Is it time for a less selfish capitalism?

Lord Richard Layard, London School of Economics – Centre for Economic Performance, sets out his views on the need for a less selfish capitalism in an interesting article in the FT.

Lord Layard argues that we should change our measure of society’s progress:

[…]we should stop the worship of money and create a more humane society where the quality of human experience is the criterion.

He goes on to explain that despite massive wealth creation, happiness has not risen for nearly 60 years (in UK and USA). As such, Layard believes people should not saccrifice the most source of happiness, human interactions, in the pursuit of economic growth.

Our society has become too individualistic, with too much rivalry and not enough common purpose. We idolise success and status and thus undermine our mutual respect.

Lord Layard finishes with the following:

Values matter and they are affected by our theories. We do not need a society based on Darwinian competition between individuals. Beyond subsistence, the best experience any society can provide is the feeling that other people are on your side. That is the kind of capitalism we want.

What does Richard think about this?

While the idea that a society where everyone wants to work together to achieve a common set of goals and not care about personal economic reward is a noble one. It is, I feel, highly unlikely to ever succeed within the traditional Western-developed world. While most people have some altruistic tendancies and may be willing to saccrifice their own time to benefit others (although there is some debate as to the motivation behind altruistic actions), there will always be those people who only desire to have as much personal gain as possible and are very willing to abuse the generosity of others to meet their own personal goals. In this respect I am following Lord Layard’s statistic that 30%, in both Britain and the US, believe “most people can be trusted””. I would like to think that it is possible to have a free capitalist society where people choose to act in a manner which does not only benefit themselves, but realisticly I don’t see that happening.

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2 Responses to “Is it time for a less selfish capitalism?”

  1. saffrongeek Says:

    I think, to an extend Indian Economy is bend on meeting common set of goals, less selfish, slow yet steady even in global meltdowns

    I felt in this blog, Richard hoping for a economic structure that is spiritually enlightened.. Would it happen ever? I dont think so for we missed the train of finding ourselves trained to think for a common cause or let our coming generation feel for the same..

  2. richardthinks Says:

    that is an interesting insight Saffrongeek. Could this be due to the “great importance to feelings, relationships and people-orientation” that Richard D Lewis ascribes to ‘multi-active’ cultures such as that found in India.
    I agree that we have probably missed the opportunity to think towards a common purpose, especially where it has been drummed into people that they are only successful if they have high personal gain.

    Thanks for the comment

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