Save the Date! CRT 2019 Global Dialogue – November 21 – 23, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Please mark your calendars! The Caux Round Table for Moral Capitalism’s 2019 Global Dialogue has been scheduled for Thursday, November 21st through Saturday, November 23rd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Of special note, Paul Polman, Chairman of the International Chamber of Commerce and former CEO of Unilever, will be joining us for lunch on November 22nd. We’re working on a number of other distinguished guests, as well.

An official invitation, along with registration information, will be available shortly.

I do hope you can join us!

CRT to Publish Several Books on Amazon in 2019

Amazon’s emergence as a leading book publisher, as well as bookseller, is viewed as a threat to traditional publishing. At the same time, it presents an unprecedented opportunity, not just for budding writers of romance and mystery novels. It also offers non-profit organizations like the Caux Round Table for Moral Capitalism (CRT) a chance not only to publish books affordably but to promote ideas and reports to millions of Amazon customers.

Amazon is now the biggest seller of books in the world, bringing enormous pressure on traditional brick-and-mortar bookstores that face the challenge of finding ways to increase margins in order to survive. Some haven’t. And those that have are doing so by offering a host of products and services that go beyond book sales.

More recently, the online giant has mushroomed into the role of one of the leading book publishers. Since 2009, when it started publishing print, audio and e-books that can be read online or downloaded, Amazon’s list of publications has risen from 373 to more than 1200; each is produced by one of the company’s 15 imprints and promoted through Amazon apps like Kindle and First Read with monthly notification to a number of potential buyers that the traditional industry can only dream of – ten million customers in all.

Book publishing has traditionally been a low margin, high-risk enterprise in which publishing houses have accepted only a fraction of the manuscripts they receive from authors and agents. Despite this, many accepted books still fail to find an appreciable audience and publishing houses must often rely upon one or two best sellers each year to stay afloat.

But with Amazon, the margins are low and the cost of producing a book minimal when compared to traditional print costs with a high percentage – some 80 percent — of books in categories like romance self-published, meaning the company does not pay the author. The author finances the publishing of his or her manuscript.

This online revolution has created a backlash of criticism among traditional publishing houses. At the same time, Amazon’s low publishing cost, widespread promotion and ease of reader access has provided us the chance to reach a wider audience through self-publishing. Where once the only outlet for such organizations might be an academic press with limited runs and little money for promotion, now organizations like ours can potentially reach a much larger market with little cost. What’s more, once an e-book is published, it stays on Amazon’s list of books indefinitely, giving much greater weight to the ideas and opinions the organization wishes to promulgate.

And we are set to take advantage of this opening. At the moment, we have three e-books in the works, with more on the way.

“Amazon’s entry into publishing repeats the process of creative evolution improving humanity’s well-being which started with the first years of the industrial revolution and the birth of capitalism: enterprise takes a risk to introduce a new technology pioneered by science to change the ways in which we can live,” says Steve Young, Global Executive Director of the CRT.

“But as some Buddhists say, every gain comes with a loss,” he continues. “Those tied to old technologies lose out; their business models are no longer viable; their customers move on to new products and services.”

“For our non-profit enterprise, we see Amazon as an avenue to produce and distribute books at a cost we can afford,” Young says. “We have decided to join in the process of disruption to get good ideas and inspiration to more people all over the world.”

We Need Your Support!

This post is a request for your help and support.

As I look around our world with its achievements in improving living standards but its growing inequalities, antagonisms and rising mistrust of elites and others, I am reminded of David Livingstone’s last words:

“ALL I CAN ADD IN MY SOLITUDE, IS, MAY HEAVEN’S RICH BLESSING COME DOWN ON EVERY ONE, AMERICAN, ENGLISH, OR TURK, WHO WILL HELP TO HEAL THIS OPEN SORE OF THE WORLD”

Each of us has opportunities daily to help in healing; each of us can lead; each of us can make a difference.

I am grateful to all in our Caux Round Table for Moral Capitalism network for their contributions and their leaderships. We strive to contribute to the cause of healing and improving with ideas and recommendations – big picture and small bore – to put in the public domain for all to take up, improve upon and use in their many vocations.

During 2019, we plan to:

  • Implement new certificate educational programs in moral capitalism.
  • Deepen our understanding of common core values among wisdom traditions to give moral capitalism a universal foundation in human aspirations for the good.
  • Convene an international dialogue in Zagreb, Croatia, in June.
  • Convene round tables and collaborate in conferences in Mexico and China.
  • Schedule round tables to consider modernization of the methodology used to value companies and securities in 6 major global centers of finance and public policy leadership.
  • Publish 12 issues of Pegasus.
  • Publish books relevant to the theory and practice of moral capitalism.
  • In Minnesota, convene monthly round tables on important aspects of moral capitalism and hold quarterly workshops on ethical government practices, recognizing that public office is a public trust.
  • Launch a new website.

Your donations to our travel and organizational expenses are needed. Small donations can be particularly helpful:

  • $60 donation pays for distribution of one issue of Pegasus.
  • $100 donation pays for the staff cost of preparing one issue of Pegasus.
  • $500 donation pays for putting 4 e-books on Amazon for global distribution.
  • $500 donation pays for converting one e-book to a print-on-demand paperback available on Amazon Books for global distribution.
  • $500 donation pays for one workshop on public trust in Minnesota.

You can donate here and a contribution form can be found here.

Anything you can give would be most appreciated.

John Bogle, Moral Capitalist: A Tribute

John Bogle passed away recently. He understood financial markets, as we do, that they have a stewardship responsibility inside capitalism to support real wealth creation which raises the living standards of all fairly.

He opened financial markets for ordinary people – the arms and legs of capitalism – by making no-frills, low cost index funds easily available. He started a company, Vanguard Group, in 1975.

Vanguard’s business model allowed investors to minimize their risks by investing in a diversified portfolio of company stocks and so avoid the fees charged by fund managers who bought and sold individual stocks for their clients but who most often failed to outperform the market.

Vanguard was set up as a non-profit with its mutual funds and fund shareholders as owners of the business. Profits were plowed back into the business to reduce fees charged to buyers of its funds. Vanguard now manages $5 trillion globally. Vanguard has an expense ratio substantially lower than any other fund complex in the world.

Then, in 1977, Vanguard marketed its funds directly to individual investors and did not require them to go through brokers, who took fees for their service.

Bogle’s investment philosophy was to mimic the market, not try to outsmart other investors in the short run. Rather, his approach was to grow the market over time – little by little, but steady, year after year. This minimized the risk of loss which kept many with small or no fortunes from putting their assets at hazard in equity markets. Investors could obtain a market rate of return at lower cost with index funds. Even today, almost half of all American households don’t invest for the future at all.

Taken altogether, many Americans are richer and the financial industry poorer thanks to John Bogle. Warren Buffet said that John “did more for American investors … than any individual I’ve known.”

Bogle understood that it was the financial service industry that chased risk in order to get higher returns – greed for money. He saw Wall Street as “Financialism,” not honest capitalism. Bogle argued that financial advisors had a duty to be good stewards of the best interests of their clients only.

Bogle’s strategy was encouraged by federal government tax policies in the authorization of IRAs (individual retirement accounts) and 401(k) savings plans. These two arrangements allowed investors to defer the payment of taxes on their earnings in such funds. Index funds are now just under 30% of the stock market.

He received me graciously in December 2012. He had liked what I had written in my book Moral Capitalism – ”Moral Responsibility is a form of stewardship, of agency, of fiduciary undertaking. … it is a vision of mutuality, of service, of both self and others.”

In giving me a copy of his book The Clash of Cultures, he signed it with this word of encouragement: “Press on – Regardless!”

John differentiated between investment and speculation. The first was good use of money and the second was just gambling to make a money play off the misjudgment of others about the odds of future contingencies happening or not. He understood that speculation did not necessarily create new wealth; it just moved money around from some to others, as happens in any poker game.

Bogle called his industry “The poster-boy for one of the most baneful chapters in the modern history of capitalism.”

Another one of his books, which I have, is just called Enough.