There are some things more important than money. Check that. Many things… most things.
This thought has been echoing within me recently, spurred on by a resonance coming from many directions. Perhaps it is my stage of life, as I look back at what really mattered and cherish time with my family and friends, walks with my wife Jean in the park holding hands like newlyweds or savoring the turning of pages of a fascinating new read. I am also thankful for my relatively good health.
I recognize I do all of this from a position of privilege. I have been very lucky and do not want for creature comforts. But I also know that the best decisions I have made have come from choosing factors other than the financial bottom line. Money can bring comfort and protection. But there is a point after which you must ask what more do you need, and what will you be willing to sacrifice to get it.
I have no problem with capitalism. If framed correctly, it is a powerful engine of innovation and has helped raise people out of poverty. But corrupt capitalism, crony capitalism, unregulated capitalism that doesn’t take into account our social compact or the needs of the larger community can, if left unchecked, weaken our communal bonds, threaten our health and security, and harm those who can afford it the least. And I fear we see that happening on multiple fronts today.
We see a president who, for a lifetime, has put his own greed above all else, who now seems to be making decisions about the direction of our country by considering his own self-interest and that of his family. He is willing to blow up the world order and trample our democratic norms. And the political class who is profiting from this applauds or remains silent.
We see companies chasing profits in China and willing to sacrifice basic American values in doing so.
We see freelance industrialists making deals with the world’s worst autocrats.
We see a monied class reveling in tax cuts that deprive our nation of funds that could help those in need.
We see companies lying about our climate crisis and pushing for short term gains at the risk of our planet.
We see pharmaceutical companies and immoral medical professionals who pushed opioids and fueled an epidemic.
All of this suggests a business climate out of whack, a formula of cost and benefit that is in need of being drastically rethought. And I have a sense that the reckoning is coming. Greed is not good. Maximizing shareholder value, when shareholders are narrowly defined as investors, is insufficient. We are all shareholders in the health of our cities, countries and the larger world. Measuring value should also include a tally of the needs of workers, children, and those concerned about broader justice of economic and environmental health.
Enough is enough. For too long, it’s been more than enough.