Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Greed and Optimism

I wrote the beginnings of my thoughts about this article last night on the carrot project blog.

I have at least one more...

The article is a celebration of recession as a means of refocusing businesses on the original bottom line.

It's a dismissal of social and environmental responsibility as fluffy distraction.

And, it seems to me, it's a proclamation of faith that single-minded self-interest is THE governing human passion, faith that it's a passion that need not destroy, that it's a passion we can trust to carry us to a sustainable and humane future.

It's cold, robotic laissez faire optimism. It's a bet on greed.

And it feels to me like a dangerous bet.

I mean I'm all for bets on long-term greed. The Carrot Project is a bet on long-term greed.

It's a bet that consumers, if given tools to entertainingly educate themselves, will see that the creation of an abundant future involves supporting the businesses that show commitment to sustaining abundance (and, of course, looking suspiciously at the businesses that seem to grab for the quickest profits and ignore the damage the grabbing does to the world's stores of natural and human capital).

And it's a bet that more and more companies will notice that their year 2100 profits (and maybe even year 2010 profits) will be much much more impressive if they take care of the communities, ecosystems, and economies in which they operate right now.

But the laissez faire bet (at least as articulated in the Financial Times editorial) seems comfortable with short-term greed too. The greed of instant gratification. The greed of borrowing from the future and not making plans to pay it back. The greed that creates the hit and run economics* that plague the developing world.

Anyway, yeah, that article's not sitting well. And I'll stick by my conclusion from late last night...

We need to prove that guy wrong.

*Note: I'm referring here, specifically, to the get rich quick attitude in China, the notion that efficiency standards and pollution codes are economic barriers to profit best hurdled with bribes and quick getaways. Might be good to write more at some point though. I feel like the metaphor is far clearer in my head than I've ever expressed in writing. But maybe it's obvious? I don't know. If I'm confusing anyone, please let me know.

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