A recent episode of Pitchfork Economics features listener questions from around the world about a broad array of topics, from the motivation of trickle-downers to the effectiveness of divestment as a strategy. Hosts Nick Hanauer and David Goldstein recommend books to convert economic skeptics away from neoliberal economics, and they discuss the core fundamentals of their economic philosophy.
One question in particular really drills down to the heart of what a more inclusive economic system should value. A listener named Stu from New Zealand writes in to ask, “What should the manifesto of the perfect political party look like? What are the absolute core principles that should be addressed?”
“We say the economy is people,” Goldstein said.
“We believe in that because economic progress is the product of a feedback loop between increasing amounts of innovation and increasing amounts of demand,” Hanauer said. That means “that the more people we deliberately, systematically, and intentionally include in our economy, the better it will work.”
Goldstein added: “The more people you include in the economy, the faster and more prosperous it grows. I think that’s true about a functional democracy as well: The country is people .. .that should be our number-one concern: We want our people to do better — not our capital, or our businesses, or GDP, or any other metric you can think of.”
“This is why I hate the word capitalism — because it implies that capital, or capitalists, are the heart of our economy,” Goldstein said. “It’s not. It’s people — people putting their knowledge and know-how to work, which is how we improve the lives of everybody.”
Stu’s question, while about party platforms, helps to define what should be a clear litmus test for economic and democratic policy going forward: does this policy broadly benefit as many people as possible?
This idea of putting people at the heart of the economy clearly identifies why the economic downturn that has accompanied the coronavirus pandemic is the worst economic catastrophe to hit the United States since the Great Depression: Because it has completely removed people from the economy.
And those people are not being removed equally. In fact, very specific people are being targeted by these economic losses: CNBC reported in September that of the “nearly 1.1 million workers ages 20 and over” who are no longer looking for work after dropping out of the labor force in August and September, “865,000 of them were women, a number that is four times higher than the 216,000 men who also left the workforce.”