Reforming Capitalism

By Vradenburg, George | Tikkun, January/February 2005 | Go to article overview

Reforming Capitalism


Vradenburg, George, Tikkun


TIKKUN has called for A New Bottom Line to measure American institutional performance-adding new ethical, spiritual, and ecological standards to today's emphasis on financial metrics that produce a focus on wealth and power. By setting a BHAG (Big, Humongous Aspirational Goal), TIKKUN is challenging us to reform all of our institutions, including the subject of this piece, our corporations.

This writer is a strong supporter of corporate capitalism as a system that has contributed both to our economic prosperity and to a more just society by rewarding individual merit and creativity rather than group power. And since a capitalist system is designed to respond impersonally to a marketplace indifferent to family legacy, skin color, ethnicity, race, or class, I believe in the progressive power of consumerism as well. (Only in a hotel does an upper-class Brit reside immediately next door to a lower-income Sudanese.) So, it is fair to say that I come at the question of reforming capitalism, corporatism, and consumerism from a quite different personal perspective than the writers on the editorial side of this magazine.

Yet I support the balanced inclusion of social goals alongside the financial metrics of the capitalist system, particularly as corporations and corporate leaders are required to take on more of a stewardship role in a global environment increasingly characterized by democratic capitalism. Whether one starts as a capitalist or not, reform of capitalism should be a shared goal.

There is a fundamental consistency between long-term financial performance and sensitivity to ethical and environmental norms. Examples: At the Davos Conferences each year, corporate executives from around the globe meet to discuss how best to improve health, education, and income outcomes in the most under-developed nations around the world, on the premise that increased wealth and output in poorer nations is in the long-term interest of all. Microsoft's Bill Gates has taken the lead on an international immunization effort designed to eliminate death from malaria and other widespread diseases. Such instances do not represent a full implementation of TIKKUN'S New Bottom Line by any means. But they do suggest that the New Bottom Line is consistent with progressive thinking within the corporate community itself.

The same can be said for TIKKUN'S call for corporate recognition of employees' personal and spiritual autonomy. There is a growing awareness that a company's capacity to innovate is dependent on the quality of its human-not just financial-capital. …

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