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Is capitalism a destructive social construct? asks Jo Confino

The question has been raised in Guardian sustainable business

Without hesitation I'd say yes, because that's the point we've been making for nearly 20 years since it was pitched to Bill Clinton by a member of the steering group for The Committee To Re-Elect the President.

It considered what is tangible and observable within our current economic paradigm.and how it enabled social injustice.

"The problem is not with the construct.  The problem is with the output of the construct, wherein imaginary constructs – numbers, and currencies represented symbolically by numbers – are left to control real human beings to the material benefit of relatively few people and to the exclusion of many others.  Classical capitalism has reached equilibrium in this regard.  However, and consequently, many and growing numbers of human beings are excluded in the realm of finite resources hoarded by those most adept with manipulating numbers/currencies."

"Modifying the output of capitalism is the only method available to resolving the problem of capitalism where numbers trumped people – at the hands of people trained toward profit represented only by numbers and currencies rather than human beings.  Profit rules, people are expendable commodities represented by numbers.  The solution, and only solution, is to modify that output, measuring profit in terms of real human beings instead of numbers."

The core argument above was re-presented to the International Economics for Ecology conference at Sumy  in 2010.

was published online in 1996 and by 2005 it was being reframed by John Mackey,

By then we were in Ukraine on the ground alongside local activists trying to tackle a social crisis which threatened to turn violent. In the focus was a Carnegie  Endownment for Peace  and its leader,  

"Elimination of graft and corruption, and raising the overall standard of living for ALL Ukrainians rather than a few insanely greedy oligarch clans, was the main underlying and implied reason for the Orange Revolution – at least from hundreds of people, activists and otherwise, I talked with on the ground during and after the Revolution. Further, as director for any sort of peace institute, Mr. Aslund is obliged to review the connection between poverty and peace. Peace does not and cannot exist for people in poverty, unless they are harshly suppressed by government or other forces. Poverty is a horrible existence and lifestyle, and is bound to breed violence, not peace."

A year  earlier we'd been in the UK as had the 1996 paper

"While the vast majority of people in poverty suffer quietly and with little protest, it is not safe to assume that everyone will react the same way. When in defence of family and friends, it is completely predictable that it should be only a matter of time until uprisings become sufficient to imperil an entire nation or region of the world. People with nothing have nothing to lose. Poverty was therefore deemed not only a moral catastrophe but also a time bomb waiting to explode"   

As a participant in the Guardian Social Enterprise Network I'd pointed out to editor David Mills that we had no media exposure for out 'Marshall Plan' proposal and he invited me to submit something as the basis of an artlcle. I sent him Re-Imagining Capitalism For People and Planet which has proven to be one of the most popular articles since on Mckinseys Mixmarket. I copied it to Jo Confino. 

It was a desperate time for us in the summer of 2011. With our founder's health deteriorating, I'd been diagnosed with blood cancer. The social enterprise I run was the only means of funding this work and that too was in the balance.

It wasn't long before our founder died. A local activist who'd found his body quoted his works to USAID  "Whether these kids live or die is of little, if any, concern to mafia"  It wasn't a whole lot of concern to many others either. Several years earlier it was said in a development proposal for Crimea.

"It is safe to say that most of the players in the mafia capitalism game are not working for the benefit of the community, but only for themselves and the smallest number of people possible with whom their winnings must be shared. This is the exact opposite of what is needed, and the results are very obvious throughout both countries in the form of widespread poverty and all that comes with poverty."

I followed up with David Mills who said he'd omitted to reply because he's just got married. I ddn't  feel inclined to congratulate him, given the loss of life. He said that the article wasn't 'a suitable format for ther readers.

The Death Camps for Children articles had been published on Maidan in 2006 and by 2011 the story of Torez featured in a Sunday Times article reframing the story as if nobody had spoken out,

Aside from ourselves there was also Albert Pavlov who'd said it was no longer pssoble to keep silent 

This was Kalinovla where again 5 years later, it was the handwringing BBC4 documenartary on where Kate Blewett asked whu noone was speaking out, A Google search would have proven otherwise.

Journalists reframe stories to disregard those being the change, in favour of the journalist's reputation. They could hardy admit to other knowledge.    

The 'Marshall Plan' proposal was delivered to Ukraine's government in February 2007 calling for collaboration from business on a social enterprise development centre at Kharkiv national university.  Three of the parties the proposal was shared with got together on reframing the social enterprise initiative. The major focus of childcare reform having been omitted.

Let me return to the call on one of these, USAID,  which descrbed the extent to which humans had become commodities.

"Behind the scenes, I had already written and submitted the “Marshall Plan” into friendly official – but duly skeptical – channels. I made a deal, that I would recommend Ukraine for a joint project with the US side on condition that Kyiv approved the US side’s involvement and took the initiative to get started. I made clear that decisions regarding project approval would be up to others. In the interest of participative development, I told the Ukrainian side that they would have to take initiative and start the project themselves. If they did that, then I would proceed as described. To demonstrate that initiative, Ukraine would have to unilaterally agree and undertake the most critical factor first – abandoned children in psychoneurological facilities. Final revision of circulation document was submitted into Ukrainian channels in mid-February last year. Kyiv announced their decision about two weeks later to open at their own expense more than 400 new treatment facilities (reference at end.) In mid-March, I forwarded a copy to Ambassador Taylor with recommendation to proceed if the US side found interest in doing so. Appropriate negotiations could only be between US government officials and Kyiv government officials. Kyiv’s renegade (my opinion) parliament was dissolved two weeks later leaving Ukraine’s overall government status up in the air until December."

To this USAID had responded to say that there was no budget for "handicapped and retarded children"

Their joint intitiative with The British Council reframed the primary focus of our work to avoid the more intractable problems of which childcare reform was seen as most urgent: 

'This is a long-term permanently sustainable program, the basis for "people-centered" economic development. Core focus is always on people and their needs, with neediest people having first priority – as contrasted with the eternal chase for financial profit and numbers where people, social benefit, and human well-being are often and routinely overlooked or ignored altogether. This is in keeping with the fundamental objectives of Marshall Plan: policy aimed at hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos. This is a bottom-up approach, starting with Ukraine's poorest and most desperate citizens, rather than a "top-down" approach that might not ever benefit them. They cannot wait, particularly children. Impedance by anyone or any group of people constitutes precisely what the original Marshall Plan was dedicated to opposing. Those who suffer most, and those in greatest need, must be helped first -- not secondarily, along the way or by the way. '

Remarkably, it wasn't from corporate business or social enterprise that we next heard the call to apply profit for social benefit. It was the Vatican and the encylical Caritas in Veritate, where Pope Benedict had written:

"Striving to meet the deepest moral needs of the person also has important and beneficial repercussions at the level of economics. The economy needs ethics in order to function correctly — not any ethics whatsoever, but an ethics which is people-centred."

"This is not merely a matter of a “third sector”, but of a broad new composite reality embracing the private and public spheres, one which does not exclude profit, but instead considers it a means for achieving human and social ends. Whether such companies distribute dividends or not, whether their juridical structure corresponds to one or other of the established forms, becomes secondary in relation to their willingness to view profit as a means of achieving the goal of a more humane market and society. "

"The strengthening of different types of businesses, especially those capable of viewing profit as a means for achieving the goal of a more humane market and society, must also be pursued in those countries that are excluded or marginalized from the influential circles of the global economy. In these countries it is very important to move ahead with projects based on subsidiarity, suitably planned and managed, aimed at affirming rights yet also providing for the assumption of corresponding responsibilities. In development programmes, the principle of the centrality of the human person, as the subject primarily responsible for development, must be preserved. The principal concern must be to improve the actual living conditions of the people in a given region, thus enabling them to carry out those duties which their poverty does not presently allow them to fulfil. "

At the same time Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann, a Catholic priest and ithe President of the United Nations General Assembly offered this in a speech:

“The anti-values of greed, individualism and exclusion should be replaced by solidarity, common good and inclusion. The objective of our economic and social activity should not be the limitless, endless, mindless accumulation of wealth in a profit-centred economy but rather a people-centred economy that guarantees human needs, human rights, and human security, as well as conserves life on earth. These should be universal values that underpin our ethical and moral responsibility.”

Business schools were on the back foot. It would not be until 2011 that Harvard reframed the argument with 'Creating Shared Value'  

"Capitalism is an unparalleled vehicle for meeting human needs, improving efficiency, creating jobs, and building wealth. But a narrow conception of capitalism has prevented business from harnessing its full potential to meet society’s broader challenges. The opportunities have been there all along but have been overlooked."

Overlooked at Harvard perhaps, but not in the Vatican or the UN and definitely not the Marshall Plan for Ukraine.

Here begins the "Doing Well by Doing Good' movement who see profit as the outcome from solving social problems. When it came up as a discussion on Guardian Sustainable Business  .   Coming into this discussion as a practitioner would not be welcome. I was censored and effectively blocked from further particpation on any issue. ,

Clearly the less social, the more profit. The more intractable problems would be avoided as USAID and the British Council had already demonstrated. This was a point made clearly to another partner PWC, reminding them of the copyright of our work and the need to defend the social enphaisis from predators..  

"Without IPR protections, it is extremely unlikely that social enterprise can take root in Ukraine. Reason: any social enterprise project, anywhere in the world, which is capable of turning a profit can have the 'social' part stripped out in favor of increased financial profit. If you understand Ukraine, you surely understand that is instinctive. There is no cognitive loop involved. Ukrainians see no point and assign no importance for IPR. IPR theft is an Ukrainian sport."

Even back then project had been at risk as our founder described:

“As the 60th anniversary of the Marshall Plan came around in June 2007, noise was emerging within Ukraine of a certain political boss preparing a Marshall Plan for Ukraine.  This person was a reputed mob boss — exactly the sort of entity that the original Marshall Plan meant to oppose.  It seemed most likely that whatever he came up with would be self-serving, hijacking the label ‘Marshall Plan’ and turning the whole notion on its head.  I reviewed the original Marshall Plan and realized that what I had written was, in fact, the definition and spirit of the original Marshall Plan.  Thus, in June 2007, I appended the original title with “A Marshall Plan for Ukraine.”  After some discussion among trusted colleagues over timing, I published an abbreviated version of the paper in two parts in August 2007 in the ‘analytics’ section of the Ukrainian news journal”

A perfect illustration of this may be found in a reframing of  the 'Marshall Plan' backed by Dmitri Firtash which brings on board Lords Risby , Mandelson and Macdonald, Lord Risby and the British Ukraininan Society had been made aware of the original back in 2008.

The ultimate dimension of this destructive force was something we'd warned of, a violent uprising which had since become a war. Some of the early casualtes were the passengers of MH17 who were strewn across the same area as the causualties of the childcare system and the rough trenches of their final resting place. As Terry Hallman said  to me after a visit to Kalinovka. "It's as if in their misery, they stare into the abyss and simply decide not to be here any longer"

Perhaps the deskbound journalist can reframe this too?