Perilous Waters

Somewhere along the journey of the last fifty years, business seems to have moved from being something that powered our economy to something that controls it. It has moved from servant to master, and it makes a poor master.

I think the implications of this are far-reaching because the world is evolving far faster than the world of business can keep up. It shows in the responses to the significant issues of the moment, the reaction of major oil companies when brought to account as they appeal decisions or obfuscate and the proposed policies for preparation for the next pandemic by harnessing business. 

Business is no more malign than a shark is malign; it’s just doing its thing, and it is us who have created the water it swims in. Business exists to make a profit because that is how we have structured it. Legal frameworks oblige it to act in the interests of shareholders. We give a business the rights of an individual but no obligations to being a good community member. We enable it to store its gains far from the reach of the countries that provided them. It worked well enough until technology-powered globalisation started a feeding frenzy, and we find ourselves where we are today. 

Being eaten is not inevitable. We have the remarkable power to choose what we buy and what we do. We have learned during the last year what matters to us. We have understood that commuting is not compulsory every day, nor is overpriced coffee and over-advertised mediocre food. We have had time to spend time outside in nature and, most importantly, understand who and which jobs matter when real challenges arise.

There are beautiful businesses out there who get this, and even more, people want to create others. 

Alan Moore’s latest newsletter is an excellent guided tour around what business can be like and how we can relate to it. 

The change we all want does not have to be a noisy, shouty revolution; it just required us to take responsibility and make choices. Consumption marketing only works by creating perpetual marginal dissatisfaction, which is nonsense when most of us already have more than we need. Our first job is to make sure those who have less than they need have enough.

When we all have enough, or more than enough, then we can get to grips with what growth really means.

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