Blockchain Lessons for Capitalism: Applying Adam Smith’s Wisdom to Our Mistakes

Remarks at the Panel from the “New Enlightenment Conference: Reshaping Capitalism and the Global Order in a Neo-Mercantilist World,” Session on “Entrepreneurship and Innovation in an Age of Uncertainty (video, starting min. 5:10),” Panmure House, July 2, 2019, Edinburgh.

The emergence of the blockchain (the technology underpinning Bitcoin) and related technologies holds key lessons for the present and the future of capitalism because it points out three of its recurrent failures, which would sound familiar to Adam Smith:

  • misallocation of resources;
  • segmentation of knowledge; and
  • the moral blindness of Libertarian beliefs.

It questions two claims often repeated in the New Enlightenment Conference:

  1. short-termism in corporate decisions may be less prevalent than claimed, and
  2. Smith’s impartial spectator may be maladapted to today’s wealthy economies.