Monday, the NY Times published a piece by Salesforce CEO Mark Benioff titled “We need a new capitalism.” A few paragraphs into the piece Benioff explains that the new capitalism is needed because the old one is dead:
Yet, as a capitalist, I believe it’s time to say out loud what we all know to be true: Capitalism, as we know it, is dead.
Yes, free markets — and societies that cherish scientific research and innovation — have pioneered new industries, discovered cures that have saved millions from disease and unleashed prosperity that has lifted billions of people out of poverty. On a personal level, the success that I’ve achieved has allowed me to embrace philanthropy and invest in improving local public schools and reducing homelessness in the San Francisco Bay Area, advancing children’s health care and protecting our oceans.
But capitalism as it has been practiced in recent decades — with its obsession on maximizing profits for shareholders — has also led to horrifying inequality. Globally, the 26 richest people in the world now have as much wealth as the poorest 3.8 billion people, and the relentless spewing of carbon emissions is pushing the planet toward catastrophic climate change. In the United States, income inequality has reached its highest level in at least 50 years, with the top 0.1 percent — people like me — owning roughly 20 percent of the wealth while many Americans cannot afford to pay for a $400 emergency. It’s no wonder that support for capitalism has dropped, especially among young people.
This isn’t the first time Benioff has used this line. About a week ago, he said the same thing at a tech conference:
“I really strongly believe that capitalism as we know it is dead,” Benioff said last Thursday night. “We’re going to see a new kind of capitalism and that new kind of capitalism that’s going to emerge is not the Milton Friedman capitalism that’s just about making money.”
Benioff isn’t quite calling for full communism but he is calling for having the government step in to ensure the good of workers and the environment are a larger part of corporate decision-making. Benioff wants corporations to commit to giving one percent of their equity, time, and product to charity. But because corporate charity can never be enough, the new capitalism also requires the government to step in with much higher taxes:
A new capitalism must also include a tax system that generates the resources we need and includes higher taxes on the wealthiest among us. Local efforts — like the tax I supported last year on San Francisco’s largest companies to address our city’s urgent homelessness crisis — will help. Nationally, increasing taxes on high-income individuals like myself would help generate the trillions of dollars that we desperately need to improve education and health care and fight climate change.
Two things about all of this. First, there’s a name for what Benioff is describing: Social democracy. Why not just call it what it is?
Second, notice these new taxes he’s proposing to support the “new capitalism” only fall on “high-income individuals.” This claim, that only the rich need pay more to raise enough money for the left’s expansive agenda, is a lie. The Nordic model which many American socialists have embraced is founded upon much higher taxes for the middle-class. Vox has said as much. So has Bernie Sanders. Elizabeth Warren has resisted admitting it’s true and made herself look silly in the process. I wonder if Benioff would admit his plan actually entails higher taxes for almost everyone? I wonder if anyone will ask him?
Benioff has a book coming out titled, “Trailblazer: The Power of Business as the Greatest Platform for Change.” I guess labeling social democracy “new capitalism” is an innovation but I wouldn’t call it trailblazing.
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