Capitalism with a Conscience
It was a speech at Davos 2009, from David Cameron, then leader of the opposition. He spoke of a broken capitalist system and the need for change:
“Too often, the winners have taken it all. Today, the poorest half of the world’s population own less than one per cent of the world’s wealth. We’ve got a lot of capital but not many capitalists, and people rightly think that isn’t fair.So this is what too many people see when they look at capitalism today. Markets without morality. Globalisation without competition. And wealth without fairness. It all adds up to capitalism without a conscience and we’ve got to put it right.”
Tony Blair was there too, with Richard Branson at a roundtable on social problems in Ukraine.
One of those putting it right had arrived in the UK 5 years earlier when he was interviewed about his work in Russia and Crimea by a diaspora leader. He describe how his concept of people-centered economics came about:
“Essentially, P-CED challenges conventional capitalism as an insufficient economic paradigm, as evidenced by billions of people in the world living in poverty in capitalist countries and otherwise. Under the conventional scheme, capitalism — enterprise for profit — has certainly transformed much of the world and created a new breed of people in capitalist societies, the middle class. That is a good thing. But, capitalism seems to have developed as far as it can to produce this new class of fairly comfortable people between rich and poor, at least in the West where it has flourished for quite some time.
“The problem is that profit and money still tend to accumulate in the hands of comparatively few people. Money, symbolically representing wealth and ownership of material assets, is not an infinite resource. When it accumulates in enormous quantities in the hands of a few people, that means other people are going to be denied. If everyone in the world has enough to live a decent life and not in poverty, then there is no great problem with some people having far more than they need. But, that’s not the case, and there are no rules in the previous capitalist system to fix that. Profit and numbers have no conscience, and anything done in their name has been accepted as an unavoidable aspect of capitalism.”
Were we on the same page?
We’d returned to Ukraine in 2004 where our focus became the plight of economic orphans, raising awareness of ‘Death Camps for Children’ where those with disabilities are all too often dumped from the age of 4.
A ‘Marshall Plan’ for Ukraine followed in 2007, with its primary focus of placing all children in loving family homes. It argued that capitalism could be applied to resolve a broad range of problems, including childcare reform:
“In this case, for the project now being proposed, it is constructed precisely along these lines. Childcare reform as outlined above will pay for itself in reduced costs to the state. It will need investment for about five years in order to cover the cost of running two programs in parallel: the existing, extremely problematic state childcare scheme, and the new program needed to replace it for the purpose of giving children a decent life. The old program will be phased out as the new program is phased in. After this phase transition is complete, the state will from that time forward pay out less money for state childcare. Children will have a better life, and will be more likely to become healthy, productive assets to the nation rather than liabilities with diminished human development, diminished education, and the message that they are not important — the basis for serious trouble. There is no need whatsoever to give these children less than a good quality of life as they grow and mature. The only problem is reorganization of existing resources. “
Cameron was voted into office as Prime Minister the following year and aware of his own experience of raising a disabled child, I called for support from our government in a petition:
To: David Cameron, British Prime Minister
I congratulate you on your recent election success and I’m inspired by the potential of the ethical capitalism you advocate.
We’re a UK based social enterprise working in Ukraine to advocate for social change. We’ve focussed in particular on disabled and institutionalised children.
At the age of 4, those deemed unable to feed themselves are rendered to what are know as psycho-neurological internats the institutions we’ve described as ‘Death Camps for Children’. Children with cerebral palsy, autism, Downs Syndrome and even some who are blind — effectively discarded.
The strategy paper we delivered to Ukraine’s government was based on out own prescription for ethical capitalism, as a social business model and called on assistance from US government.
Described as a ‘Marshall Plan’ for Ukraine, it had the same targets as the original — hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos and the returnable investment over 5 years weighed against weekly spending of 1.5 billion dollars in Iraq.
Impact has been demonstrated, in that changes to payments for adopters has led to an increase in domestic adoption and government have pledged 400+ rehabilitation centres. As yet, there has been little progress on the latter.
To our call for a faculty for social enterprise and supporting social investment fund, there has also been some response in the provision of a new USAID foundation.
In recent news we’ve learned of the Obama administration’s aims. That “development will be “elevated as a central pillar of national security strategy, equal to defence and diplomacy”.
May we suggest that UK government takes a similar stance, beginning with support in this instance for “those who suffer most, and those in greatest need, who must be helped first — not secondarily, along the way or by the way”.
Jeff Mowatt for People-Centered Economic Development
it didn’t happen but 4 years later, Cameron couldn’t wait to hear himself speak about social investment. There was plenty to be had, if you have a vision:
“Big Society Capital matters because it is giving brilliant social entrepreneurs with dreams bigger than their budgets, the means to prove themselves, scale up and do more.Take the story of Jim Clifford and his wife Sue who have nine adopted children. They are at the centre of the first social impact bond for adoption being created today. How does it work? Every child who remains in the care system costs the taxpayer around three quarters of a million pounds. The fact is that government has never been that good at finding homes for them. This government is changing the rules, promoting adoption doing everything we can to give children the chance of a loving home and one of the ways we can do that is by using voluntary groups and social enterprises to find homes for the hardest to place children. So Jim has created a social impact bond that will help them access that finance from socially minded investors. The way a social impact bond works is simple. When it succeeds, investors are paid from the savings to the taxpayer, but if it doesn’t work, the taxpayer doesn’t pay a penny. By scaling up Jim’s programme nationwide over the next decade, it’s not just investors who could get a return. 2,000 children who would otherwise have been overlooked could get loving homes and the taxpayer could save as much as £1.5 billion in fostering fees.”
Doesn’t that sound familiar? It’s not about standing on the shoulders of giants but building a reputation on the bodies of innoncents. Such is the Conservative interpretation of conscience. This ‘conscience’ can be seen throughout the party membership.
The death of our founder and my own experience of ill health led to retirement and today I chair the committee for the charity which manages our village hall. We’ve been trying for years to purchase the derelict building that theatens to pull half of it down.
We have an interesting situation at our local council. A former Conservative cabinet, ousted by a vote of no confidence, wants revenge and that means opposing the new cabinet’s motions. From 45 minutes into the debate we may hear how they attempt to undermine the motion with questions about the integrity of our group: