Facilitating Conscious Capitalism
What is Conscious Capitalism? First, let's explore the definition of capitalism and then the question, what is unconscious capitalism?
From the Webster dictionary - Capitalism is an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market.
Laissez-faire is the theory or system of government that upholds the autonomous character of the economic order, believing that government should intervene as little as possible in the direction of economic affairs. The debate about the degree of govenments involvement in this economic system has intensified as the economic and social injustices have increased.
Capitalism has seemingly worked best in the past because it is the only social and economic system that aligns itself with the combined human spirits of achievement, ambition, self-improvement, individualism, self-esteem, and initiative. Capitalism has had a historical ability to increase our standard of living. For example, for almost 200 years in the US, the amount of real income per person has increased by an average of 1.7% - year upon year upon year. Or look at China. Income was flat until Mao took over, then it plummeted and recovered as they embraced their own version of capitalism, and since then per person income has been increasing by 6.3% per year. Over time, the power of compounded growth is noteworthy. In the United States, the annual income per person in 1820 was $1,200 and in 1990 was $32,000. In China, between 1960 to 2008, the compound growth went from $130 to $7,100 per person.
Yet when we look at the unrest around the world represented by the "Occupy" Movement and the "Arab Spring" one must question the legitamacy of capitalism or at a minimum, question what has gone wrong. It appears the "invisible hand" has faltered. After three years, the American economy continues to be mired in turmoil and economic uncertainty. The wealthy have increased their wealth while the middle class has been reduced to the lower or lower-middle class. The EU continues to struggle with devaluation and bankrupt countries. Unemployment has remained at record levels for an extended period of time while corporate profits have soared. There are endless stories of corrupt leaders profiting from immoral business practices while the working class have suffered a decline in their standard of living. It is safe to suggest that we are faced with a leadership crisis due to a moral decline that has destroyed our ability to trust our leaders, and as a result, has weakened our nation. Why has this happened and what is the cause of the moral decline? In one word - GREED.
Unconscious capitalism is the manifestation of decisions based in greed. One must ask the question - how much is enough? How much is enough money and how much is enough stuff"? What is the social and environmental implication of earning another 1% or 2% or more? What do we give up as an organization, as a community, as a family, or as an individual to make more money and consume more stuff?
Let me present some relevant information before setting off in a new direction.
- The United States represents approximately 5% of the world population. Americans consume nearly 30% of the worlds resources and creates nearly 30% of the worlds waste.
- South Central Los Angeles has the highest rate of respiratory disease of any place in the world.
- In 1965, American CEO's compensation was 24 times that of their workers. In 2005, it was 262 times.
- Of the developed countries, the United States ranks 20th for child welfare - out of 21.
- 21,000,000 American are affected by depression.
A great disparity exists between the rich and the poor...
If you would for a moment imagine the Earth was represented by a community of 100 people.
- 6 people own 59% of the total wealth.
- 1 person owns 40% of the total wealth.
- 13 are hungry and seriously malnourished.
- 1 has just died of starvation.
- 18 have no safe drinking water.
- 43 have no basic sanitation.
- 53 live on less than U.S. $2/day.
- 18 adults are unable to read.
We must ask this question, what is the current state of our relationships with the planet, other species, and with each other? To explore this question, it is important to look at the fundamental problem attributable to the dramatic changes in human population. For thousands of years, the human population remained relatively steady. Up until about two hundred years ago, this steady and sustainable growth existed. Yet, during the time of the Industrial Revolution and humans ability to harness the energy of fossil fuels did all of that change. Since that time, agricultural productivity increased dramatically as has the population growth. The same growth can be seen in the economy (GDP) and the use of our natural resources. This leads us to the question of sustainability and whether the exponential growth in output and consumption is sustainable. So what is the definition of sustainability? According to the United Nations, "Sustainability is the ability of the current generation to meet its needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs."
The United Nations has been reporting on the Earths vital signs and its conclusion is the Earth is under very severe stress. 1,300 scientist concluded that human activity is putting such a strain on the natural functions of the earth that the ability of the planet's ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted. The following statistics support their findings.
- 75% of the world's original forests have been eliminated.
- 30% of the world's arable land has eroded in the last 40 years.
- More than 405 oceanic "dead zones" exist worldwide. Up from 49 in 1960.
- 90% of all large fish are gone from the oceans.
- The polar ice caps are melting.
- Lung and breast cancer rates have doubled in the past 30 years.
- African lions are on the verge of extinction.
- Tigers are on the verge of extinction.
- The elephant population is down 90% over the past century.
- One in four mammals is threatened by extinction.
- And of course, the global climate change problem.
Unfortunately, we don't know how to respond to this. Yet, these problems exist and are already effecting people around the world. We are experiencing a level of environmental and social injustice that is unprecedented in the history of mankind. It is obvious to one of average intelligence that not only have we been using of our economic credit card beyond our means, but we are also using our environmental credit card beyond its means as well.
This century can be defined in large part by the collision of an unstoppable force - capitalism with an unchanging reality - sustainability. We know that exponential expansion isn't sustainable. Our planet has limited resources that are beginning to be maxed out. It is not to suggest that we get rid of capitalism. That is regression. Instead, how do we evolve our system to the next level? How do we create something that leverages the strengths of capitalism while transcending the addiction to greed and having more "stuff." How do we address the increasing level of social injustice and make steady progress to a more equitable and humane world? As there are no easy answers, moving toward a model of Conscious Capitalism and the process of redefining, or at a minimum, a recognition of our core values is a start.
As a Conscious Capitalist, one recognizes that there is a social contract and that we are not just individuals. WE are a member of a greater whole - a society. A worldwide society that is more interconnected now than ever before. We need to deepen our hearts. Conscious capitalism requires having the courage to face the truth. It's based in a commitment to personal and spiritual growth, both as individuals, as organizations, and as a world. It requires us to integrate our personal values with our professional lives. No longer do we leave our personal values at the doorstep. We live authentically as an individual and accomplish self-mastery as a leader. We begin by liberating our souls. We begin by adopting a tradition that is unknown in the history of capitalism: sharing responsibility for the whole. Every decision that is made and every action taken, is viewed and thought of in light of that responsibility. We are values-driven leader in a values-driven organization. We believe that the spiritual well-being is the cultural glue that determines whether we are a good company or a great company. We recognize that laissez-faire capitalism holds the common good if it is tempered by the recognition of a common interest and that common interest takes precedence over a particular interest. Instead of asking the question "what's in it for me," we ask the question, "what's in it for us?"