Saturday, March 19, 2016

Crony Capitalism and Threefolding: Part 3

L OBBYING is a way of petitioning the government, and is therefore constitutionally protected, as the Community for Economic Development's Crony Capitalism report points out.  The CED report further notes that a lot of lobbying is genuinely concerned with the public interest.  In addition, lobbying Congress can be legitimate because "business interests that compete with one another need to express their perspectives, lest only the other side be heard." (p.6)  The CED report avers that most donors to electoral campaigns are trying to bring about a better world.

However, the report's focus is on the increasing influence of self-interested groups that hire expensive professional lobbying firms in order to gain economic advantages from government.  The requests and arguments of such groups, which regularly spend substantial amounts in support of politicians' ever-more-costly electoral campaigns, generally get more attention than the arguments of groups that cannot afford to fund such campaigns.   Thus crony capitalism -- where some companies financially support candidacies in exchange for favorable tax and regulatory policies -- begins to replace competitive capitalism.  Businesses unable to afford to lobby politicians or fund their campaigns do not get favorable regulatory and tax policies and are put at a disadvantage.  The CED report makes useful recommendations for the restoration of impartial government and fair economic competition, but entirely ignores the possibility that cooperative capitalism, or movement in a cooperative capitalist direction, would be one of the most effective ways of diminishing crony capitalism and government-for-sale.  How is that, you might ask?

Traditional capitalist firms are legally required to focus primarily on shareholder value and profits.  From a social threefolding perspective, the one-sided focus on competitive advantage must almost inevitably lead to a perennial growth of crony capitalism. The illness could be healed, at least in part, by a less exclusive focus on competition to maximize shareholder value.  Thus it would seem to make sense to move toward cooperative capitalism, a move exemplified by certified B-corporations, which are periodically audited and rated on the extent to which they consider not only shareholder value but a broad range of stakeholder interests, such as transparency, and benefits to the community, to workers, to consumers, to suppliers, and to the environment.  The video below presents some exciting recent progress in this area.  A social threefolding advocate would not claim that economic problems can be solved by changes in economic institutions alone.  People also need free spiritual life and a political democracy with integrity.  But the evolution of capitalism is an essential part of the solution.  Have a look: 

(Here is Part 4 of Crony Capitalism and Threefolding.)

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