"CAPITALISM ISN'T WORKING!" yelled one of the many animated/angry signs from the protestors occupying Wall Street.
I didn't feel compelled to argue against the statement, per se. It seemed true enough. But it also seemed limited. Like announcing, "Lady Gaga writes smutty pop songs!"
My reaction was a resounding, "Duh."
Sure capitalism is steadily suffering from a major public image fail. But what if I told you that capitalism could save the world? Yes: Save the world.
Stay with me here.
Because I share the same disdain for corporate greed as the protesters of the Occupy Movement, I watched with interest and amazement as they gathered to fight "The Man." The sheer volume of people self-organizing themselves across all corners of the planet was impressive. The troops seemed to be gathering themselves. This would be the beginning of the end for our inequitable economic systems, right?
Almost a year after the occupy movement detonated, it seems like life has marched onwards. It's business as usual.
But people are still polarized. On one end of this "capitalism" debate are the crusty, irate anarchists who seem hell-bent on destroying the system. On the other end are the money-hungry corporate dinosaurs with patent leather briefcases and cigars burning in their scabby mouths. And quite frankly, I'm perturbed by both extremes.
Then there are the rest of us. Those in the middle. Those of us who are fatigued by tales of corporate greed and environmental shortsightedness. Those who know that marching on Wall Street with cheeky placards might land a spot on the 6 o'clock news, but that waving a flimsy sign at a giant corporate skyscraper ultimately provides little actual systemic change. The rest of us know that it's time to move past the mudslinging, time to move past the blame game.
So here's where I share a potentially unpopular idea: Our current environmental and social predicaments are not the fault of "capitalism." In fact - brace yourself - they can be resolved by capitalism.
We're missing the point here folks. Capitalism is simply a system of economic organization that doesn't have any inherent moral values (good or bad) built into it. It's like saying the Internet is bad because it's got creepy BDSM porn photos and videos of people killing kittens. Yes, certain elements of it are flawed and disturbing, if not thoroughly lacking in morality. But to abandon it is foolery.
(If you want to demonize something, I suggest greed or economic disproportion or political parties that encourage corporate gluttony.)
We've got an economic system that mixes elements of capitalism and socialism. It's flawed, but in many ways it's functioning. And it's imperative to use the social, economic and political systems we've built to help facilitate a shift towards a more equitable society and environmentally sustainable future. In fact, if we want immediate global impact, there is no other way.
Ultimately, despite my apathetic reaction, I strongly agree with the proclamation: "Capitalism isn't working."
But does that mean we should abandon capitalism? No. Instead we have to find ways to make it not only work, but help save the world.
And I'm looking directly at you big business.
Capitalism has the potential to be the greatest social catapult the world has ever seen. What we need to do is rewire ourselves and our companies to understand that doing "good" is actually good for long-term sustainable business. The successful brands of tomorrow will not only focus on product and price-point and profit, but will realize that as much attention needs to be placed on purpose, and cause, and attitude.
If this recalibrating is successfully accomplished, then capitalism will be responsible not only for the reversal of this protracted economic recession, but also for the rise of the developing world, and the resurrection of the western middle-class.
This foreboding beast of capitalism that we know today, ironically, will be the societal savior for which we've all been praying.