Business creates wealth, purpose and dignity, “The lack of money is the root of all evil” commented Mark Twain. Building new sources of growth and being successful in new markets often demands acting in an unfamiliar manner and in entrepreneurial ways. Robert Lowenstein of Bloomberg Business Week finally provided the elevator pitch in his article in last weeks edition, “It’s not a hippie thing.”
“They want more and better jobs, more equally distribution of income, less profit (or no profit) for banks, lower compensation for bankers, and more strictures on banks with regard to negotiating consumer services such as mortgages and debit cards. They also want to reduce the influence of corporations – financial firms in particular – wield in politics, and they want a more populist set of government priorities: bailouts for student debtors and mortgage holders, not just for banks.”
Now that wasn’t too hard, was it? In all these weeks there have been countless opportunities for the media to compile with alacrity a succinct perspective of OWS. But the task of achieving them is not so simple. No one really doubts that free markets, fueled by capitalism, can be the most effective engines for generating growth and relieving the poverty trap. It’s whether these clogged arteries can be tipped less in the favor of the bankers, with genuine transparency, regulatory guard rails and oversight.
As Aristotle would have told us, “The greatest virtues are those which are most useful to other persons.”
The tsunami of new money that awaits the herd is not too keen on the latter it would seem. But that new money is without question, like its eager voyeur OWS, at the front line of change of New Century Capitalism. What is it? Utilitarianism – the greatest happiness for the greatest number or myopic on profit and survival of the fittest (to be defined). The latter will no doubt receive an abundance of attention over these coming weeks, what with the debilitating recession, euro bailouts in the billions, the weakening of sovereign nations’ credit worthiness and the chaffing of the unemployment belt.
The business model has already been created: making profit while doing good. And prevalent between the shifting goal posts are the idiosyncrasies necessary for change: the technology platforms to enable, new business systems to employ, changing consumer appetites (for change), transformation of buyer behavior in social sharing, different partner incentives open to adaptation and changing regulation. These foundation stones are worthy – evidently some were thrown aside by the original architects. Perhaps their rough edges will weather better in future storms and provide against internal corporate slippage?
The principles of making money while doing good has flaws; it costs to set it up, it needs change from within the enterprise to accomplish and will take leadership to counter all fears. And be warned of Peter Drucker, “If you find someone focusing on CSR, fire him, and fire him fast,” which I find particularly grievous.
Conscious commerce need not be about feeding the world. It should be focused on the transformative power of business for economic, personal and social good, to engage the public, entice investors and shape a better world. That’s what OWS makes clear from its words and deeds: new century capitalism that is focused on making money while doing good for everyone, everywhere.