Can Capitalism really be Benevolent?

Exploring the paradox … Can Capitalism really be Benevolent? 

We’ve chosen to embrace the philosophy of Benevolent Capitalism in our life and our business for a few years now.  We travel the word working with top society changing companies and entrepreneurs to invite them to look at more generative and sustainable ways to create and operate their businesses. It’s never long before someone starts asking “Can capitalism really be benevolent?”

A lot of people have many points of view about capitalism that they're not even aware they have.

Capitalism is regarded with some contempt by the general public.  Many people have very strong points of view about what they think capitalism is and what it means to be a capitalist. Some people condemn capitalism for embodying greed. "Evil capitalist pigs", they cry. They believe that capitalists take advantage of the poor and less fortunate. They declare that there is no way that anyone could be both benevolent and also a capitalist. 

We’ve realized that a big gap for business leaders, entrepreneurs, and the general public is the awareness that there is a different way of looking at capitalism. And there is a way to generate something totally different in their businesses and in their lives if they choose to change the way they view things.

Everything we have to say about benevolent capitalism starts with understanding the true nature of capitalism and why now is the time for businesses to recognize the power of capitalism and how it can be the catalyst for change and for different possibilities. Our normal way of thinking about capitalism limits us. It leads us to think of capitalism as bad and evil.  Perhaps the most misunderstood words in the English language are the words “Capitalist” and “Capitalism”.  There seems to be a common debate occurring in the general population globally, about whether capitalism is good or bad. In the current environment, capitalism is widely perceived as greedy, selfish, exploitative, uncaring, and interested only in maximizing profits. This point of view doesn’t accurately reflect capitalism’s intrinsic value and the contribution it has been to the economic progress in our society.

What has happened is capitalism has been delegated to "where's my share of the pie?" and “how I can get what I need when I need it”, rather than "how can I create beyond this?"  This is a very illogical and destructive way of thinking about capitalism. One of the things we realized is most people have this point of view the world is set up to get their share. That mindset certainly doesn't create the world from the sense of possibility. It creates the world from a sense of Despair!

We want to change that. We want to see what we can do to alter that perception, so that everyone can see different possibilities and start to look at a different way of creating the business, the lives, and a way of being in the world. Capitalism originally meant where you are able to organically grow what it is that you had. Grow doesn't necessarily mean in the earth, grow means with the earth.

The capitalism came from the word "capita," which used to mean "head of cattle." In the mid 1800',s when the whole capitalist system was starting to be created, the first people that started developing up the idea of capitalism defined capitalism as being about choice, growth and the individual. This original view of capitalism persisted until the 1960’s and 1970’s when economists hijacked the term to prove their own points of view. Historically, however, capitalism has always been about individual choice and individual growth, which includes money but also does not exclude anything else. Yet most people now see capitalism as something aligned with rape, pillage, large corporate structures.

As long as people's point of view is governed by traditional system of capitalism - notably by scarcity mindset, industrial concepts such as control, predictability, profit maximization and 'more is better', we will continue to recreate businesses as they have been, despite the need of capitalism to transform and of all business systems to evolve.

Capitalism in a free market system should not be about control. Do companies try to create control? Yeah. Does it work? Actually not!.....  Most companies who have done this destroy themselves. A totally different reality is available to the business arena if we’re willing to have it.  It all comes down to the choices business leaders make. But until that potential is acknowledged and activated, anti-conscious capitalism will continue to expand blindly, oblivious and unconscious of the consequence of their actions.

Indeed, a different type of capitalism is truly possible. Many years ago, we began asking "What else is possible?" and "What can capitalism be and do differently to create different reality and sustainable future on the planet?"  Together with Gary Douglas, we illuminated the idea of Benevolent Capitalism - a different possibility for capitalism that could lead to the creation of the world not governed primarily by scarcity and by greed.

The whole notion of benevolent capitalism is a different way we must start looking at how we actually create ... business, our lives, leadership, strategy, home life, whatever it might be.  If we go back to the energy behind capitalism, it is about individual growth, individual wealth, individual choice. When we tie onto that the benevolence component, a whole new possibility is created.

"Benevolent capitalism," if you tap into the energy of it, is about organically growing and at the same time wishing well for everyone, and everyone means the planet, not just people. Everyone actually means everyone, everything, every ... fill in the gap.

When we actually start to look at the energy behind benevolent capitalism, benevolent comes from the Latin word "bene" and "volen,"….  "bene" means wishing well for all, "volent" means creating this for everyone around us.  So wishing well for everyone is actually what "benevolent" means. But it's being changed over the years to mean "charity," which is not what we are talking about here. It is about wishing well for all.

The only way we are going to be on the creative edge of business, of finance, of the universe, of not becoming obsolete instantaneously is if we're looking at the possibilities of the future from the energy of Benevolent Capitalism. And it is possible, once we get over any point of view that says it is not possible. It all starts with you.