Capitalists' Dilemma

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= the Capitalists' Dilemma: We've reached a place where generating more of the same old "prosperity" requires more and more economic harm — real and relentless damage to people, communities, society, nature, and the future, whether in the form of McJobs, rising inequality, chronic mass unemployment, declining trust, or a missing sense of personal meaning. [1]


Discussion

Umair Haque:

"Welcome to the Age of Dilemma. How did we get here? I'd argue that we arrived on a wave of dumb growth: growth empty of real prosperity. The dumber it gets, the more it resembles a zero sum game. Today, its payoffs have reached sharply diminishing returns. Hence, to "generate prosperity" or "create value" today, increasingly, yesterday's institutions (you know the score: "corporations," "GDP," "profit," "markets," "IPOs," "jobs," etc) must seize it — often from those most powerless and vulnerable to defend themselves — who are then likely to riot, rebel, and ultimately destabilize the economy all over again. The result is dilemma, but the deeper cause is the dumb growth that never contained real prosperity (or, if you prefer, "shared value") to begin with.

The problem with our current debates — or perhaps more accurately, our partisan, angry disputes — is that they're all about choosing between yesterday's bad alternatives. The real problem is rebuilding the institutions that keep locking us into those self-destructive choices in the first place. The heated arguments our politicians and public intellectuals have been having about how to reboot the economy just address the symptoms, not the deeper malady: Our industrial-era economic institutions have become, in our tiny, fragile, crowded world, a cage.

So how do the powers that be break out of that cage and resolve these dilemmas? They don't. In a radically decentralizing world, we are the powers that be. It's up to each of us to create better options.

What does "better" mean, in this context? It means making economic decisions that let us say: "We've escaped the Capitalists' Dilemma. We don't need to do economic harm to prosper — in fact, the less harm we do, the more authentic, enduring, meaningful prosperity we ignite." That is the hallmark of a 21st company, country, investment fund, startup, social enterprise, job, task, or role. It's the signature of having attained next-level advantage.

That's the "better" part. Here's the "each of us" part. It's our collective decisions — as customers, managers, leaders, investors, board members, citizens, sons, daughters — that, in the aggregate, will become what is institutionalized — the patterns and practices of human interaction. Those institutions can't be legislated or dictated in a hyperconnected world: they can only be freely discussed, debated, explored — and then chosen. Only when we make wiser choices do new options — dilemma-breaking options — begin to emerge. And only then will we have the power to wrestle this great Capitalists' Dilemma, the beast tearing savagely through the global economy, finally to the ground." (http://blogs.hbr.org/haque/2011/02/welcome_to_the_age_of_dilemma.html)