#SkollWF: Bono critiques capitalism

‘Capitalism is not immoral, it’s amoral. We have to tell it what to do’

I wonder how U2 would respond if I started to collect royalties and gain critical acclaim performing my own version of Pride (In the Name of Love)?

Our lyrics, on the other hand, were shared, free to use for social benefit.

It was in the name of love that social activist Terry Hallman will be remembered in Ukraine, as local civil rights leaders reflected on his death:

‘The author of breakthru report “Death camps for children” Terry Hallman suddenly died of grave disease on Aug 18 2011. On his death bed he was speaking only of his mission — rescuing of these unlucky kids. His dream was to get them new homes filled with care and love. His quest would be continued as he wished.’

His work in Eastern Europe had begun in 1999 with the Tomsk Regional Initiative, which was one of the topics discussed in a 2004 interview about his work.

‘The problem is that profit and money still tend to accumulate in the hands of comparatively few people. Money, symbolically representing wealth and ownership of material assets, is not an infinite resource. When it accumulates in enormous quantities in the hands of a few people, that means other people are going to be denied. If everyone in the world has enough to live a decent life and not in poverty, then there is no great problem with some people having far more than they need. But, that’s not the case, and there are no rules in the previous capitalist system to fix that. Profit and numbers have no conscience, and anything done in their name has been accepted as an unavoidable aspect of capitalism.’

In his 2003 proposal for Crimea, he described how capitalism can be applied to stimulate impoverished communities:

“Capitalism and market economy comprise the best economic engine ever invented. Assisting poor communities in developing their own markets is now meeting growing acceptance as the best way to go to alleviate poverty. The profit motive, integral to capitalism and market economics, is the driving force for successful economies around the world.”

Arriving in London in 2004, in a business plan to tackle poverty, he warned of the risk of social unrest, calling on goverment for policy level support for business which put people before profit:

“Capitalism is the most powerful economic engine ever devised, yet it came up short with its classical, inherent profit-motive as being presumed to be the driving force. Under that presumption, all is good in the name of profit became the prevailing winds of international economies — thereby giving carte blanche to the notion that greed is good because it is what has driven capitalism. The 1996 paper merely took exception with the assumption that personal profit, greed, and the desire to amass as much money and property on a personal level as possible are inherent and therefore necessary aspects of any capitalist endeavour. While it is in fact very normal for that to be the case, it simply does not follow that it must be the case.”

Would the Skoll World Forum have any interest in what he died for? York St John University gave me opportunity to describe his plans for a social investment fund and impact investment to remove children from institutions. It puts the quote from Ukraine’s civic activists into context.

“In this case, for the project now being proposed, it is constructed precisely along these lines. Childcare reform as outlined above will pay for itself in reduced costs to the state. It will need investment for about five years in order to cover the cost of running two programs in parallel: the existing, extremely problematic state childcare scheme, and the new program needed to replace it for the purpose of giving children a decent life. The old program will be phased out as the new program is phased in. After this phase transition is complete, the state will from that time forward pay out less money for state childcare. Children will have a better life, and will be more likely to become healthy, productive assets to the nation rather than liabilities with diminished human development, diminished education, and the message that they are not important — the basis for serious trouble. There is no need whatsoever to give these children less than a good quality of life as they grow and mature. The only problem is reorganization of existing resources.”

As one may note, this wasn’t anything to do with return on investment but return of investment to reduce childcare costs to the state.

Just this week , Oxfam America published a report arguing the case for what he described 10 years ago. Rather than impact investment being structured for the needs of investors, it should be structure for the needs of social enterprise on the front like , tackling poverty.

‘In a report launched by Oxfam and Sumerian Partners today, we argue that it’s time to look at impact investing differently; to start with a focus on the needs of the businesses working to make a meaningful impact on poverty reduction, rather than on the investors who stand to benefit from their work. Enterprises working in this space are in new territory — continually adapting their business models, earning low and slow returns and operating in markets that are subject to considerable exogenous shocks (e.g., economic instability, weak infrastructure, extreme weather events and poorly developed value chains). These firms will make decisions that can seem irrational if your focus is market return. They may seek out “at risk” populations, such as single moms balancing the demands of work and family, as employees. They may share ownership and decision-making with their workers. They may pay their suppliers not the price that is commonly expected in the market, but a higher price the firm sees as “fair.” The businesses themselves, and the funds that put their money into these firms, organize around the intention to generate a measurable, beneficial social or environmental impact alongside a financial return — and that prioritization is reflected in their structures, processes and activities.’

As we argued in the ‘Marshall Plan’ for Ukraine:

“Those in greatest need must be helped first, not secondarily along the way or by the way”