July 2017. I look for trends and statistics on marketing, technology, the forces influencing online purchases, how American and Western culture is changing – not to mention questioning how larger forces: geopolitical events, climate change, innovations in seemingly unrelated fields, and more – might affect my own business(es) and those of my clients. I was gobsmacked (really just wanted to use that word) to find this article in Fast Company: Are You Ready To Consider That Capitalism Is The Real Problem?
What's unsettling is not simply the willingness to ask the question – I think many of us realize that our economic system could be better. What was eye-popping was the willingness to question to entire system. A study by Harvard University shows that 51% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 no longer support the system of capitalism.
"It’s not only young voters who feel this way. A YouGov poll in 2015 found that 64% of Britons believe that capitalism is unfair, that it makes inequality worse. Even in the U.S., it’s as high as 55%. In Germany, a solid 77% are skeptical of capitalism. Meanwhile, a full three-quarters of people in major capitalist economies believe that big businesses are basically corrupt."
Whatever your personal response to the idea is, it's critical for those of us who buy, sell, and market goods and services to thoughtfully consider what these statistics mean for the long-term viability of our businesses. As we adapt to the cataclysmic and unanticipated changes wrought by technology, we would be smart to also pay heed to how changing socio-cultural-economic mores will create equally radical – and unanticipated – shifts in our commercial activities.
If you're feeling skeptical, the article provides some context:
Why do people feel this way? Probably not because they deny the abundant material benefits of modern life that many are able to enjoy. It’s because they realize—either consciously or at some gut level—that there’s something fundamentally flawed about a system that has a prime directive to churn nature and humans into capital, and do it more and more each year, regardless of the costs to human well-being and to the environment we depend on.
We've created a system focused on shareholder returns, "which prevents even well-meaning CEO’s from voluntarily doing anything good—like increasing wages or reducing pollution—that might compromise their bottom line." More and more in my own practice I've met and worked with craftspeople, small business owners, and emerging non-profit organizations that are organized around principals like abundance, purpose, compassion, and equality. It feels like the beginning of a groundswell revolution. Quixotic no doubt, but certainly necessary.