This weekend it was our annual trip to Astoria. Every year we camp at the KOA near Ft. Stevens, that is if you can consider a little RV with a VCR, cable TV, and wireless internet camping. The campground is great, and we love going to the Civil War Reenactment that occurs every Labor Day weekend. I brought a little reading with me, and I bought an Oregonian just to keep in touch with the real world.
It is the combination of this reading that has inspired today’s entry. Muhammed Yunus in his book Creating a World Without Poverty discusses Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). In fact, he takes a negative view on how most modern corporations exercise the concept of CSR. He asked the question, “Is CSR a force that is leading to positive change among business leaders,” and then answers unfortunately no! The reason he gives for this answer is that most corporations misuse CSR for their own selfish benefit. He states the philosophy of the leaders of these companies is to “make as much money as you can, even if you exploit the poor to do so.”
Yunus ends chapter one with a comment about Capitalism in general. “Capitalism takes a narrow view of human nature, assuming that people are one-dimensional beings concerned only with the pursuit of maximum profit.” He uses Adam Smith and self-interest as his reasoning for this conclusion. Yunus feels that to change the world we need a multi-dimensional plan that goes beyond profit maximization.
This is where the second half of the discussion comes in. The practical application of what Yunus is describing. It may not exactly be what Yunus is thinking, but you’ll soon see the connection. In the article Dear Mr. Jobs, please help the working class, Harold Meyerson compares Steven Jobs to Henry Ford. The reason for this comparison is the recent discussion around the impact that Jobs has had on the world via his company, Apple. In fact, some have compared Jobs to Edison and Ford. The New Yorker compared Jobs’ creativity to Edison, while the New York Times compared Jobs’ inventiveness to that of Ford.
However, lets look at what Ford did, and then compare that to Jobs. Ford helped to create an industry in the United States that built the middle class. Ford, with the help of Fredrick Taylor and Scientific Management, put many Americans to work while paying them a wage sufficient enough to buy the product that they were making.
Jobs on the other hand has created some great products, and maybe created a market not previously there with the Ipad. The American consumer has had the opportunity to buy this product, but not build it. A company in Taiwan named Foxconn builds all of Apple’s products. This company has one million employees, with 250,000 of them working on Apple products alone. These employees were working 60 hours per week at 50 cents per hour. What is really tragic was that Foxconn raised the wages of its employees only after a wave of suicides.
Yunus says that Capitalism has it all wrong. The Capitalist is one-dimensional trying to maximize profits. Whereas the new Capitalism needs to become multi-dimensional looking beyond self-interest to enhance humanity. Our current crop of corporate leaders are racing to the bottom to find cheaper wages, thus providing cheaper products to the world market. While they are accomplishing this profit maximization they are giving money to various charities to help the poor. Is that wrong?
I am all for profit, and I believe that the world can be changed positively through free enterprise. However, I also believe that to whom much is given much is required. Therefore I agree with Yunus that we need to find a different way to do business. There must be a better way, one that provides for economic profit, as well as for human need throughout this world. We need to find out how to do this, and you know what? I think we can!
And that is my thought for the day!