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Toward Economic Feudalism? Inequality, Financialisation, and Democracy


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Speaker(s): Professor Richard B Freeman
Chair: Dr Robin Archer

Recorded on 2 May 2012 in Old Theatre, Old Building.

This lecture contends that the last 3-4 decades' increase in inequality and financialization threatens the success of democratic capitalism. It reviews the changes in income distribution and financialization of economies, with special attention to the US, that make the world increasingly diverge from free market ideals and argues that the economic interests of small groups of "crony capitalists" have come to dominate government responses to the financial crisis and ensuing recession. The danger is not an ever-expanding socialist state, per Hayek's Road to Serfdom, but of a move to economic feudalism, in which a small set of wealthy masters dominate markets and the state and subvert or outsmart efforts to regulate their behavior or rein them in. Professor Freeman will explore the way in which modern internet and communication technology and the increases in team-based production, worker participation in firm decision-making and in group incentive pay can restore the influence of the many and create a "shared capitalist" solution.

Richard B. Freeman holds the Herbert Ascherman Chair in Economics at Harvard University. He directs the National Bureau of Economic Research / Sloan Science Engineering Workforce Projects, and is Senior Research Fellow in Labour Markets at the London School of Economics' Centre for Economic Performance. He received the Mincer Lifetime Achievement Prize from the Society of Labor Economics in 2006. In 2007 he was awarded the IZA Prize in Labor Economics. In 2011, he was appointed Frances Perkins Fellow of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Science. His recent publications include Can Labor Standards Improve Under Globalization (2004), What Workers Want (2007 2nd edition), What Workers Say: Employee Voice in the Anglo American World (2007), Reforming the Welfare State: Recovery and Beyond in Sweden (2010), and Shared Capitalism at Work: Employee Ownership, Profit and Gain Sharing, and Broad-based Stock Options (2010).

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