Is Wall Street Capitalism Really 'The Model'?

11 Pages Posted: 19 Jan 2012

Date Written: January 19, 2012


Throughout much of the transition debate in the post-socialist countries, there was an implicit or explicit assumption that Wall-Street capitalism as found in America was "the model" for an advanced private property market economy. Today, this assumption continues to inform and shape public debate around the world. For instance, the debate about globalization often is just a debate about "Americanization." An idealized version of Wall-Street capitalism is touted as the model in the "science of economics" as well as in the "scientific theory of finance." In the mass media of America and increasingly around the world, programs about "business" are in fact about stock trading on the Wall Streets of the world ("Isn't that what business is about?"), not about business enterprises. Problems in the American economy are seen as just temporary bumps in the road while problems in other market economies are seen as structural flaws that can only be resolved by moving closer to the American Wall-Street model.

The continuing financial collapse of 2008, which caused trillions of dollars of damages to most everyone but the Wall Street elites, will perhaps lead to some hesitation in the reflex to evoke the Wall Street model — if not to some more fundamental rethinking of the issues. Perhaps the Occupy Wall Street movements around the world are the beginning of such a rethinking. In any case, our purpose here is such a rethinking by going back to some of the basic principles that are supposed to be exemplified in a market economy.

Keywords: Wall Street capitalism, responsibility principle, absentee ownership, logic of exit, logic of commitment

JEL Classification: A13, G00, J54, P1

Suggested Citation

Ellerman, David, Is Wall Street Capitalism Really 'The Model'? (January 19, 2012). Available at SSRN: or

David Ellerman (Contact Author)

University of Ljubljana ( email )

School of Social Science
Ljubljana, CA


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