Pope Francis and Warren Buffett are reading from the same page about conscious capitalism. Buffett, the billionaire CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, recently repudiated his shareholder be-all-end-all beliefs voiced in a 2006 letter.
An October 2020 article published in businessinsider.com notes: “The Berkshire boss bemoaned in his 2006 letter to shareholders that criticizing efficient market theory, or the idea that share prices reflect all available information, amounted to blasphemy.”
In the article, Buffett points out: “‘There’s no question that capitalism, as it gets more advanced, will widen the gap between the people that have market skills, whatever that market demands, and others, unless government does something in between,’ he said. ‘It isn’t some diabolical plot or anything,’ Buffett continued, adding, ‘It’s because of the market system.’ The so-called Sage of Omaha proposed two ways to tackle the issue: a more generous earned-income tax credit to reduce working people’s tax burden, and steeper taxes on the ultrawealthy. Buffett, who plans to give more than 99% of his wealth to philanthropy, has repeatedly called on politicians to hike taxes on the superrich. Existing laws allow him to pay a lower rate than his secretary.”
The Pope further reinforces this position in the article: “‘Neoliberalism simply reproduces itself by resorting to the magic theories of ‘spillover’ or ‘trickle’ — without using the name — as the only solution to societal problems,” he continued, referring to ‘trickle-down economics,’ or the idea that as the rich accumulate wealth, money will automatically flow into the pockets of poor people.”
While Buffett calls for government involvement to get the job done, the Pope offers ideas that speak very directly to conscious capitalism tenets. An October AP story emphasizes: “He denounced populist politics that seek to demonize and isolate, and called for a ‘culture of encounter’ that promotes dialogue, solidarity and a sincere effort at working for the common good.”
Pope Francis elaborates: “…the coronavirus pandemic has proven that the ‘magic theories’ of market capitalism have failed…Francis on Sunday laid out his vision for a post-COVID world by uniting the core elements of his social teachings into a new encyclical aimed at inspiring a revived sense of the human family. ‘Fratelli Tutti’ (Brothers All) was released on the feast day of his namesake, the peace-loving St. Francis of Assisi. The document draws its inspiration from the teachings of St. Francis and the pope’s previous preaching on the injustices of the global economy and its destruction of the planet and pairs them with his call for greater human solidarity to confront the ‘dark clouds over a closed world.’”
While government will continue to exert influence to force bottom-line-only companies to move toward conscious capitalism, the expectation is that ultimately companies will honor and include the needs and wants of all stakeholders in their decision-making. As this process evolves, government involvement can lessen. Corporate America becomes its own best champion of doing what’s just for everyone involved—not because it has to, but because it wants to and it makes economic sense.
Among the beneficiaries along the way will be customer service that does right by all stakeholders, without sacrificing one group for the betterment of another.
Conscious Capitalism provides a sustainable roadmap for the capitalist system and a clear, consistent path to customer service excellence with all stakeholders—from customers and employees to partners and investors. Its importance and influence are summed up on the website ccsandiego.org: “Conscious Capitalism is a global movement co-founded by John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market and Raj Sisodia, Ph.D., renowned author and business leader. With membership around the world made up of companies like Trader Joes, Costco, Panera and Southwest Airlines, Conscious Capitalism is a way of thinking about capitalism and business that better reflects where we are in the human journey, the state of our world today, and the innate potential of business to make a positive impact on the world.”
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Mark Lusky (aka The Happy Curmudgeon)
is the owner of a Denver-based marketing communications firm. He’s a veteran writer, storyteller and author, with 40+ years of public relations, advertising, marketing and journalism experience, and author of A Wandering Wondering Jew… and co-author of Don’t Get Mad, Get Leverage.