Speculating about a social
democracy in 2050
John Quiggin https://economics.uq.edu.au/profile/2249/john-quiggin is an Australian economist, a Professor at the University of Queensland, a former Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow and Federation Fellow, and a Member of the Board of the Climate Change Authority of the Australian Government. He has written extensively on issues to do with democracy and socialism, amongst other things, and his ideas are of global concern.
The impetus for John Quiggan’s speculation about 2050 in his Guardian article https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/jan/17/socialist-utopia-2050-what-could-life-in-australia-be-like-after-the-failure-of-capitalism arises from two pertinent observations: a) the sense of despair that many of us are feeling about the current state of politics across the globe and b) young people across the English-speaking world, and to some extent beyond, have moved to the left. He argues that capitalism has failed these young people and it is time to consider other options.
John Quiggan’s proposed alternative to capitalism is socialism. He is not advocating the earlier sense of socialism with its implicated links with communism; rather he is proposing a contemporary 21st century of sense of socialism as “social democracy with a spine”. He is not the only political/economic writer to expound such a view. But what struck us was that his economic speculations about the type of society that could ensue 30 years from now seems so compatible with the type of society we have envisaged in Cosmopolis.
In the first instance, he suggests that there will be growth in credit unions and community banks as a response to the global financial crises brought on by global financial capitalism and greed. Such crises and other “failures” of capitalism have also meant that there is a disappearance of big corporations from many sectors of the economy and an overall decline in the private business economy. The vision is of a mix of public sector, non-profit, and private small businesses with only a handful of large corporations remaining.
He also envisions an overall better work-life balance that has been made possible by technological progress and a falling away of many of the wasteful activities of a market economy. Even though people are working less, what he calls the “social value of production” has increased. And those not directly working in the market economy will have access to a participation income, reflecting non-market contributions to society, or simply an unconditional basic income.
In this society of the future John Quiggan also envisages that there will be an Increase in diverse community groups making contributions to all manner of quality of life issues. And with the change in focus of activity from consumption to quality of life there will be, as a consequence, more attention to environmental issues.
Overall he concludes, “The socialist world of 2050 would not be the kind of utopia dreamed of by abstract theorists. … But it would provide nearly everyone with a better life, and more opportunity to pursue their own path to happiness, than we have today.”