinking and old practices. We need a clear understanding of what “a market economy of the future” could actually look like in order to break through our short-term passivity. We need to rethink economics, to rethink markets: How can a different economy actually work?

Rethinking Capitalism

Fortunately, quite a number of visionary economists in recent years have addressed the question of the “future of capitalism”: How can the freedom and innovative potential of free markets be squared with the requirements of ecological sustainability and social justice / inclusivity? The “common good” has (re-)entered economics. Exploring the ideas of these economists can provide new pathways to the transformation of our market economies into platforms for promoting integral human flourishing.

In the current geopolitical context, the chances of redirecting our economies in the direction of human flourishing seem slim. In recent decades, the US and China have become the major economic superpowers, setting the agenda. For different reasons neither of these is truly committed to a transformative economic agenda nor is likely to be in the future.

The Common Good

It is conceivable that Europe as a third party can play that transformative role. Although Europe has its dark pages in history, it also has a longstanding tradition of thinking through, and partly realizing, market economies that work for the many and not the few.

These economies are based on a vision of the common good: “civil economy”, “Rhinelandic model”, “mixed economies” or “social market economy.” As these ideas and practices originally focused on social justice, ecological responsibility should now be included too.

Towards an Inclusive and Sustainable Market Economy

It is now time to act, time to collect and to synthesize the many innovative ideas, new and old, for an inclusive and sustainable market economy and present this to Europe as a potential global frontrunner in this respect.

Which values, which institutional arrangements and which evaluation frameworks, are needed in the future to organize

  1. creative, innovative markets that
  2. create good life standards for all (inclusion/social justice) and
  3. are ecologically sustainable? 

To bring these ideas together, this consultation will bring together people representing the future generation, visionary economists, and representatives of the business, the civil society and the political sectors.

This is a summary of a starter paper by prof. dr. Govert Buijs, academic chair of the Future Markets Consultation.

Topics of the Consultation

The consultation cannot and will not be dogmatic about topics to be addressed. Themes that can be addressed in the consultation and on which people or organizations may give input, can be broad and may concern (in random order and not intended to be exhaustive):

  • The relations between markets, governments, and civil society
  • Smart taxation schemes, geared to sustainable human flourishing
  • The role of finance and financial institutions
  • Government regulations to stimulate sustainable growth
  • Shareholder-stakeholder roles
  • Social and ecological entrepreneurship
  • True pricing
  • Moral foundations for an economy for sustainable human flourishing
  • Spiritual inspiration for an economy for sustainable human flourishing
  • Markets & sustainability
  • The geopolitical constellation and its economic implications
  • The role of cooperatives
  • The role of work in the future economy
  • Basic income/participation income/basic jobs
  • The mix of global and local/intelligent globalization
  • The role of economics education
  • Checking digital power
  • Moral capitalism
  • Conscious consumption