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March 13, 2013

Comments

Jeff Poulin

What a refreshing post and a topic too seldom broached! Whether a trading post on a colonial frontier or a global conglomerate, capitalism means the VOLUNTARY exchange of values. Those values represent ability and honest effort on both sides of the trade. There is profit as a reward and validation for the seller and satisfaction for the buyer that they can produce values to be exchanged for their needs and wants. It is moral and benefits all parties.

When the voluntary aspect is broken, whether by government fiat or other coercion, the morality is lessened and corrupted.

The system is even self-correcting. A business that overvalues its product will be replaced by one that restores the balance.

Thanks for an excellent topic.

PS: As a long-time Levenger customer, I can say your mother was wrong.

Jean Speake

I have not yet read this book, but it is on my reading list! While there are probably some business owners with no motive besides personal gain, I think most of us see it as much more than that. As owners of a "small" commercial refrigeration & HVAC company, my husband and I have been proud that through the recent economic downturn, we did not lay off any employees and have even added a full-time position. Five families, not including our own, have food and shelter because of the work we are able to provide. By doing the best possible work for our clients, which keeps their businesses running and profitable, they provide their employees with gainful work.
How is this anything but contributing to "the greater good"?

Claire Phillips

Conscious Capitalism is the way I've always thought businesses should be run. The most successful businesses I've dealt with are the ones that make this their practice. You can tell just by the level of customer service you experience. Living in a small town, I am acutely aware of the difference. As much as possible, my spending habits reflect my support of those businesses who practice this philsophy, whether or not they are aware of that fact. It is a shame that many large corporations do not consider this a viable business practice.
Furthermore, I believe Conscious Capitalism should be taught on a consumer level as well. Too often consumers only consider the lowest cost alternative, without realizing the consequences that a different choice could make - not only in their lives but in their shopping choices as well.

JC Stadler

Speaking as a business consultant, with over 40 years of experience, it pleases me greatly that a fresh assessment of capitalism is being presented and advanced. In my opinion, businesses can only succeed, in the long run, by producing value for their customers. Today crony capitalism, i.e., large corporations profiting from political relationships, has cast a dark pall over capitalism generally.

There are many examples of outstandingly successful companies that have succeeded even facing political adversity--e.g, Apple, Microsoft. As a customer, I see Levenger as a very good example as well.

Steve Leveen

Dear Friends,

What insightful and well-written comments. Jeff, I love your line about a business that "over-values its products" corrected by another business.... Jean, your broader view that employees are really families...Claire, your good suggestion that Conscious Capitalism should be practiced at the consumer level, too, with more customers being more conscious of their choices...and JC, I heartily agree that Crony Capitalism isn't capitalism at all.

Let's each keep the dialog going in our circles of influence friends, and thanks again for speaking out.

Steve

David G. stone

Dear Steve,
God Bless You, God Bless Conscious Capitalism, and God Bless America!!
The Best Always,
David Stone

Bernard Glassman

Dear Steve:

You quoted the authors as writing the following:

"We believe that business is good because it creates value, it is ethical because it is based on voluntary exchange, it is noble because it can elevate our existence, and it is heroic because it lifts people out of poverty and creates prosperity."

That sentiment would be much more plausible if it were to read:

"We believe that business is good when it creates value, it is ethical when it is based on voluntary exchange, it is noble when it can elevate our existence, and it is heroic when it lifts people out of poverty and creates prosperity."

As a co-founder of a hybrid (LLC/501(c)(3)) social-purpose enterprise, I'm all too aware of the nearly meaningless distinction between the for-profit and not-for-profit, not to mention the mind-bending, back-breaking contortions one must go through to keep one at arm's length from the other. Either can do good; either can exploit. Neither should be condemned uncritically, nor should either be praised without highly conscious examination. There are non-profit CEOs earning unconscionable salaries, driving (or being driven in) organization-owned cars, living in houses owned not by them but by the organization, and dispensing the legal minimum to causes that may or may not be socially worthy. There are tax-paying businesses that do everything the credo says that businesses do.

Any real tax reform will end this lunatic distinction and find another way to not penalize those who help make society fairer, healthier, less-violent and better educated, whether or not the principals and funders choose to be rewarded fairly for their risk. But it will not happen through blanket praise for "business." Nor will "Well, duh, Dad" be the final word on whether the latest generation truly gets it. We need to be looking for results.

If I don't buy the Kindle edition, I promise to pick up a copy next time I buy groceries. (Whole Foods is displaying it prominently right at the check-out counter.) And as I read it, I will try to see whether the lack of critical thought that is evident in the quote is equally evident in the body of the text. I hope it won't be, because your paraphrase of its argument is one that I very much hope it articulates and builds on. In the meantime, perhaps the authors will rethink their credo. Or perhaps another commenter will explain why the one you quoted is not an oversimplification on their part, and my modest revision is not the more useful version.

Thank you for your example,

Bernard Glassman

Paul K Weerkamp

"lean in": another book to consider

Steve Leveen

Dear Bernard,

What a beautifully written and reasoned post. I must say that the credo that we both quoted is only the first paragraph and the complete version is found in the book. I look forward to your further thoughts when you examine the book. All best wishes, Steve

Joan

I embrace your positive perspectives. However, here’s a problem – leadership (wearing a mask) boasts that it embraces ethics, caring, trust, and a host of all that’s good – while they demonstrate behavior contrary to their propaganda. Schizophrenic. Greed, egotism, thievery, connections and blind spots prevail. That’s human nature – globally. Oh, and a tricky legal system with loopholes.

Don Kenner

It is worth pointing out (again and again) that those businesses who abuse the public trust, and who look for profits outside of the free market, are almost always those who have connections to government. Corporate malfeasance that festers and grows is impossible without government assistance. But companies like Apple, Whole Food, Levenger, etc. make our lives better, NOT by "caring for us" or giving us free stuff, but by making products that enhance our lives (as well as contributing to the economy - no small thing). I think it is great to give (I share your disgust with the term "give back") but the idea that the profit from your creation is somehow mine because I "need it" is an evil idea. Greed, egotism (narcissism, actually), and thievery are the natural states of government, NOT businesses. Left alone by the thugs in Washington, the market will take care of those businesses who abuse the public trust. Check out some of the top non-profits and how LITTLE they give of each dollar raised to those they support (and the salaries of their employees). Hollywood/academia creates the fantasy of us being mugged/murdered by business. In the real world these things are almost completely the domain of government, ours included.

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