Redeeming capitalism is like helping an addict in rehab. It’s not going to be easy and we’ll have to keep focused, but it will definitely be worth it and better for everyone if we can do it.
You see, capitalism can be good. In fact, real capitalism IS good and powerful and enjoyable for everyone if we get it right. It can transform countries and raise whole communities out of poverty. Just look at the success stories from the Microloan Foundation. When managed well, it creates wealth and everyone can join in.
In his book The Infinite Game, Simon Sinek talks about capitalism abuse. He talks about true capitalism as Adam Smith explained it in Wealth of Nations, which was meant to improve life and add value to society, making the world better for everyone. It took a long term view of success and had space to make the world more expansive and free over many years and decades. Moving individuals and communities up Maslow’s hierarchy from basic needs to self-fulfillment.
Sinek contends that today capitalism is being abused, just like alcohol is abused by some.
In the 70s when Milton Friedman suggested the only end of a business was to increase the shareholder value, he set in motion a serious of changes that linked CEO pay to short term share price, changing the focus of capitalism from “using capital in private hands to do good and thereby increase the capital” to “using capital in private hands to increase the capital regardless of the impact on others”. The number one priority was to increase value for shareholders in the short term, by whatever means necessary within the law, regardless of the impact and the long-term implications.
This in my opinion is capitalism abuse. Just like alcohol abuse. It is capitalism used for the wrong purpose. It is not true capitalism. It is a warped form of capitalism that benefits only a few.
Unfortunately, the ones doing the abusing are the ones who benefit, who are setting the rules and telling us what capitalism is and should be. The ones treating it with disrespect are the ones who we are looking to, as a society, to tell us how the game needs to be played, but they’re the ones that are benefiting from the warped game they are convincing everyone is the right game.
It’s just like listening to the drunk for advice and wisdom on how to enjoy alcohol. That’s ridiculous. Firstly, a drunk doesn’t really care about what they are drinking – whether it’s good or bad – just that there is a high alcohol content, and secondly, the drunk definitely doesn’t realise what damage is being done until he sobers up.
Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.Edward Abbey
If we are going to think about redeeming capitalism we need to stop listening to those abusing capitalism for guidance on what capitalism should be and how best to make it work. Let’s go back to the original premise of capitalism, giving private individuals the means to actually build something that improves lives and raises communities and nations up instead of the current version of capitalism that enriches those who make the rules with little regard for those who actually have to play the game.
So stop listening to the drunk and start building something that truly matters. Stop believing that the way we do it now is the best and only way to do it – that’s just the alcohol talking.
Think differently. Create boldly. Change the world.