Business used to be so simple. Following the philosophy of the great economist John Maynard Keynes, the purpose of business was to make a profit. Nothing more and nothing less. But capitalism, which did lift many millions out of poverty, is now failing. Badly.
There are very fundamental questions to be answered: if the pure pursuit of profit didn’t work out, what is the meaning and purpose of business? How can we create next generation businesses that help to solve the world’s problems and make a profit at the same time? What are the opportunities for building better businesses in the 21st century?
These questions and more are the subject of the Meaning 2012 conference in Brighton, UK on 1 October 2012.
There’s a growing list of fantastic speakers, including: Caroline Lucas, leader of the UK Green Party; Stowe Boyd, the social technologies guru; Alexander Kjerulf, the world’s leading expert on happiness at work; Margaret Elliot, the founder of a series of co-ops delivering care to over 500 people; and Vinay Gupta, an international authority on resilience who sees a volatile and radically altered future for business and society.
I think it’s going to be a really inspiring and thought provoking day – not least because it’s organised by my old friends at NixonMcInnes. If you’re thinking about starting a business, or getting an existing one fit for the 21st century then I highly recommend grabbing yourself a ticket.
Capitalism is a failure. Politicians obsess over the need for ‘growth,’ yet continual growth of debt-fuelled consumption on a finite plant is unsustainable, and having more money doesn’t make us happier after a while anyway. Ordinary people will be paying back the debt created by the bank bailouts for decades, while the rich who caused the mess keep their fat bonuses, yet continue to behave disgracefully. Inequality is on the increase in capitalist countries which is bad for everyone, even the rich.
It’s no wonder that Marxism is making a come-back. But as far as I’m aware, despite The Communist Manifesto being the second most-sold book of all time after the bible, there are exactly zero examples of Marxism being successfully implemented. If it hasn’t happened in 164 years then I can’t see it happening in the future.
We need an end to the capitalism Vs. socialism debate and face the fact that both have some good ideas but neither has worked over the long-term to deliver the thing that really matters: The long-term wellbeing and happiness of all humans on the planet.
My suggestion is that we need to take the best of capitalism and socialism and add a healthy dose of radicalism to build a better system. I’m not talking about a pathetic half-baked compromise of slightly left-leaning politics, but a reinvented system.
The starting point of socialism is sound: Creating fair societies with more equality and more power to people who go to work and create value for the rest of society. But that’s as far as I’d go with it. Giant, controlling states with monolithic nationalised industries aren’t the only way to achieve this goal.
Capitalism and markets seem to be the most efficient and dynamic way to organise people to make things happen, and the freedom to start your own ventures outside of the state I believe is a basic right. But we need to fix the fundamental flaws in the system. We need to recognise that money is just one form of capital and that human, social and environmental capital also need to be grown in balance with this. And we also need to fix the status quo of ownership, changing the norm so that employees are the owners of democratic businesses.
Now is the time for us to leave the old, failed concepts of capitalism AND socialism behind and rebuild.