The Dawn of Capitalism – Free Ebook

Generous, thoughtful, sensitive people are often drawn to the view that we shouldn’t expect economies to grow. After all, the earth and its resources are limited. So why keep asking for GDP to expand? It’s understandable if this opinion is widespread, but perhaps a good future depends not on minimizing capitalism, but on radically extending it. At its best, capitalism should address the full range of mankind’s true needs as efficiently and effectively as possible. This is not currently happening. Despite all the factories, the concrete, the highways, and the logistics chains, the economy is as yet, far too small and desperately undeveloped. Over the last two centuries, in the wealthy nations, capitalism has evolved to meet many basic material needs– for sanitation, shelter, food supply and healthcare. The largest and most successful corporations have been those that satisfied appetites that we would categorize as belonging at the bottom of Abraham Maslow’s famous “Pyramid of Needs.” Oil and gas, mining, construction, retail, agriculture, pharmaceuticals, electronics, insurance and banking… But the briefest glance at the Pyramid of Needs reveals a fascinating possibility– that the future growth of business might lie in an assort on a vast array of needs further up the pyramid– in the areas of love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. Capitalists and companies are seemingly semi-consciously aware of this issue; the evidence lies in advertising. Advertising almost always tries to sell us stuff with an appeal to our higher needs by tugging obliquely at our longings for emotional fulfillment, authenticity, good relationships, and a sense of true achievement. But as yet, the corporations who pay for the adverts are not actually devoted to meeting the needs that their marketing people have so skillfully evoked. We get promised friendship or love and end up with a 4 by 4 or a new barbecue set. Advertising is always hinting at the future shape of the economy. It already trades on all the right fantasies– it’s just that there are, as yet, very few of the truly right products in services out there. What we call a business idea, is at heart, just an, as yet, unexplored need. To trace the future shape of capitalism, we only have to think of all the needs that we have that are currently poorly understood and neglected by the commercial world. There’s no shortage; we need help in forming cohesive, interesting communities. We need help in bringing up children. We need help in calming down at key moments. We require immense assistance in discovering our real talents in the workplace, and understanding where we can best deploy them. We have unfulfilled aesthetic desires– elegant town centers, charming high streets and sweet villages are in desperately short supply, and are therefore, absurdly expensive. Just as, prior to Henry Ford, cars existed, but were very rare, and only for the very rich. These higher needs are not trivial or minor ones– little things that we could easily survive without. They are, in many ways, absolutely central to our lives. We simply accept it without really thinking about it– that there’s nothing we could do to address them. And yet, to be able to structure businesses around these needs would be the commercial equivalent of the discovery of steam power, or the invention of the electric light bulb. We don’t know today quite what the businesses of the future will look like; just as, in 1975, no one could describe the current corporate essence of Facebook or Google. But, we know the direction we need to head to. We need the drive and inventiveness of capitalism to tackle the higher, deeper problems of life. This will offer an exit for many of the failings and miseries that attend capitalism today.

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