Feb 5 • 29M

Theory of Change #058: Nils Gilman on how the "designer economy" will replace neoliberalism

Historian Nils Gilman on why leaders on the left and right are realizing the state must play a bigger role in the economy


Appears in this episode

Matthew Sheffield
Lots of people want to change the world. But how does change happen? History is filled with stories of people and institutions that spent big and devoted many resources to effect change but have little to show for it. By contrast, many societal developments have happened without forethought from anyone. And of course, change can be negative as well as positive. In each episode of this weekly program, Theory of Change host Matthew Sheffield delves deep with guests to discuss larger trends in politics, religion, media, and technology.
Episode details

Concerns about globalization and the rise of politicized religion have led to dramatic increases in political extremism in the United States and many other countries in recent years. But another huge factor has been the shrinking of what people feel like they can expect from their government.

For about the last 30 years or so, most countries with mature industrial economies have been ruled by left and right parties that espouse neoliberal views that governments can’t and shouldn’t do much to boost the economy, and that deregulation and privatization are preferred.

It was already apparent to many people, but the Covid 19 pandemic made it very clear that the invisible hand is a terrible manager for a national economy. The global supply chains that worked so well for many years broke down entirely, and that there have been shortages of everything from toilet paper to automobiles. The many problems that China has had in particular have also made it obvious that locating almost the entirety of the world’s electronics production to China and Taiwan was a disastrous idea no matter how cheap it may have been.

The rapid development in multiple countries of many different vaccines against the SARS-CoV2 virus has also demonstrated that governments can successfully drive rapid scientific and commercial innovation that would’ve taken the private sector alone many years to accomplish.

After ruling our politics for decades, neoliberalism appears to be on the way out. But what’s coming next? Joining in this episode to discuss is Nils Gilman. He is a senior vice president at the Berggruen Institute, and he’s the deputy editor of Noema, an online magazine about philosophy, governance, and technology. And just recently, he co-wrote an essay entitled “The Designer Economy,” which is a multifaceted look at what’s displacing neoliberalism and who’s doing it.

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