NSL Blog

A call for a moral capitalism

December 8, 2011

#system #fail #insidejob

Patrick Wintour of the Guardian writes, the morality of markets is fast becoming the next battleground of politics. And Ed Milliband has also demanded such. In part because we have reached the edge of the adaptive range of our industrial society, the cognitive limit of organisations which represent in fact all the institutions of society. And of course there is always moral failure with systems failure, as organisations strive ever harder to survive, grow, and to be No.1. Too Big Fail… they begin to self-implode.

The above #tags are representative of a growing anger and frustration of the current state of our world. Though to be fair this debate though now white-hot has been brewing for some time. Of course, life has to become incredibly unfair, the reality of existence so abnormal that are all forced to look in the same direction and more importantly see the corrosive nature of the world we have created. I would argue that this system failure, complex in nature is also framed by understanding, or indeed ‘not’ understanding the morality of enough. Indeed, as the banking crisis unfurled itself into the full demon it was to become, threatening a total collapse of the banking system a senior No.4 of a leading bank in the UK opined that countries and governments needed banks, so soon it would be back to business as usual. We equally could point to the News of the World and the phone hacking scandal, another moral failure, that still leaves me, and in fact many others aghast.

The trilemma of our curent age

And we live in a world where the dominance of all things market driven, has allowed extreme if not fundamentalist views to proliferate that are hostile to any form of social responsibility. Something I explore in the first chapter of No Straight Lines, and where I reference Economist John Kay.

John Kay, who is currently engaged in writing a report on executive pay for business secretary Vince Cable, writes in his book The Truth About Markets,

Capitalists, are capitalism’s worst enemy – and particularly the market fundamentalist tendency which has been in the ascendant for the last 20 years. He went onto say this year, our prosperity depends on a self-enforcing culture of ethical business values, in which traders value their reputation and seek to develop long-term commercial relationships. That is the culture in which banks used to operate.

What we need is not a reboot, but a system upgrade, to what I am calling a Human(OS). Its a rough consensus of what we want – but it is a running code.

Human(OS) - rough consensus running code

Human(OS) - rough consensus running code

In the No Straight Lines project there is a clear line of view that markets can be ethical, and also vibrant.Its just we need to see the world in a different way – where we design around the needs around humanity

The NSL project practically demonstrates through the stories brought together as a collective narrative, literacy and logic of how companies/organisations/society can in fact be both. Its just that companies need to operate from a place which is defined by mutuality, rather than the market fundamentalism that many sensible economists, academics and ordinary people (Sachs), (Beinhocker), (Scitovsky), (Frank), (Stiglitz), (Barber), (Lessig), (Klein), (Sennett), (Hawken), (Sen), (Hamid), (Cohen), (Boyle), (Hyde), deplore, and sadly many more of us experience in our daily lives.

Below a short video intro, in part to introduce the idea of the Human(OS) and why it will play a key role in defining WHAT NEXT looks like.


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