Andy Young pushes ‘public-purpose capitalism’

Pastor. Civil rights leader. Congressman. U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Atlanta mayor. Olympics promoter. Business consultant.

Andy Young

Andy Young

I can’t think of anyone with that type of resume, except for Andy Young.

I sat down with him recently to see if he could provide any words of wisdom to deal with the tough business issues we’re facing. At 78, Young still has a lot of fire in his belly. (The air-conditioning was out in his Cascade Heights home that day, so he was really cooking in the summer heat.)

“The challenge of the 21st century is for us to make capitalism produce for the poor, like it did for the rich and middle class in the 20th century,” Young said. He recognizes, of course, that much of the middle class is getting squeezed in this economy, along with the poor.

Young advocates what he calls “public-purpose capitalism” — essentially an alliance of private firms and government. He cited the Olympics and Hartsfield-Jackson airport as two critical examples of how Atlanta has benefited from that type of cooperation over the long haul.

“When you try to run on just free enterprise, you’re really trying to sit on a one-legged stool,” he said.

Dealing with our problems, Young believes, requires the four-legged model: Effective government policies and leaders, a strong private sector, a good educational system and a vibrant religious culture.

“All have to work together,” he said.

I don’t think laissez-faire is in Young’s vocabulary.

“To me, the government helps you through a crisis,” he said. More public-private projects are needed, not fewer, he believes.

A more compromising attitude also is needed to heal some of the heated political divisions in our country, he said.

While growing up in New Orleans before marching with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Young said, “I had to run, to fight, to negotiate. I decided the better of the three was mediation with any problem.”

Finally, Young has been focusing much of his efforts in recent years on Africa, trying to interest companies in investing in the continent. His house is full of beautiful African sculptures, including a large, marble coffee table sculpted in the shape of the continent.

“We were getting set up for the African century and everything just collapsed [with the global recession],” he said. “The wealth is in the ground and not easily accessible. … My total vision is to put Africa in the global economic equation.”

That’s not going to be easy, he concedes. Many CEOs running multinational companies overlook the continent, opting instead for what they believe are more promising markets in places like China, India and Brazil.

Young’s own consulting firm, Goodworks International, gets few inquiries about Africa these days because “the international economy collapsed on us,” he said.

Still, Young remains hopeful.

“For Africa, tourism is the key that will open the door,” he said. “It can’t compete with China and India on manufacturing.”

Why is Africa so important?

“I’m a globalist, whether I like it or not,” Young said. “I think of Africa as a hope for a stagnant global economy.”

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

6 comments Add your comment

[...] Andy Young pushes ‘public-purpose capitalism’ [...]


August 31st, 2010
8:06 am

Communism is equality in misery. Capitalism creates extreme wealth to the few and the bottom
line will make both ends meet. Socialism is the cousin of communism. If the capitalistic
system with compassion is the best system in the world, but the modern trend has gone astray
to the extreme in greed and selfishness. We are now suffering the pain.

David Horger

August 31st, 2010
8:45 am

I couldn’t agree more with Andrew Young’s assessment for prosperity in
Africa or anywhere for that matter. I would hope that our current administration would take his advice for a declining America.

Aids Star

August 31st, 2010
10:26 am

This is garbage. We have to get capitalism to produce for the poor? That’s exactly how capitalism works. In societies with free and open markets it has been shown that as wealth increases for the richest segments of society it also increases by the same percentage for all other socioeconomics segments. The idea that “The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer” is completely false and not based in reality, yet it still seems that this idea lives on despite the fact that it has been disproven. All empirical evidence unequivocally shows that the best way to increase wealth amongst all socioeconomic segments is to free up markets and allow them to run without Government interference. All these assertions have been proven in Johan Norberg’s book “In Defense of Global Capitalism”


August 31st, 2010
10:41 am

Ok Andy here’s the model from Economics 101… the demand for goods and services creates jobs which produces wages which are used to purchase goods and services. More jobs equates to more wages which equates to increased demand for goods and services. The demand for goods and service equates to more business opportunities. The problems with this model is, first, too much government who (through force) extracts their fair share. Then, second, too much government who wants to regulate and level the playing field.

The Dogfighter Returns

August 31st, 2010
1:53 pm

That guy looks spry for a man who is 78 years old. Hey Henry did he teel you his secret? :)