Now is not the time for incremental improvements to an old playbook. We need a transformational social contract.
The world is changing in profound ways. This change has brought with it growth, opportunity and job creation, as well as new risks for workers and communities. We are ill-equipped to manage many of these risks – these are the risks that have fueled economic anxiety and job insecurity.
“History proves to us that America is better off with more trade, not less.”
It’s the challenge of our time.
We can jump to blame trade, technological advances or economic restructuring, but by doing so we fail to acknowledge clear advantages. We wouldn’t be focusing on the bigger picture.
For example, studies show that 12.1 million manufacturing workers, due to advances in technology, can now produce at a level that previously would have required 20.9 million workers. That kind of productivity gain isn’t always easy to see at first. It requires a forest through the trees view.
And we can’t forget about trade.
Trade has been criticized by some for moving jobs overseas in industry sectors vulnerable to global markets and competition. But at the same time, history proves to us that America is better off with more trade, not less.
More than 95 percent of consumers live outside the United States, making America the world’s second-largest exporter of goods and services. As a result of trade, since 1980, the US economy has gained about 54 million jobs.
A new social contract
Economic pessimism is complex. It’s caused by many converging trends, accelerated change over time and the fact that tools of action are historically ill-suited to manage new risks.
Would expanded government insulate our businesses and workers from change? Should we just continue to grow at exponential rates and let the labor market sort itself out?
In The Opportunity Project: A New Social Contract for a Changing World, a new white paper released by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, we present a third option – one where the business community plays a leadership role in the discussion.
Why? Because the American free enterprise system has been and will always be the single greatest creator of opportunity in this country.
As we boldly enter the future, we need to make sure that we do so in a way that preserves the entrepreneurial spirit of America as a nation of risk-takers, yet also equips businesses, workers and communities with a new playbook for how to manage a constantly changing economy and world.
There has been much conversation around the new economy, but with this paper we begin a path to action.
The old playbook was built for a different era and economy. We want the new one to see business, workers and government share in the opportunity – and the risk – of the new economy.
For this to work, we must reconstitute and reaffirm our shared understanding of the roles and responsibilities of all the key stakeholders. Public and private sector solutions must play equal parts.
Not a small task, but this is what is required to fuel the growth we need for our economic success – and to ensure that business, workers and communities share in the benefits.
Starting a conversation
This paper is a first step in elevating the discussion and making sure the business community is at the table thinking through the challenge of our time and what we can do together to solve it.
We plan to bring this conversation to main streets and cities across America and provide a place for thought leaders, businesses and public policy leaders to come together to explore the new social contract in a changing world – and the risk sharing and risk management products, services and policies that will make it successful.
We encourage you to join the conversation and help us preserve the American Dream for generations to come.
This article first appeared on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation blog and was republished with permission.
Every morning, wake up to the blog that gives you the latest trends shaping tomorrow.
You might also like: