Magazine article New Internationalist

Is 'Ethical Wealth' a Contradiction?

Magazine article New Internationalist

Is 'Ethical Wealth' a Contradiction?

Article excerpt

YES

Can the accumulation of personal wealth be a positive individuals outweighed by the negative effects Cash-strapped activist-artist PAUL FITZGERALD MARK CONSTANTINE tackle Paul

Well... there's nothing innately immoral about wealth, or virtuous about frugality. I'm broke, but in terms of sheer physical luxury, I live better than a medieval baron (although my flat is a lot smaller than a castle, and no-one's trembling at my commands.) If everyone in the world was a millionaire - then so what? It's comparative wealth and consumption that's the issue - particularly in the light of environmental constraints.

Global poverty is a symptom of global wealth - the riches of the few, no matter how hard they've worked, haven't simply appeared from nowhere... any more than the wealth of a Victorian mill owner came from nowhere. Profits are created at the base of the global labour pyramid, and the reason such lifestyles are available to anyone is because the majority are paid a pittance for their hard work.

Yes, the wealthy can be a philanthropic influence for good, should the mood take them. But this ignores a very simple question - in a world where democratic equality is seen as a virtue, by what right have they acquired this influence in the first place? If being a multi-millionaire in a world where thousands of children die of malnutrition isn't unethical, then what is?

Mark

I agree that for those of us living in wealthy societies that have shelter, food and good health, everything else is comparative. The fact that any child dies of malnutrition in a world that knows how to feed everyone is a crime that each of us must take responsibility for.

Entrepreneurs, ethical or otherwise, provide a service to society. Due to a psychological drive to better themselves and those around them, they create something. There are seven founders of Lush and we invent our products and teach others to manufacture them. Wc put them in shops that we rent and fit out, then teach more colleagues how to explain them to customers. We fund this ourselves with a little help from the bank, and practise the business until we learn enough to make the profit that ensures secure and gainful employment. So I argue that it's not just how the pie is cut up, it's the fact that there's a pie at all.

My motivation when I was asked by my colleagues to help start Lush was to feed my family and pay the mortgage. That done, I was curious to see if I could get people using unpackaged, unpreserved fresh cosmetics. At one time I was so frightened that I had spoilt the first by pushing the second that the others banned me from the shops.

Once you have invented a shampoo with no bottle and can stop millions of unneeded bottles going to landfill, it could be argued that you should have plenty of stores worldwide Global poverty is a symptom of global wealth - the riches of the few, no matter how hard they've worked, haven't simply appeared from nowhere... any more than the wealth of a Victorian mill owner came from nowhere - Paul

PAUL FITZGERALD is a former careworker, now freelance writer and artist. A lifelong activist and member/ director of several co-operatively owned small businesses, he was a founding member of 'Enough', the anti-consumerism campaign.

force in the world? Or is the good that can be done by rich that extreme disparities of wealth have on society? and multi-millionaire Lush Cosmetics owner this loaded question.

NO

to make sure responsible people can get hold of the stuff. Once you have these stores it's fun to see what else can be done with them. If you then decide that what you want to do is highlight issues you care about that need some action taken, it's faster, easier and less frustrating if you pay for it yourself.

Paul

I agree that entrepreneurs are crucial. But if we simply dismiss the idea of a moral limit to how much of the world's wealth one person should be allowed to take, isn't that just blatantly denying that there's such a thing as greed? …

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