Saturday, March 29, 2014

A Seminal Idea

While slowly recovering from a concussion late last fall my reading and writing has slowed to a trickle until recently. To be able to read or listen and comprehend the ideas expressed seems almost like a luxury now, one that I have taken for granted for most of my life. Perhaps as a result of this recent loss, I am all the more thirsty to read, learn, and explore what might be possible. Beware the floodgates may open soon.

I have recently completed the 35 page Regenerative Capitalism working draft that the Capital Institute's John Fullerton has made available on the web.


Fullerton is a finance leader, former managing director at JP Morgan, and some of the excerpted pieces from his evolving synthesis below will give a hint of the flavor of his analysis and his proposed remedies.

 I heard him speak a couple of years back and have been impressed with both his insight and his belief that we can create better options, rather than simply bemoan our current malaise.

 His thinking and writing is at once, deep, trans formative, coherent, and inspiring. Excerpts do not do justice to the WHOLE. If you really want to get a shorthand and insightful critique of our economic system and a possible prescription for a better world, please read the WHOLE paper.

       We are in trouble because modern economic theory and the practice of finance remain dangerously grounded in a mechanistic worldview, in direct conflict with this emerging and more accurate ecological worldview. Optimizing near term“shareholder value” at the level of the firm, as if it exists separate from the greater whole of society, and separate from the even greater whole of the Earth and its biochemical processes that provide the local and global life-supporting ecosystem functions upon which the firm and its employees and customers depend, is flawed reductionist thinking. Yet this is precisely how modern finance-driven capitalism operates, posing a clear and present danger to life on Earth...
...we state our belief that the reckless,reductionist objective of Financial Capitalism, exclusively focused on optimizing short-term returns to financial capital, is guaranteed to lead us to collapse – ecological, social, and ultimately financial as well...

.... When it comes to sustainability, our leading business schools are primarily engaged in furthering the technology-enabled resource productivity “opportunity,” just as they earlier focused on the labor productivity “opportunity.”...

...Regenerative enterprises and and projects invariably arise out of the failure of diverse constituencies to solve intractable societal problems because they have been working in isolation, and often at cross purposes. Out of sheer desperation, they decide, tentatively, to lower the barriers of mistrust and work more collaboratively. Not surprisingly, these unlikely collaborations transform what appears to b, from a reductionist viewpoint, problems without solutions, into projects of boundless possibility - the edge effect at work.[emphasis added]
...This new era will be characterized by broader  and more holistic value creation and rich collaborations between public and private sectors, not just private financial wealth accumulation.

There is so much more here and Fullerton lays out a systemic analysis and plan and remedy. He defines eight elements of regenerative capitalism:

1)  Means not Ends
2)  Ethical and In Service
3)  Supremacy of Relationship
4)  Transparency
5)  True Wealth
6)  Right Scale
7)  Collaborative
8)  Resilient 

He concludes with three declarations which drive everything else:

  • An ecological worldview must replace our outdated mechanical worldview
  • The regenerative paradigm that defines life and enables it to sustain itself in dynamic steady-state in the face of its own persistent entropy production, must succeed the impossible exponential physical growth paradigm.
  • A transformation of finance, both theory and practice, is essential for this shift to take place.

Finally, he closes with an apropos quote from Buckminster Fuller that we should all hearken to:
"We are called to be the architects of the future, not its victims".

Let's begin...