VALUE(S): BUILDING A BETTER WORLD FOR ALL by Mark Carney, Reviewed by Bob Publicover


Bob Publicover 

“ I have always known that Canada is a special place.
It educated me, taught me my values and gave me a chance in life. When those chances took me abroad, I was able to see through a new lens the true weight of Canada’s place in the world.
We are a magnet for talented, ambitious, caring people who share our values. We routinely transcend the limitations of our size to model values and policies for other countries.
I have drawn on Canadians’ strengths in public education and healthcare, and I have been fortunate to have been raised in an environment where leaders must forge consensus towards a common vision and then take principled, disciplined action.
For these gifts, I owe a great debt to our country.”
Mark Carney, Value(s)...Page 454

A person who subtitles his book “...Building a Better World for All” cannot be accused of lacking ambition. Indeed, the scope of “Value(s)...” is quite substantial, even breathtaking. It is a book about the importance of values in public policy making.

Carney is a Harvard and Oxford graduate, a former executive of Goldman Sachs and former Governor of two G-7 central banks. His 530 page epistle that posits regulated capitalism as a pillar of liberal democracy argues that a decline in values in western countries has caused them to mutate from market economies into “market societies”.

The book begins with an extensive history of political economy – touching on Aristotle, Socrates, Adam Smith, Thomas Hobbes, John Rawls, John Stuart Mill, Karl Marx and Hyman Minksy.

His historical analysis may prompt some readers to consult history, political science and economics texts that haven’t been opened since their undergraduate studies.

“Value(s)...” is not light reading.

Carney argues that commodification of public goods has led to an overvaluation of money and private goods relative to public goods such as the environment and public infrastructure. He contends that several decades of neo-liberal policies, starting with the Thatcher/Reagan era have increased overall global wealth, while afflicting the globe with deeper income inequality and reduced opportunity for those not born to wealth and/or gifted with advanced education

He further claims that this rightward shift in the global political and economic agenda has also contributed to sharp growth in systemic racism, as well as deepening health and economic crises that have been aggravated by the global Covid pandemic. He asserts that this environment has contributed to greater mistrust of experts which, in turn, has fostered an inadequate response to the threats of climate change and unemployment in the emerging digital economy that is heavily based on robotics and artificial intelligence.

Carney expounds in detail on his view that weak regulation stemming from the weak values of political and economic elites in so-called “market societies” is a root cause of the three most serious political/economic crises of the modern era – the Global financial Crisis of 2007-2008, Climate Change and the political and economic fallout from the Covid pandemic. This is the core of Carney’s thesis in “Values: Building a Better World” – one with which I agree wholeheartedly.

The “values” which Carney repeatedly champions as key to stimulating innovation and economic growth in an equitable society are fairness, solidarity, resilience, responsibility, sustainability, humility, and dynamism.

He outlines what amounts to a broad-based political platform for achieving a more humane society, as well as his proposed program to create such a polity by applying his highlighted values to political and economic policy making. His ideas for reforming political and economic infrastructure and for improving general welfare form the core of every chapter. Carney offers creative proposals for political and economic leaders and companies to restructure global and Canadian society in order to enshrine enhanced human values as the core of the legacy we bestow on future generations.

He cites these values and ideas as the foundation of a tangible action plan for leaders, companies and countries to transform the value of the market back into the values of humanity.

Carney’s passionate plea is that we declare fairness, high health standards, protection of political and civil rights, elimination of poverty, preservation of natural diversity and the conservation of resources as the key political and social objectives of democratic societies.

Bearing in mind that Carney is a practicing Catholic, his socio-economic model could be viewed by some readers as building on the founding principles of the Antigonish Movement that flourished in the late 19th and early 20th centuries among Catholic educators in Atlantic Canada.

“...there is growing evidence that relative equality is good for growth. More equal societies are more resilient, they are more likely to invest for the many not the few, and to have robust political institutions...a society that provides opportunity to all of its citizens is more likely to thrive than one which favours an elite, however defined.”
Carney, “Values...” Page 125

Carney considers it tragic that the values which he feels we should hold dear are too often the casualties of prevailing twenty-first century neo-liberal ideology, instead of being the fundamental basis of global social and political order.

This is a very timely and well written book. It presents bold and imaginative arguments for radical foundational change to existing capitalist dogma that Carney believes is necessary in order to create economies and societies based on human values instead of on absolutist pro-market ideology rooted in radical individualism.

Carney’s readers benefit from being exposed to the thinking of a distinguished public intellectual and global public servant who is seen by many as a possible future leader of the federal Liberal Party and Prime Minister.

I highly recommend it for serious students of Canadian and global political economy.