The 24th annual Caux Round Table Global Dialogue took place at Mountain House, Caux, from July 12th through the 14th. The theme for the dialogue was: “Arising From the Ashes: Building a New Global Capitalism”.
Dialogue participants concluded, in general, that a new global capitalism must seek “balance” in its systemic features. It must avoid the extremes of pure market fundamentalism and comprehensive government regulation. First, markets alone, especially commodity markets for money, do not achieve balance and sustainable optimal outcomes. Second, government inherently is short-sighted, seeking the lowest common policy denominator among competing factions and special interests.
Markets must, therefore, be constrained by government and governments need to be disciplined by market realities and aspirations. Markets and governments must engage with each other in some form of reciprocal, systemic balance. Thus resulting outcomes, it was suggested by participants, would be more just and sustainable.
Governments can set up the rules and mark out the playing field, but only the players in the markets can “make the magic” of progress.
Second, the practices of good stewardship should constrain market short-sightedness and inspire government action. Global society needs to foster the accumulation of “stewardship capital”. Such capital would be the foundation for a “new leadership ethos” for those in both government and business.
Such an important form of social capital goes beyond technical accomplishment, expertise and administrative skill. Stewardship capital requires moral and ethical capacities for judgment and service. These capacities are not provided by education in technique but only with reference to deeper traditions of moral reflection and character formation. Stewardship demands a personal commitment that transcends Newtonian rationality and draws upon a spiritual resolve.
Thus, modern society might well need to recover spiritual resources which have been depleted as a stock of operational cultural capital.
Participants expressed concern over certain imbalances in modern global economic engagement: the “balance” between human wants and the capacity of our earth-bound ecosystem to sustain such levels of consumption; the balance between the few who have so much wealth and the many who have, really, no wealth at all; and the balance between earning a return on one’s labor, knowledge or money and earning “too” much on the contribution of those factors of production.
To speak in more micro-economic terms, participants wondered at what price points the supply and demand curves for resources like money, energy, and, increasingly, water should intersect. If the full cost of social, cultural, psychological, and environmental consequences contingent upon products and services were internalized into the selling price for the good or service, many would be priced out from obtaining such goods or services.
This led to reflection on exactly what are “public goods” that might support a different approach to pricing so that they could be made more widely available.
Dr. Lester Myers served as rapporteur for the dialogue and a much more complete report on the discussions will be posted here in the very near future.