Rethinking Capitalism: The View from Canada

By Shlomo Maital  

Michael McCain

   American Billionaires sit on enormous mountains of money and assets, and their wealth doubles every decade or so, without any effort, because they earn rates of return ordinary people can only dream of. 

     Only a tiny portion of their wealth goes toward federal incomes taxes — they’ve paid an average income tax rate of 8.2% over roughly the last decade.  Progressive Democrats want to impose a wealth tax, but have been stymied.

     Capitalism needs radical reform.  But how?  Here is an interesting proposal from a Canadian, Michael McCain, who runs Maple Leaf Foods.  McCain is the son of Wallace McClain.  Wallace was booted out of the eponymous family business and bought Maple Leaf, building and growing it.  Michael is his son.  He is regarded as a highly creative effective and outspoken manager.

    Michael McClain, writing in Canada’s National Post:  (617 words)

     “Capitalism is in peril and requires revolutionary thinking but change begins with a new vision for the future.

     “Capitalism as we know it, requires a revolution in our thinking. A recent survey of 34,000 people from 28 major countries found that 56 per cent of respondents believe capitalism does more harm than good. I believe the capitalism we have been born into, which reaches back to well before the industrial revolution, has delivered extraordinary outcomes for humanity. Yet, we now know this has come with terrible, inexcusable consequences directly connected to the foundation of our way of life. The trade-offs are too great.

    “Our home, planet Earth, is on fire and the strength of our environment is deteriorating. Globalization has delivered overall prosperity, but largely in the context of a race to the bottom. There has been an intolerable rise in gross inequality and social injustice. We have experienced endless human conflict. And there has been a rapid decline of trust in all our institutions.

    “My generation has failed the “future test” because of our short-term interests. This will not solve itself. The enormity of the challenges we face requires a rethink: A revolution of thinking to create a new “Charter for Capitalism”.

     “Drawing on the insights and learnings from failure, I offer six themes to consider.

     “A new Charter for Capitalism should:  Recognize multi-stakeholders equally, rejecting the primacy of shareholders, by including the environment, natural life and society as equally critical stakeholders. It should disadvantage short-termism, one of the curses of modern capital market function, creating specific financial and motivational tools to accomplish this. It should welcome government regulation to create level competitive playing fields, not opportunity; rejecting the race to the bottom. Of course, all regulation must be efficient and effective, delivered by more cost-sensitive governments to avoid waste. It should redefine human rights to include a comprehensive, secure social safety net. Inequality is social impairment, and these human rights should include the right to a secure home, the right to a secure basic income, the right to secure food, the right to secure health care, the right to secure education, the right to equality of opportunity and the right to live in a healthy planet.   It should embrace contributing a bigger share of the cost of these social human rights by privileged people who have the means, rejecting the notion it as a mere transfer of wealth.   And finally, it should ensure all commercial relationships are premised on this new Charter, including assurance of jurisdictional breadth and consistency, locally, regionally and globally, and institutionally supported in places such as a revitalized World Trade Organization, to roadblock opportunism.

   “I don’t believe this is a rejection of everything we know about a capitalist society and the progress it has delivered. I would never advocate turning our back on it. I believe a new charter should be a revolutionary new version, which would create the world our generation should have left the next but hasn’t … at least not yet. It is a view of value creation that we are pursuing at Maple Leaf Foods, one that sees great business opportunity by channeling our resources to tackle the monumental social and environmental issues of our time, including our climate crisis and food insecurity.

    “Leading this effort cannot be confined to government, NGOS or social activists. It can only succeed with the direct engagement of forward-thinking business leaders.

   “Yes, capitalism is in peril, and requires revolutionary thinking. Change begins with a new vision for the future. Some might face this prospect with denial, cynicism or fear. I think it offers hope for a sustainable and equitable path forward — and hope is always inspiring.”