OK, I’m going philosophical on you today – and maybe a little political. But it’s for good reason. I want to discuss the capitalistic system under which most readers of this blog operate. And yes, this is prompted by the increased promotion of socialism by the political left in this country.
The concepts of private property, and of exchanges between legally free individuals and companies, in a system where the market mechanism is the primary governor of production and distribution of goods, has evolved as the most effective (though not perfect) economic system yet devised. We call it capitalism.
It’s seldom mentioned that Adam Smith who wrote a seminal book on capitalism, Wealth of Nations, was a Scottish professor of philosophy. He claimed there was something in the nature of man that makes man interested in the fortunes of others, making their happiness necessary to him. (Surprised?) So, although he emphasized the societal benefits of the pursuit of self-interest, he was clear that the goal of commerce should be to grow the entire economic pie, to the benefit of all. Further, he saw an important role for government as it relates to commerce, a role that included national defense, justice and security under the law, infrastructure development, and public education.
Two things. First, don’t underestimated the attractiveness of socialism to your fellow countrymen. Don’t be caught off guard.
Second, take a hard look at how the American capitalistic system has adapted – and continues to adapt – to the reality that self interest can run amok.
As CEO, you run the risks and reap the rewards of a system established generations ago. You may want to hold yourself responsible for understanding the total culture in which you operate – the local and federal governments which contribute to your business environment and the other institutions that support the capitalistic democracy in which you operate. Further, you might want to reflect on Adam Smith’s belief that there is something in your own nature that causes you to act on your concern for the welfare of others. Finally, the long-term health of our capitalistic system depends on your civic participation. Discern important public issues of the day. Ignore the petty political gamesmanship. Debate consequential public issues thoughtfully and with civility. Cast your intelligent vote when elections are held.
Sound like a lecture? Sorry. Intended as suggestions.
Agree or disagree? Have something to add? Leave your comments below.