Main Street Markets vs Wall Street Capitalism

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Wall Street and Main Street are metaphors now in common use to distinguish between two sharply contrasting economic models with sharply contrasting priorities, values, institutions, and interests.

Main Street refers to local economies comprised of entrepreneurial local businesses and working people engaged in producing real goods and services to provide a livelihood for themselves, their families, and communities. Much like the diverse species of a healthy ecosystem, Main Street enterprises vary in their priorities and values. Their legal forms range from sole proprietorships and family businesses to cooperatives, worker and community owned corporations, and nonprofits. Generally, however, they share in common a commitment to creating meaningful livelihoods and contributing to the well-being of the community in which they are located. Profit is more a means more than end.

The Wall Street capitalist economy is comprised of the institutions of big finance and the captive corporations that serve them. It is a world of pure finance and maximizing financial return is the name of the game. They may or may not contribute to the creation of useful goods and services, but these are more in the nature of incidental byproducts of their profit seeking.

The Wall Street economy, which is centrally planned and managed by a global syndicate of global corporations that hold a collective monopoly over the world's money, markets, and technology for the exclusive benefit of their managers and financiers, persistently violates market rules. It bears substantial resemblance to the central planning model of Soviet communism. By contrast, Main Street economies, are decentralized, self-organizing, and far more likely to function by market rules. Defining differences between Wall Street and Main Street are summarized in this table. 

 

Wall Street Economy

Main Street Economy

Dominant driver

Making money

Creating livelihoods

Defining activity

Using money to make money for those who have money

Employing available resources to meet the needs of the community

Firm size

Very large

Small and medium

Costs

Externalized to the public

Internalized by the user

Ownership

Impersonal and absentee

Personal and rooted

Financial capital

Global with no borders

Local/national with clear borders

Purpose of investment

Maximize private profit

Increase beneficial output

The role of profit

An end to be maximized

A means to sustain viability

Efficiency measure

Returns to financial capital

Returns to living capital

Coordinating mechanisms

Centrally planned by megacorporations

Self-organizing markets and networks

Cooperation

Can occur among competitors to escape the discipline of competition

Occurs among people and communities to advance the common good

Purpose of competition

Eliminates the unfit

Stimulates efficiency and innovation

Government role

Protect the interests of property

Advance the human interest

Trade

Free and unregulated

Fair and balanced

Political orientation

A democracy of dollars

A democracy of persons