On more than a few occasions, I have had people say to me—as much as a boast, as a statement of principle: “I’m an unreformed capitalist” (or words to that effect).
Then they act as if such a statement gives them the right to behave in any way they choose—which, all too often, is badly.
This may be naïve, but I rather like the notion that you can be a capitalist and behave decently—because the truth is that capitalism is like ice cream: it comes in many flavors. Some are objectionable. Others are very good indeed.
The most popular flavor in the U.S. right now (let’s call it “Shareholder Capitalism”), which is based on the strange notion that management’s sole obligation is to maximize shareholder returns—so to hell with workers, suppliers, the local community, the natural interest, and any kind of moral code—is not serving this nation well, and hasn’t for decades. It has led to:
- Outsourcing of well-paid jobs
- Exporting of industrial expertise to our competition
- The decline of the well-paid job
- The rise of the badly paid service job
- The decline of the Middle-Class
- The decline of real earning power for most of the working population
- The economic destruction of numerous communities
- Ever increasing income inequality
- Excessive CEO & Senior Executive salary packages.
- The active undermining of democracy
- Regulatory capture
- Monopolies (or near monopolies)
- A decline in the corporate contribution towards the tax base
- A decline in infrastructure maintenance and investment
- A consistent trade deficit
- The financialization of the economy
- A rise in corporate welfare
- Corporate extortion
- A pattern of malfeasance particularly in the financial sector
- The Great Recession
The above list of negatives is far from complete, but the negative pattern is clear. Meanwhile our competition, particularly in Northern Europe, has practiced a very different form of capitalism (“Stakeholder Capitalism”) with superior results over an extended period of time.
Fortunately, not all American businessmen practice Shareholder Capitalism or have thrown their moral code out of the window. One example of a businessman articulating a very different set of values is the highly successful entrepreneur, Nick Hanauer, who has not only demonstrated his practical skills as a capitalist, but who is going to great lengths to communicate his ideas.
Hanauer is worth reading up and following. He is a proven performer (something of an understatement) and his ideas are very attractive.
His web site is at nick-hanauer.com
Entrepreneur, Venture Capitalist, Author, Civic Activist, Philanthropist.
Nick Hanauer is one of the most successful Entrepreneurs, investors and managers in the Northwest with over 30 years of experience across a broad range of industries including manufacturing, retailing, e-commerce, digital media and advertising, software, aerospace, health care, and finance.
Hanauer’s experience and perspective have produced an unusual record of serial successes. Hanauer has managed, founded or financed over 30 companies, creating aggregate market value of tens of billions of dollars. Some notable companies Include Amazon.com, Aquantive Inc., (purchased by Microsoft in 2007 for $6.4 billion), Insitu group (purchased by Boeing for $400 million), Market Leader (purchased by Trulia in 2013 for $350 million). Some other companies include Marchex, Newsvine, Qliance, Seattle Bank and Pacific Coast Feather Company.
Hanauer is a co-founder and partner in Seattle-based venture capital firm, Second Avenue Partners. Second Avenue provides management, strategy, and capital for early stage companies.
Hanauer is actively involved in a broad variety of civic and philanthropic activities, In 2000, he co-founded the League of Education Voters (LEV); a non-partisan statewide political organization focused on promoting public education. He currently serves as Co-President of the LEV. Additionally, Hanauer serves or has served a broad range of civic organizations including the boards of the Cascade Land Conservancy, The University of Washington Foundation, The Seattle Alliance for Education, and The MT Lemmon Science Center. He currently serves as a Director for The Democracy Alliance and as a board advisor to the policy journal DEMOCRACY and recently founded Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility. He also co-manages The Nick and Leslie Hanauer foundation with his wife.
In 2007, Hanauer published the national bestseller in politics “The True Patriot” with co-author Eric Liu. In 2010 Liu and Hanauer published their second book, “The Gardens of Democracy”, also a national Best-seller in politics.
Hanauer has been featured in a variety of publications and is a frequent commentator on politics and economics in the media. He has appeared on the Charlie Rose Show, Fareed Zakaria, National Public Radio, Ed Schultz Show, The Lawrence O’Donell Show and others. He was recently featured on the cover of the National Journal. His TED speech on the true job creators went globally viral in 2010. His opinion pieces have been featured in the New York Times, Bloomberg Business Week, The Atlantic, Democracy Journal and other publications. He has been featured in two documentary films on economic inequality, American Winter -which premiered on HBO, and Inequality for All which was theatrically released in fall 2013.
Hanauer had a degree in philosophy from the University of Washington. He lives in Seattle Washington and is married with two children.
By the way, I don’t know Nick Hanauer. Simply put, I research the U.S. economy every day—reading much that is disturbing—so I was agreeably surprised when one of the good guys showed up. I’m sure there are others.
But, I’m not absolutely certain.