Davos cross-post: Tony Blair & Co. are still bullish on capitalism

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Tony Blair says he recently ran into an old friend from his leftie university days.”Ah, I told you,” his friend said. “I told you capitalism is going to end.”

Blair doesn’t buy it. “The free enterprise system as a whole has not failed,” he says. “The financial system has failed. … We’ve been taught a very old lesson, which is that values matter.”

He’s saying all this up on stage in a session on “The Values Behind Market Capitalism” this morning. (I’m sitting near the back of the room, and the wifi connection is excellent.) But this is also sort of the big theme of the World Economic Forum this year: Something’s broken with financial-market capitalism. Hardly any of the people who show up at an event like this want to replace it with some other kind of -ism. So they talk a lot about the need to temper the profit motive with values.

“One lesson we should not learn from the current financial crisis is that we should turn the clock back on global financial markets,” says HSBC Group Chairman Stephen Green, who is next up after Blair. But neither can we go back to the credo of recent years: “If there’s a market for it and it’s legal I don’t need to think about anything else.”

And now it’s more of the same from Pepsi’s Indra Nooyi, with some added digs toward Wall Street: “As CEO of a Main Street company I think we have been tainted by the issues that have come up on the other street. … 100% of Main Street has got great values and is doing fine. The other part of the economy has problems.” She also thinks regulators need to be paid more.

Meanwhile, Shimon Peres likes “the Google” and thinks it’s great that Sergey and Larry have gotten rich off it. But he thinks social democracy is great too.

So there you have it. The Third Way is upon us. More later, but I’m starting to feel like I’m being kind of rude by blogging while these people speak. It shows a lack of values, perhaps.