Monday, December 06, 2004

Balancing markets and social justice

Outsourcing – good or bad? That was the angle for a presentation done by two of us this morning. Which side did I get? The pro- side, which meant that I was for the chop, this being an Institute concerned with social justice.

But what’s noticeable is the number of those who are pro-market who recognise its limitations and the problems that the current globalisation process presents, including lost jobs and localised economic recession. Contrary to what the anti-globalisation movement thinks, it’s not a case of ‘them and us’, but ‘how do we resolve it’?

I can see the advantage of the anti-globalisation movement trying to demonise the other side for not caring. But the reality is much more complex than that, with many on the pro-market wanting not ‘free markets’ but ‘fair markets’. Even this report from McKinsey (that bastion of anti-globalisation, I don't think!), which I had to read to prepare for the class, notes the need for effective public policies where jobs are lost.

The problem though, is how to do this? This is of particular concern to social democrats. As a friend put it to me on Friday night, ‘Almost everyone accepts the market now as the best means of allocating resources. But where social democrats fall down – and they need to have a response – is to square the issue of social justice. The challenge for them is to say in what circumstances can social justice trump the market – and in a systematic and thorough way.’


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