A Reformation for Capitalism?

Back in November, here on Linkedin I wrote of the beginnings of business for social purpose and the ground it shared with what Martin Luther had argued about the use of wealth to benefit our less fortunate neighbours.

“At first it seemed heresy” said the man who pitched it to Bill Clinton 21 years ago.

In 2009, Luther’s reasoning was being re-iterated by Pope Benedict in his encyclical ‘Caritas in Veritate’ , with the Archbishop of Westminster later joining the call for business which puts people before profit.

In December, a think tank known as the Aspen Institute, referring to the Reformation asked what it would take to rebuild the narrative on the purpose of the corporation.

Larry Elliot followed for the Guardian, with a welcome for heretics

Outrage at corruption should drive a new reformation says Larry Ellison Gower, for ’10 years after The Crash’

To the best of my knowledge, only one of the above derives from business.

In the core argument for his 1996 position paper, the founder of People-Centered Economic Development made these points:

“Modifying the output of capitalism is the only method available to resolving the problem of capitalism where numbers trumped people — at the hands of people trained toward profit represented only by numbers and currencies rather than human beings. Profit rules, people are expendable commodities represented by numbers. The solution, and only solution, is to modify that output, measuring profit in terms of real human beings instead of numbers.

“We can choose to not reform capitalism, leave human beings to die from deprivation — where we are now — and understand that that puts people in self-defense mode.

“When in self-defense mode, kill or be killed, there is no civilization at all. It is the law of the jungle, where we started eons ago. In that context, ‘terrorism’ will likely flourish because it is ‘terrorism’ only for the haves, not for the have-nots. The have-nots already live in terror, as their existence is threatened by deprivation, and they have the right to fight back any way they can.

“‘They’ will fight back, and do. “

It would lead to a question about the purpose of business.

Tackling corruption became the primary focus in 2005 when Terry Hallman stepped into the Orange Revolution, speaking up about ‘economic hit men’ trying to grab Ukraine’s assets, in exchange for ‘development’ loans. What he warned of would happen 10 years later.

He’d first spoken up about corruption in 2003, while working on a proposal for Crimea’s Tatar’s. Dead and half-dead children were turning up on doorsteps.

You’ve probably heard of a place called Torez, by association with the downing of flight MH17. In 2006, it was the focus of ‘Death Camps for Children’ describing the extent of corruption in childcare. He pulled no punches when it came to who he saw as the root cause:

“Excuses won’t work, particularly in light of a handful of oligarchs in Ukraine having been allowed to loot Ukraine’s economy for tens of billions of dollars. I point specifically to Akhmetov, Pinchuk, Poroshenko, and Kuchma, and this is certainly not an exhaustive list. These people can single-handedly finance 100% of all that will ever be needed to save Ukraine’s orphans. None of them evidently bother to think past their bank accounts, and seem to have at least tacit blessings at this point from the new regime to keep their loot while no one wants to consider Ukraine’s death camps, and the widespread poverty that produced them. “

The ‘Death Camps’ article sketched out an approach to resolve these problems and was a prequel to a formal development proposal — ‘Microeconomic Development and Social Enterprise: A ‘Marshall Plan’ for Ukraine’.

‘This is a long-term permanently sustainable program, the basis for “people-centered” economic development. Core focus is always on people and their needs, with neediest people having first priority — as contrasted with the eternal chase for financial profit and numbers where people, social benefit, and human well-being are often and routinely overlooked or ignored altogether. This is in keeping with the fundamental objectives of Marshall Plan: policy aimed at hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos. This is a bottom-up approach, starting with Ukraine’s poorest and most desperate citizens, rather than a “top-down” approach that might not ever benefit them. They cannot wait, particularly children. Impedance by anyone or any group of people constitutes precisely what the original Marshall Plan was dedicated to opposing. Those who suffer most, and those in greatest need, must be helped first — not secondarily, along the way or by the way. ‘

In 2013, I responded to the Mckinsey ‘Long Term Capitalism’ initiative with ‘The New Bottom Line’ quoting from the ‘Marshall Plan’ and earlier work which had repeatedly argued for taking the bottom line past profit to people .

It wasn’t long before the term was being re-used by PwC and the Guardian.

It was more encouraging to discover Rabbi Lerner and the Network of Spiritual Progressives.

“A New Bottom Line is one that judges the success of every sector, system and institution of our society (economy, government, schools, health care, the legal system) based not on the old bottom line of whether they maximize money, profit and power, but instead by the extent to which they maximize love and caring, kindness and generosity, empathy and compassion, social, economic and environmental justice, peace and nonviolence, and protection of the life support system of our planet, as well as encourage us to transcend a narrow utilitarian approach to nature and other human beings and enhance our capacity to respond with awe and wonder to the universe and to see the sacred in others and in all sentient beings.”

Putting people above profit, a profit-for-purpose business #socent #poverty #compassion #peoplecentered #humaneconomy