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15 May '15

Conscious Capitalism

Posted by Unicorn Goods

You cannot escape capitalism. Thoreau tried it - even he had to purchase tools to build his off-the-grid house at Walden's Pond. Capitalism is pervasive. It's everywhere. It governs your whole life, try as you might to separate yourself from it.

It seems as though capitalism is thought of in these terms: the same you would use to describe a pestilence. By definition, capitalism is ownership: (n) an economic and political system in which a country's trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state. We blame the system of private ownership for poverty, for inequality, and for corruption. Does this make sense? Who is running the system anyway? After all, isn't it just a collection of people? Are people inherently evil?

We don't think so. And neither do the co-authors of the book Conscious Capitalism. John Mackey, founder and co-CEO of Whole Foods, teams up with author and researcher Raj Sisodia to explain in plain words why capitalism can be a force for good, if properly administered. Consider the opening sentence:

"In the long arc of history, no human creation has had a greater positive impact on more people more rapidly than free-enterprise capitalism." (11)

This book is about how capitalism is misunderstood and badly executed, and how individual companies can fix it by doing capitalism the right way - with conscience. What's most interesting is why capitalism is NOT this way already.

Capitalism rose to prominence as the dominant economic system fueled by Adam Smith's book An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, the bible of modern capitalism. In it, Adam Smith outlines macroeconomics, division of labor, and free market enterprise. However, seventeen years before this book, he also published an essay on ethics: The Theory of Moral Sentiments. This preceding but overlooked work states that man is inherently good and seeks to improve the life of his fellow man:

"How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortunes of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it, except the pleasure of seeing it." - Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments

Putting two and two together, the big takeaway from Adam Smith's life's work should have been this: Capitalism governed by people, who have an interest in the betterment of humanity, is a force for good to the end of the improvement of humanity. So why isn't this so?

The authors of Conscious Capitalism argue that capitalism can be done wrong, and it can be done right. This book is written for CEOs, business owners, and entrepreneurs to instruct them on how to run an conscious company.

A conscious company is one that is concerned with the betterment of humanity, not solely with making money. Conscious companies are: radically transparent, empowering of their employees, and profitable to the ends of a higher moral goal. 

This book is a great read for entrepreneurs who have doubts that money making can make the world a better place. We highly recommend it.

See our listing for Conscious Capitalism here.

b corp benefit corporation book club business capitalism conscious consumer ethics consumerism economics ethics john mackey social business whole foods



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