The chorus of criticisms about our basic capitalist system grows louder and louder, now from leading capitalists themselves. (https://tinyurl.com/y293eabx) While other leading practitioners defend a market-based system against government-led systems, they too acknowledge that the market approach is leaving too many people behind. (https://tinyurl.com/y3ed32dy)
It doesn’t have to be this way. In his new book, James O’Toole, emeritus professor of business ethics at USC, highlights the history and potential of ethical capitalism. In The Enlightened Capitalists: Cautionary Tales of Business Pioneers Who Tried to Do Well by Doing Good (HarperBusiness, 2019), O’Toole tells the tale of two dozen entrepreneurs who resisted market pressures and other investors in order to treat their employees and partners as well as they could. While “enlightened” in this context is understood to be in regard to employee relations, more recent examples have also folded in consideration of the environment and the fate of the planet. The verdict, so far, is mixed. Large publicly traded corporations almost never succeed in maintaining the intention of their founders or prior leaders. Smaller or private companies have a greater chance to maintain better relations and outcomes into subsequent generations. Either way, the stories are simply fascinating. Listen here to my New Books Interview interview with Jim.