Stop investing unethically, stop lending unsustainably and irresponsibly, separate the retail banking from the investment banking, change the whole culture of lending so it becomes in service of the public good instead of private profit (so that it helps small businesses and supports people who need loans whatever their situation).
Finally, an attempt to articulate a better way of doing western democracy! Encompassing all spheres of life, society, politics, economics, and the environment. Taking on the big criticisms and problems of the current consensus that sees all major political parties conduct business along the same lines with the same assumptions. Trying to hold on to the values of things like democracy, openness, justice, and equality that society has long fought for and held to be important, yet have not been implemented at the highest levels even while lip-service was being paid. And attempting to come up with an alternative. Not only does it say, “Our politics, democracy and capitalism are broken.” but also “We believe there is a new better alternative, and this is what we think it might be.“
This seems really inspiring, and I’m sure there’s some truth to it. But it feels like it isn’t totally backed up by evidence, and is a bit “new-age-y” and preachy. Something to ponder on…
About the brilliantly led debate on BBC 4 on Fairness and The Big Society
Professor Michael Sandel, as a friendly observer of British Politics, finished by saying he was excited that the British were having the debate about fairness (implying the cuts in public spending and the campaigns against them, and the rhetoric of The Big Society versus the implementation of it and the criticism of this). He said it was a once-in-a-generation moment.
It was very encouraging to me when he brought out that there is an “underground” consensus that there IS something between the state and the market that needs renewing; though the definition of this “civic engagement” (as he called it, trying to be politically neutral), the vision of what it looks like and how it should be renewed, differs.
Of course, he also brought out that most people are cynical about Cameron’s Big Society (as am I).
The question I’m left asking, is whether the debate we’re having (which he identified) will go anywhere. The two sides seem very unlikely to be able to listen to each other. And it seems unrealistic to think that the Government will ever change direction as a result of this “debate”.
Rather than profit or money, what motivates us is:
Purpose – a higher motivator, once you have enough money so that more money no longer matters as a motivator
Mastery – getting better at things
Self-direction – doing it your own way.
The RSA Animate series, which I highly recommend, features this animation/lecture by Dan Pink. It confirms for me what I already thought that humans are not motivated by profit, and it’s better for organisations to recognise and work in this way: and the science (psychology, economics, sociology) backs it up.
Companies are motivated to make profit. I don’t believe, in and of itself, that this is bad. We just have to find ways to make this motivation work for good means and ends. Regulation is one such way.
As David Mitchell said in his Observer column (1st August 2010):
“we can only properly harness the power and wealth of oil companies for developing sustainable energy sources by creating a business environment in which that activity is as profitable, or looks like it will become as profitable, as drilling for oil.”
I think the same principle can be applied to other agents – other organisations, groups, and individuals. And when working with people, this can be empowering: finding what someone is motivated by, then creating the environment in which their motivation will lead to good things. It’s manipulative but without the negative connotation IF they know about and agree to it, and if it leads to good things for themselves (and doesn’t benefit the manipulator).
Just read the article “Buy Some Stuff, Enslave Somebody”. It’s a very good article, about an issue that has been with us for a long time but we haven’t faced up to it. The writer uses the concept of “plausible deniability”, with it’s associations of dodgy dealings and conspiracy theories, to describe the attitude of celebrities (and even Chief Executives) who promote companies engaged in in-humane and anti-environmental practices – and then say they didn’t know or even that it isn’t their problem.
However the writer, Josh Rosenblatt, goes on to say:
With free trade has come an explosion of global inequality
I don’t think there is a causal link here. If trade were truly free, companies who bought “sweatshop” labour would find their workers leaving and working for companies who paid them better, so companies paying lower wages couldn’t survive or would have to raise wages. This is what “should” happen in truly free labour markets. The problem isn’t with trade being free, but in free trade being imperfectly free. And as trade can never be perfectly free, the whole system needs balancing by some other non-market forces. So I’m saying that it’s not the fact that traders trade that is the problem, but that the system by which traders trade can never be right enough – it needs something more. And I’m not arguing for a system (like communism) that abolishes trade!