Thoughts on today's Capitalism

Thoughts on today’s Capitalism

The economic model we have inherited and operate with tells us to go for profit. The invisible hand, Adam Smith claims, if you continue to do business in your own selfish interest, you will do more good to your society. This model has failed us and produced the poverty and unbelievable inequalities that we see growing in the world. Money has to be humanized and ethics put into practice if we are to address the social challenges that confront us in our time.

Capitalism has done a lot of good. Nevertheless, it has failed to meet the challenge of the 21th century. How do we make money and at the same time do good? This is about doing well and doing good. It is to redefine the business model of today. Businesses need to redefine their methods. Values and purpose are the tools that will define a sustainable future. Business should be about changing lives. As Martin Luther King Jnr rightly observed, the pertinent question is what you are doing for others. We live in a world of contradictions where over half of the world’s wealth is in the hands of less than one percent of the world’s population.

It is not about making money. It is about making positive social change. Our purpose in making money should be to impact positively on our surrounding. There are small actions that can make big changes. Companies should define themselves and the values they cherish and commit to. Businesses have to service the communities that actually sustain them. This is easily said than done. The answer to this is sustainable and responsible leadership. Businesses have to develop code of ethics that we form a bulwark for their activities in good and tough times. Without ethical commitments to social justice, putting democratic decision – making, transparency and other hallmarks of ethical practice into action, the solutions to our social challenges will continue to elude us.

There is need for open discussion about and search for answers to one of the greatest problems of our times – the growing inequality in all its forms and dimensions. Many have identified including the recently concluded World Economic Forum in DAVO that reducing economic inequalities in society is central to poverty reduction. This has been called a “necessity that will determine our current and future economic growth, stability and sustainable economic development. More importantly, this is everyone’s and our shared responsibility to take action to ensure that all human beings have the right to live in dignity.

There a lot of things that are undermined in society as economic inequality increases. We can certainly do something to transform our world. We should never give up remind ourselves of the values of cooperation, solidarity, truthfulness and respect for others. Over time, they will start to bear fruits. Although most people are inclined to pursue their selfish interest in life, but this is not inert in the human person. Greed, corruption, ideology of self interests are malleable. There are signs of genuine actions from individuals who are establishing foundations to combat poverty and economic inequality in Nigeria. One such foundation is TY Danjuma Foundation and other International and multilateral Foundations operating in Nigeria. These are foundations that leverage their social and economic advantages to advocate for social changes that are meant to bring about the Nigeria we are in the deepest recesses of our hearts wish and desire.

With this development, I am actually hopeful and quite excited about what each individual Nigeria can do to address some of these challenges. There are thousands of moral and ethical Nigerians out there, and together we have an opportunity and the potential to make a tremendous difference in the lives of poor and vulnerable people.

That is very exciting. So, as a Nigeria, I am not discouraged. I am energized. We have work to do, but as Martin Luther King, Jr. asserted, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice." The journey toward justice is a two-steps-forward, one-step-back affair. That process will always be with us.

The question is where we go from here. We cannot change the world alone. We need allies, partnership, coalition and most importantly leadership, and to be the change we want to see around us. We have to focus on this against the background of global economic, financial, environmental, and political and leadership crises we are facing in Nigeria. Humanizing our system will provide responsible leadership, commitment and services that will move towards a more humanistic social and economic model. We can and have the capacity to refuse to endorse an unethical behaviour in our interactions with our fellow Nigerian.

Chikezie Onuoha (PhD)
Lecturer in Ethics/Bioethics
NewmanInstitutet, Uppsala