Lightworker types (people who want to change the world for the better), once they’ve decided they want to use money in their path, almost invariably have trouble working out some model of responsible capitalism to follow. We don’t want to take on all of the psychotic bullshit that most people associate with money, but on the other hand we usually can see that going without money at all won’t empower us much to change the world. This is why I (as a lightworker type) think about money so much; and that in turn is why I write about it so much.
I was thinking about it today while about town, and I had an inspiration.
Irresponsible capitalism has its ideology based on demand and supply. That’s basically another way of saying: every woman for herself (“woman” here used to represent the whole of humanity, as the word “man” is often used).
This is because there is no thought of finding a price that is good for both parties involved; you’re supposed to charge as much as you can according to your own self interest (not so much people won’t buy, just the right amount to extract maximum wealth). This way of thinking would justify you forcing someone to sign over every single possession they have because you are the only person within 50 miles who has a cure for their snake bite. They might do it to save their life, but morality rebels against this, even if capitalism as an ideology does not.
In fact, in America and other places where health care isn’t socialised, this situation isn’t as unthinkable as it might sound. People really are allowed to die because they can’t afford health care. Sucks to be them. Right?
However much I might dislike this form of capitalism, it’s better than what came before. In feudal times it really was “every man for himself”. You were either powerful enough to steal or enslave, or you were yourself enslaved. Capitalism evolved out of that as bit by bit people learnt to listen to the voice of interresponsibility in themselves – enough that exchange could become the norm, and not forcible appropriation. Capitalism actually sounds rather decent when we look at it in this way.
The next step in humanity’s evolution – if it survives that long – will be a gift economy system. People will awaken to the point that they realise they have a responsibility to each other that goes beyond just not committing atrocities to one another. It’ll be a time of mutual support in the flourishing of humanity.
Some people have already reached the stage of consciousness where they would be capable of forming part of such a society, which is where responsible capitalism comes in. While we can’t totally unplug from the system of capitalism without seriously disempowering ourselves, we can at least find a different ideology from that of standard capitalism with which to operate. Greed is not inseperable from money; though you’d be forgiven for thinking that if you’ve never met a responsible capitalist. (I’ve met precious few and have never read anything to my satisfaction about it – which is why I need to write this article).
Irresponsible capitalism has one God: supply and demand (a.k.a. in this case: “Whatever I can get away with”). In responsible capitalism, however, you use supply and demand in a different way. Supply and demand helps to guide you, but it isn’t the sole justification for your actions.
The objective in responsible capitalism is not to maximise either YOUR benefit or YOUR CUSTOMERS’ benefit. The objective is to work out how to maximise total benefit all round. Supply and demand will help you with that. It won’t be the only thing you consider, though.
As in normal capitalism, when there is a relatively higher demand for something than the supply of it, it’s a good time for a responsible capitalist to go into business. However, the motivations are slightly different.
The normal capitalist sees that people will pay a lot for relatively little work on their part. The responsible capitalist sees this self-serving side and takes note of it, but also sees how they can help people with their service.
They look at whether it feels like something that will serve the greater good and not just people’s banal desires. They look at whether they find it inspiring (a sure sign from the Universe that they are aligned with it).
Just like a normal capitalist, the responsible capitalist looks at whether they can provide enough supply and satisfy enough demand to earn what they’re looking to earn. While a normal capitalist is just looking for money, the responsible capitalist wants to see if they can earn enough money to support themselves in their mission to serve the greater good. If they can earn more doing something else, they’ll weigh up the benefits both to themselves and to others. Sometimes they’ll opt for the lower earning path. Sometimes it will be the higher earning path. This may have a little to do with their position in life – sometimes they will need to think more of themselves and sometimes they’ll have the option of giving up some earnings so they can think more of others.
Supply and demand also determines pricing.
A normal capitalist will determine pricing soley based on what will turn them the greater profit – as in the snake bite antidote example above.
A responsible capitalist will instead consider what will maximise overall benefit – both theirs and that of their customers. In the snake bite antidote example, they probably wouldn’t even charge – or just ask for a price that will cover costs. I mean we were really talking about extortion there.
If however they owned a snake bite clinic, the situation would be a little different. They would have to cover costs and earn enough money to live comfortably.
If the snake bite clinic wasn’t providing enough value for them to earn enough money to live comfortably, they wouldn’t force it – he would look for some other market to enter. Supposing that people valued the clinic enough to want to keep it in existence, though, there would be the will to get enough funds into the person’s hands for it to be so.
So, supposing there’s enough demand to support high enough prices, the responsible capitalist would set their prices to earn more or less what they want to earn. It may be that they can raise prices very high because of people’s natural desire to avoid death – but they might not want to take away that much money from people (balancing their good with the good of others). It may also be that they can price things a little higher than just comfortable without causing too many problems. Good for them then — if people value their service enough to support this lifestyle then it’s their every right to take more money. They can even use money that goes in excess of their needs to help serve other people’s needs, such as in humanitarian projects.
The snake bite clinic is a good and a bad example, because the threat of death is something that makes the explanations a little more black and white, but it also makes talking about having a comfortable lifestyle a bit absurd. A really responsible person wouldn’t flinch one second from giving up money in order to save someone’s life.
That said, there are things that can be done even with this. They could petition the government for a partial or full subsidy so that they can make treatments cheaper or free. They could also ask people to donate to this end, or pay the “subsidy” out of their own pocket if they have savings and are willing to spend them here.
They could also do a sort of “scholarship” or selective pricing program where people of low incomes get things either cheaper or free. This could be explicit or under-the-counter in order to prevent fraud (in this last case, they’ll do things cheaper with certain people on the understanding that those people won’t tell anyone). This, again, could come from the government, from donations, or from his own pocket. Higher prices for wealthier people could be considered “donations” too, to pay for poor people.
To clarify, the government, or the entrepreneur should NOT subsidise the venture if demand and supply doesn’t validate it, or at least if it didn’t in a poverty-free world. If there isn’t enough demand for a snake bite clinic to justify the resources, then those resources should be spent on something else for the betterment of mankind. The whole purpose of using subsidies to alter the market price in this case is to allow access to people who are economically disadvantaged.
To sum up:
Demand and supply determine the price we *can* set for something, and then maximisation of total benefit (for both provider and consumer) determines what price we will set for it – and whether we decide to enter that market in the first place.
I think this makes a good framework for how to go about responsible capitalism in your life. In this imperfect world we have to balance what we can get for ourselves – and do we have to be smart about getting enough for ourselves – with what we can do for others. When the gift economy comes about, things will be *MUCH* more simple, but there’s no point in whining about that. We’ve got a job to do 🙂
Hopefully by supporting humanity’s highest good in whatever way we feel drawn to, we can help bring that day about that much sooner. For now, responsible use of capitalism, rather than outright rejection of capitalism, will usually be the best way of doing that. Go forth, and kick ass.