The GCAS Review 1 (1):1-46 (2021)

Mark R. Reiff
University of California, Davis
For a long time, economic growth has been seen as the most promising source of funds to use toward reducing economic inequality, as well as a necessity if we are aiming at achieving full employment. But one of the most troubling aspects of the recent exponential rise in economic inequality is that this rise has occurred despite continued economic growth. Increases in national income have gone almost exclusively to the super-rich, while real wages for almost everybody else have stagnated or even declined. And while the unemployment rate dropped significantly before the coronavirus pandemic hit, good, permanent, high-wage jobs with benefits had by then often been replaced by temporary, part-time, low-wage jobs without benefits, leaving even the employed feeling economically insecure. And now, of course, unemployment is again skyrocketing, and it is unclear how long it might take to come down. As a result, we have now arrived at a point of reckoning: can we continue to believe that liberal capitalism is the most promising combination of economic and political ideologies for securing a prosperous and just future? If not, what might replace it? Is the problem capitalism, or is it liberalism? Are we up against economic forces that we cannot influence or control, or is it our political will and the liberal values we endorse that are being tested? This paper looks at all these questions, and suggests how we might think about the prospects for a liberal future.
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