Insight: Three Wise Men

May 21, 2013 marked an historic day for us here at the Martin Prosperity Institute, as for the first time, Richard Florida (MPI Director), Roger Martin (MPI Academic Director), and Don Tapscott (MPI fellow) shared the stage at the Rotman School of Management as part of the MPI. The three speakers, who are all bestselling authors and globally recognized experts in their respective fields, bring a wealth of knowledge, experience and ideas that have and will continue to fuel the MPI’s research mandate. The panel discussion, entitled “The Future of Capitalism? Or Not?” focused on how to tackle the current crises of capitalism and how to reinvent/build a better system of democratic capitalism to enable greater prosperity for future generations. This Insight will provide a brief synopsis of each of the presenter’s vision for the future of democratic capitalism.

Don Tapscott:

During his presentation Don Tapscott illustrated that democratic capitalism of the past has left society with some grave issues, primarily alarming rates of youth unemployment. He stressed that if we are to continue on with capitalism, the recovery from industrial capitalism must be more inclusive than in the past. Mr. Tapscott maintains a positive outlook that the digital world gives us great opportunities, and we live in an age of the networking of human intelligence, collaboration, and participation. Within this new model of integrated networks, technology such as the internet is allowing small companies, for example, to have the capabilities that were previously reserved to larger companies. The biggest challenge perceived by Mr. Tapscott is how do we create an informed society when the old forms of media are collapsing and where new forms of education are needed? Overall, Mr. Tapscott displayed optimism for the future of democratic capitalism, but explained that the onus is on us as “the future is not something to be predicted, the future is something to be achieved”, and we here at the MPI in conjunction with the Tapscott Group will continue to examine how we can achieve a better, more prosperous future than the one that industrial capitalism promises.

Richard Florida

Richard Florida started his presentation by pervasively arguing that it is important to recognize that not only is the United States a very unequal and divided country today, but that Toronto and other places around the world are currently becoming just as divided and unequal within the new economy. “We have birthed a new economy no longer based on natural resources or heavy industries, but based on the greatest gift of all, something that we all share: our human knowledge and creativity”. Unfortunately though as Mr. Florida addressed in his presentation, currently only one third of people in Canada and the U.S. get to participate in knowledge or Creative Class occupations. This creates a divide of the 33% versus 66% in which 66% of the population works in low-wage often precarious and temporary service or working class occupations. Instead of trying to bring back manufacturing jobs, these new service jobs that are dominating our labour force must be improved to create greater economic strength and decrease inequality. Mr. Florida continued to explain how the time for change within democratic capitalism must come now to bridge the ever growing gap between the classes and to ensure the future prosperity of not just the poor, but of everyone. This is a problem that the MPI and ICP are currently working on in a joint service class whitepaper that will examine precarious part time work within the Greater Toronto Area.

Roger Martin

“Our infrastructure once it’s built starts to shape us and ends up defining our capitalism and controls how we engage in capitalism” explained Roger Martin in his presentation, arguing that when that infrastructure is in place, it is easier to follow the current business practices as opposed to going against them. This is an issue that we need to address, as currently there is infrastructure that is threatening democratic capitalism. For example he explained that the negative impacts that we are having on our planet are being underpinned by certain infrastructure in the business community where there isn’t very good infrastructure currently to assess these impacts. We also face a situation in which the 50th percentile person in Canada and the U.S. is and has been stagnant in regards to their income for years now and our infrastructure is currently not set up to address this. Mr. Martin then proceeded explain that his main goal at the MPI will be to study the question of how we refurbish infrastructure for democratic capitalism that isn’t working as well as it can be, along with building new types of infrastructure to make our future prosperity better.

Three Wise Men


The Martin Prosperity Institute is the world’s leading think on the role of location, place and city-regions in global economic prosperity, where a diverse set of researchers and academics, led by our new Executive Director Jamison Steeve work together to try and broaden discussion, while providing fact-based research on a host of topics. Don Tapscott, Richard Florida, and Roger Martin in their roundtable discussion on democratic capitalism presented how the MPI brings together diverse sets of knowledge in order to broaden the discussion on topics that are crucial to the future prosperity of regions. With around 400 spectators in attendance, the panel discussion moderated by Heather Reisman illustrated the mandate and influence that the integrated think tank at Rotman has and can have in making a difference and making changes as Joseph Rotman’s original vision intended. This Insight has provided a short synopsis on the mandate of the MPI going forward as we will continue to examine democratic capitalism and its role in our future.

Watch the panel discussion, below:


For more on this topic from these thought leaders, read the accompanying op-eds from each author in the Toronto Star:

Download this Insight (PDF)


The Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto‘s Rotman School of Management is the world’s leading think-tank on the role of sub-national factors — location, place and city-regions — in global economic prosperity. We take an integrated view of prosperity, looking beyond economic measures to include the importance of quality of place and the development of people’s creative potential.