Imagine a country called CapitalismStan. Imagine that country’s proud emblem was a great invisible hand. In every town square, its flag flew proudly. Prices were its idols; markets were its temples; products its litanies; and all knew what the great hand stood for: the undying ideals of competition, self-reliance, riches. A man’s worth was his wealth; the measure of people’s time was how much they earned; together, millions worked, hour after painstaking hour, on what they called “innovation”; good works divinely ordained by their titans; the markets.
Yet something was wrong in CapitalismStan. That very society was foundering. Its middle class was collapsing. It had already had a lost decade; and was starting on another. Its young had become a lost generation, desperately seeking opportunity. Median incomes had stagnated for decades. The economy spun headlong into a great recession; and then it “recovered”; but during the “recovery”, the richest 1% captured 95% of the gains. Millions faced chronic unemployment and poverty. Social mobility was low and decreasing. Life expectancy was dropping.