The Anglo-American free market versus the continental model may be a battle of the sexesby Madsen Pirie / May 20, 2000 / Leave a comment
Since the collapse of the planned economy there have been two types of market economy on offer in Europe. The struggle between them is seen as a contest over social values.
The “Anglo-American” model is competitive, risk-taking and aggressive. Firms seek to expand at the expense of their rivals, and to move into new markets whenever possible. The tension between bankers and shareholders, between investors, employees and customers, is a dynamic one held in check only by the presence of competitors and by the rules which try to channel the aggression into acceptable outlets.
The alternative, the “continental model,” stresses the virtues of cooperation and compromise. Long-term partnerships are reached. Banks become partners to investors. Representatives of capital and labour meet round tables to thrash out common positions. People see each other’s point of view, and work together to iron out points of conflict. In this more ordered world, the hostile takeover is a rare thing; a sign that things have gone wrong, rather than the emblem of rude vitality which the more vigorous market model takes it to be.
In the Anglo-American model, business is a tough contact sport; in the continental model it bears more of the hallmarks of a group activity. It is the difference between water polo and synchronised swimming.
There is a striking parallel between the competing economic models, and the characteristics commonly taken to express the dominant features of the male and female personalities. In the stereotype, the male is seen as the risk-taker, reaching outwards-aggressive and competitive. The female, on the other hand, has superior social skills, a better understanding of others, and an ability to relate to them. His is the world of fight and win, hers of understanding, compromise and conciliation.
Just as the male world has its clear winners and losers, so the full-blooded market economy exhibits huge differences of outcome and achievement. There are great disparities of income. The opportunities are certainly there, but they include failure as well as success. Critics often equate it to the animal world, with its “jungle morality.”
The cooperative model has many features often included among the feminine virtues. Some do better than others, but there is no great gulf between winners and losers, between the dominant alphas and the others. Life is more ordered and ritualised. There are procedures and practices to draw all groups into it. Success is shared. There…