Protectionism seems to have gripped the world, with Brexit and the rise of nationalist regimes in many countries. Do you believe globalisation will decline or needs to be defended more aggressively than ever?
There is a risk that the hostility to globalisation results in a backlash against openness. We have already seen how free trade reforms are stalling. And this is why we need a vigorous defense of globalisation, to show the promise of development and the freedom it holds. Nothing in the history of mankind has been as beneficial for human development as globalisation–extreme poverty has declined from 37% to less than 10% since 1990–if we fail to defend this, and spread it to even more people, it would be a disaster.
Do we need to reimagine growth? Are we too romantic about the rates at which we expect countries to grow?
No, I am certain that we can get back to rapid growth, but it takes decisive reforms to unleash grassroots entrepreneurship and open up sectors like agriculture and services to competition and trade.
When it comes to inequality we still have to ask ourselves if we really want people to be as equal as possible or as well off as possible, which is another way of asking: Is the wealth of some really the problem, or isn't the problem that too many are still desperately poor?
Is the demand for growth ecologically unsustainable as some suggest? Or is that a Luddite notion?
No, it's the lack of growth that is ecologically unsustainable. If people are forced to choose between nature and their children's future, they will always sacrifice nature. It's only when they get more wealth that they can take care of both, and it also contributes to the technological development that we need to produce and transport in greener ways. Poverty is the worst polluter, as Indira Gandhi once put it.
There seems to be disenchantment with the capitalist model. How can it be revived? What can corporations do to bring back the sense of adventure that made capitalism exciting?
I think we need more risk-taking and innovation. Too many companies are too defensive and cautious. They protect their old business models, so we need more competition, to make it possible for outsiders to invest in the new solutions that the old ones don't.
One of the reasons [for the disenchantment] is that capitalism has recently been very much pro-big business rather than pro-market, because they are protected with regulations, license requirements and bailouts. We need a more aggressive approach to open up new sectors, defeat insiders and unleash a new cycle of growth that creates more opportunities, and also more money in people's pockets.
Countries like India are seeing an explosion in grassroots entrepreneurship–does the future of capitalism lie with the millions of small entrepreneurs rather than a few massive corporations?
Yes, I think that this is where we have the huge untapped resources for capitalism in the future. Both in a small scale, but some of them will also grow very large and successful if they are given a chance. The only way to use all knowledge and all creativity is to let everybody participate.
The Scandinavian model has been widely discussed. How capitalist or otherwise is this model?
The Scandinavian countries are more laissez-faire-oriented when it comes to competition, trade and product markets than almost all other countries in the world, partly because we have a very strong free trade-tradition that forces companies to be competitive. At the same time we have higher taxes and more redistribution than most other countries, so there is another side to it. So these are mixed economies and we can see that they create amazing things in the areas where they are free, whereas they fail where the government is too involved.