Third Way

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The Third Way movement is sometimes called the moderate wing of the progressive movement, while some of its theorists reject that label, saying they want to get away from traditional left-right and economic models.

Some have called "Third Way" a new attempt to define centrism for a post-industrial society, breaking some traditional left-right assumptions. There are Third Way groups in several countries.


One discussion came, in 1998, from Norman Kurland of the Center for Economic and Social Justice, in a letter to the editor of the Washington Post. Responding to an editorial about the end of reform in Russia, which said "there is in fact no ‘third way to prosperity.", it challenged that assumption. The traditional two ways are capitalism, which concentrates power into the hands of those who own or control capital, and socialism, where power is even more concentrated into a political elite. "Logically, a "third way" would be a free-market system that economically empowers all individuals and families through direct and effective ownership of the means of production--the best check against the potential for corruption and abuse". The idea of a market makes it radically different from Marxism, which, does consider "concentrated ownership of labor-displacing technology" that Milton Friedman does not, although Marxists believe the state should own these means of production. While Bill Clinton and Tony Blair spoke of a third way, they use a Keynesian model. "As recognized by Bill Greider in [1] Louis Kelso, inventor of the Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), in 1958 created a real "third way," a comprehensive systems approach to solving the structural problems of Russia and other economies impacted by centralized control over global money and credit."[2]


Fareed Zakaria wrote, after Barack Obama was elected, that he might be able to push a "third way" agenda. [3] Zakaria saw the niche as the intersection Clinton-Blair leftist tolerance of "free markets and traditional values, in order to appeal to mainstream voters. The second was the ideological decline of conservatism, a movement now riddled with contradictions and corruption, as personified by George W. Bush's big-government, Wilsonian agenda...True reform will mean attacking predatory policies and corruption, from the left and the right."


The theme of predation was also stated in Europe, by Anthony de Jasay, but speaking critically of Third Way solutions.[4] which start with "curbing of speculation and end with state marketing boards and the closure of auction markets," things that de Grasay believes stabilize market volatility. "Incomes policies" and fiscal devices to make income distribution more equal are also a popular means to a "better, more stable and more just" order cleansed of the "extremes" of Left and Right. We are probably committed, and condemned, to trudge down the Third Way for a while. It is a great pity, but there is always the hope that we will come out wiser from the experience."


  1. William Greider (1997), Chapter 18, One World, Ready or Not: The Manic Logic of Global Capitalism, Simon & Schuster
  2. Norman Kurland (22 September 1998), "Letter to the Editor = "The Elusive Third Way"", Washington Post
  3. Fareed Zakaria (5 November 2008), "Obama’s Third Way: Obama can create a new governing ideology for the West", Newsweek
  4. Anthony de Jasay (1 December 2008), Trudging Down the Third Way, Library of Economics and Liberty