Business and Society

Will ‘public goods enterprises’ transform the global economy?

April 11, 2012 | 1 min read

New models of governance and new relationships between the public and private sector must be created if the challenges of growing population and dwindling resources are to be overcome, says James Cameron, whose career spans SRI, policy-making and business.

In terms of the relationship between governmental and private sector responsibility for protection of public goods — vital resources like water, for example — neither party is able to independently make “some kind of guarantee that public goods will be looked after,” he says. Cooperative action is needed. “We’ve got to be more imaginative about how we …incentivize investment in public goods,” he says.

“I’m interested in seeing if we can find those values we want to see in the state, in other forms of international cooperation not solely dependent upon interstate actions — then what I’ve described as‘public goods enterprises’ would emerge,” he says. A shift to this model could revolutionize the global economy in the same way that the introduction of the joint stock limited liability company transformed the economy ofthe 18th and 19th century -particularly for the UK and the Netherlands, both great trading nations. “The LLC enabled global trade to take off and enabled many participants to absorb and distribute risk, which ultimately was in the public good. There was private gain involved, but the public good —a richer and more successful economy — resulted,” he says.

One major role the state can play in creating a successful globalized future for all stakeholders: Make innovation the number one priority, and put public money into competing to attract the most talented individuals. “Why don’t we say ‘Come here, start your enterprise — we’d like your talent in our jurisdiction, please’,” he says.


This video was recorded in Amsterdam on March 26, 2012 as part of the Society for International Development (SID) lecture series ‘The State in a Globalizing World’.

This article may be reproduced according to our terms of use with attribution (and link, if online) to To be cited as: “Will ‘public goods enterprises’ transform the global economy?”, James Cameron,, April 11, 2012.

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SID Lecture Series
Summary lecture James Cameron


James Cameron
Executive Vice Chairman, Climate Change Capital

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