The purpose of this paper has been to provide an in-depth review of the trends that are driving capitalism towards the 21st century, and from these trends try and project what the future may hold for young people. The 21st Century Learning Initiative is interested in trying to understand these trends because it is through such understandings that a road map for the future can be proposed. From this map it is then possible to begin debating the decisions that should be made now to best prepare young people for living in a 21st century free-market democracy.

In summary, capitalism of the late 20th century can best be described as a system moving towards economic individualism. (a term taken from Christian Lutz, Societies in Transition) The United States is leading the advanced economies of the world in the move away from the post-World War II social and economic arrangement that has commonly come under the heading, depending on one’s political bent, of social democracies or welfare states. The advanced capitalist societies of North America and Europe are moving away from big government, labor unions and even big companies in terms of numbers of employees towards societies made-up of individuals who will have to collectively or individually find their own economic niche. For some, this will be a period of great opportunity. The successful will have the cognitive and practical skills necessary for finding economic niches that will reward their individual expertise. These people will be the winners, and they will excel. They will be able to plan and save for their retirements and actually retire at younger ages. Retirement will be a prolonged holiday financed by the profits of Wall Street and other financial districts. They will have full access to a vast array of technological marvels which will make their lives easier, entertainment more accessible and increase their longevity. For these people it will be the golden age of humanity.

On the other side of the barricades, will be those who were protected in the past by employment in large corporations, labor unions and government employment and programs. These will be the unskilled and the semi-skilled, and they will increasingly find that the economy has no place for them. Labor unions will not be able to protect their jobs, and governments will not provide for them or their children’s welfare. Those who work as gardeners, home care workers, guards and in the numerous other service sector jobs that require a strong back and a pleasant demeanor will find themselves struggling to get by, and they will find it even more difficult to pay for their children. They will not be able to retire, or if they do they will have to live with their children.

Democracy and social stability will survive this scenario only if a large majority can make it across the divide and join in the good life. The only way this can happen, according to the current economic arguments, is by providing training and educational opportunities to all, and then making certain that these opportunities lead to work. Unfortunately, there is more rhetoric available than money for training programs.

From the evidence collected for this paper it would be easy to construct various crisis scenarios that would show that democracy and stability in the economically advanced countries of Europe and North America will face grave danger in the not too distant future. That is not the purpose of this paper. The purpose of this paper has been to show that for the benefit of today’syoung, the wise of today must come together from all fields, backgrounds and nationalities to look for new ways of doing things. There are answers to every economic problem presented in this paper, but they are going to require a new way of thinking about consensus and coalition building. For solutions to be found it is going to require people and groups to come together who have not been able to bring themselves to do so in the past. It is going to require politicians, policymakers, academics, thinkers, and citizens to work together and agree to mutual sacrifices instead of looking for others to blame for how we got here. It will take long-term planning rather than short-term thinking. In short, it will require a mindshift.


However, it is important to note the decline in growth rates among all G-7 nations over the better part of the past 15 years. Between 1971 and 1978, according to the OECD, the members of the Group of Seven (G-7) enjoyed an average economic growth rate of 3.5 percent per year…Since 1989, by contrast, growth has averaged 2.4 percent. (Ethan Kapstein, Foreign Affairs (May/June 1996) p. 28) The United States was ranked number one in World Competitiveness by the International Institute for Management Development and number four (behind Singapore, Hong Kong and New Zealand) by the World Economic Forum.
Thurow has actually expanded on theory first proposed by Paul A. Samuelson and Wolfgang Stopler in 1941, that two countries that practice free trade and have the same technology should eventually see their wages equalize.

In discussions with international bankers at Rothschild it was pointed out that interest rates for investments in America are considerably lower than for similar investments in South Korea because of the potential for hostilities with North Korea.
It is important to note that in the US, the health-care industry doubled the number of its employees in the 1980s – thus worsening overall productivity – and now consumes about 12 percent of the GNP which is double that which is spent on defense. (Paul Kennedy, Preparing for the 21st Century, p. 303)

The concepts of barricades and New Frontiers is taken from Joseph Jaworski’s Synchronicity: The Inner Path of Leadership.