The first 3 chapters of this book are available at the end of this article.
For the past 60-years, the negative narratives created about business, economics, and capitalism have caused battle lines to be drawn between leaders of industry and the NGO, Federal Government, Changemaker, and “Savior” spaces. Those championing a systemic change to the financial ecosystem that was created in 1944 at Bretton Woods have had valid reasons to do so, but there is a palpable mental block when those same champions are challenged with the fact that systemic, by inference, means not only changing the system, but also changing the way we approach change itself.
For the past 30-years, I have listened to narratives that paint business, economics, and capitalism as the cause of America’s socioeconomic and environmental problems. I have sat through countless meetings, conferences, and seminars listening to NGO Executives, Changemakers, “Saviors”, and Federal Politicians, malign and demonize business leaders and the residents of the top of America’s socioeconomic pyramid. These presentations and speeches are almost always accompanied by narratives designed to paint unfair descriptions of the mindsets of those residing at the bottom of America’s socioeconomic pyramid. The closing sentiments at such gatherings, are always the self-proclamations from the presenters that they are the most important people in the sustainable America room, i.e., only they have the solutions.
There is no doubt that there are businesses which knowingly make their money at the expense of segments of humanity and or the environment, however, in opposition to what the NGO, Changemaker, “Savior”, and certain Federal Government sectors will have you believe, they are in the minority. Most business leaders care deeply about the communities within which they live and work. Furthermore, most residents of the top of our socioeconomic pyramid donate copious amounts of time, intellectual capital, and money to help solve the socioeconomic and environmental problems they care about. These are inconvenient truths for those who created, deliver, and still perpetuate the narratives that business, economics, and capitalism are the problems, and that NGOs, Changemakers, “Saviors”, and Federal Government initiatives are the solutions. Wouldn’t we all much rather have cures, than to perpetually rely upon palliative care?
In his 1889 essay “Wealth”, Andrew Carnegie wrote:
“The problem of our age is the proper administration of wealth, so that the ties of brotherhood may still bind together the rich and poor in harmonious relationship”
Unfortunately, Carnegie’s desire to see harmonious relationships between the rich and poor could not be further from today’s reality. This is because there is no direct line of sight or contact between the residents of the top and the bottom of America’s socioeconomic pyramid. Accordingly, residents of each segment can only rely on the narratives that have historically been created by, and delivered through, the residents of specific sections of the middle of our nation’s socioeconomic pyramid.
When President George Bush spoke of the “The Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations”, he was referencing the practice of expecting less from members of disadvantaged groups, and thus implicitly encouraging the people within them not to reach their full potential. Little did we realize that numerous sections of the middle of our socioeconomic pyramid were already using this deplorable tactic.
As a student of history, it is not lost on me that when the wealth, income, asset, and cultural gaps between the haves and the have nots become insurmountable, civil unrest is often the result. Lest we forget the French and Russian Revolutions, and of course the Thirteen Colony Revolt that created the United States. As a father of three children in their twenties, I have grave concerns for their future, and hence I chose to write this book to not only correct the false narratives responsible for widening the current gaps, but to also shine an intense spotlight on the real problems that have been hiding in plain sight for decades.
My work has led to numerous business leaders, donors, and investors posing important questions to the NGO, Changemaker, “Savior” and Federal Government segments. The questions relate to the fact the “solutions” are clearly not working, because most of the socioeconomic and environmental problems we have faced for the past 100-years are getting worse, and the gaps are widening. The standard answers revolve around a lack of capital, a lack of human assets, bad policy from the opposing party, centralized decision making, a need for systemic change, systems that only work for those that created them, and of course, big bad business, economics, and capitalism. In short, finger pointing to issues outside of the NGO, Changemaker, Federal Government, and “Savior” ecosystems. To be fair, there is some merit in all the answers, but not enough to sustain the premise that they are the catalysts for everything that is broken. Therefore, and for the first time in any meaningful manner, people have started to pull back the curtain to see exactly why the current narratives were created, by whom, how realistic they are, and who benefits from them.
At the dawn of the 20th Century, John D. Rockefeller showcased a move from meeting immediate needs via charity to addressing the underlying “root causes” of social problems by using “scientific philanthropy”. Today, the root cause of our socioeconomic and environmental problems is not business, economics, or capitalism, but a lack of access to them for far too many Americans’ living in marginalized or disenfranchised communities in our country. As you will read, the residents at the top of our nation’s socioeconomic pyramid contribute a great deal, and the residents at the bottom are innovative, industrious, and desperate to contribute to achieving their own American Dream. Therefore, unlocking the chokepoints preventing these two residential segments from directly working together, and thus changing the shape of the pyramid itself, becomes an imperative if America is to become sustainable.
I wish to impress upon those poised to read this book that +/- 50% of the NGOs in America must be supported as they do incredibly important work that has real impact. However, it does sadden me that what I can’t impress, is the fact that all NGOs are doing incredible work and stewarding the capital they receive in the most prudent manner possible. This is because, after almost 20-years of research, I have concluded that the NGO “industry” must be consolidated, with the surviving organizations receiving some of the capital that the terminated organizations once received. Even then, those that remain must migrate from the mentality of transact to transform, and from compete to collaborate. As for the modern Changemaker, and even worse the “Savior” segments, my experience is that the majority are a complete waste of time and resources, as their preferred solution is to create self-referential echo chambers within which they can self-aggrandize their own importance. As for the Federal Government, because both national parties have adopted a win at all cost mentality, they have become totally useless.
When we combine the +/- 50% of the NGOs that have little or no impact with the majority of the Changemaker, “Savior”, and Federal Government initiatives that are useless, we create what is one of the most inefficient and ineffective “industries” in America. Just imagine the increased impact that could be created if the time, capital, and other resources currently donated to those creating no positive impact, was redirected to those creating positive impact.
We do need to edit business, economics, and capitalism because in their edited forms the benefits of each will become accessible to far more people, and hence they will become the solutions to our socioeconomic and environmental problems. Unlocking the chokepoints that currently prevent an efficient and effective flow of financial and intellectual capital from the top to the bottom, and an equally efficient and effective flow of innovations from the bottom to the top is the answer to increasing economic vibrancy for the segments of our society that need it the most. Increasing economic vibrancy will help close the gap between the haves and the have nots and begin to eradicate many of the socioeconomic and environmental problems we face.
This book is certainly not all doom and gloom because it also focuses on solutions that have been developed and need to be scaled (Chapter 8), while also turning on its head the current narrative about the most important people in the sustainable America room. Combine this with the fact that many global leaders of industry have found unison with “Making A Profit While Making A Difference”, and it is clear to see that the answers to our problems are materializing. As my dear friend Lawrence Bloom would so eloquently state, “breakdowns allow for break throughs”.
It is time for us all to realize why community leaders within many marginalized and disenfranchised segments of our nation state that large parts of the NGO, Changemaker, “Savior” and Federal Government sectors are, “Pimping Our Poverty”.