It is our fundamental belief that today economic activity (on the part of businesses, consumers, investors, states etc) focuses far too much on the financial bottom line at the expense of ethical considerations. Therefore for us capitalism most usefully describes the situation where people’s decision-making behaviour in the economy and society is based narrowly upon financial priorities, rather than upon a broader set of values including financial and ethical dimensions. Note that this narrow financial focus can either be because of deliberate intent, or because no other choices are available: this crucial distinction runs through our work (see behaviour vs structure).
Of course, the full story is more complicated than that – for example it’s not just prioritising price that is capitalistic. Prioritising product quality, the standard of service in a shop, or the range of products available at the point of purchase, over product ethics such as environmental sustainability also has to be seen as capitalistic. However, with this background in mind in the rest of this website we will refer to prioritising capitalism, money and the financial bottom line interchangeably, for simplicity.
Ethical considerations that capitalism overlooks include:
• economic and social sustainability;
• human rights;
• animal rights; and
• how we want the world around us to look.
We think it is important for there to be as deep a sense as possible within society of what these values are and how they may be balanced against each other. However, we see our role as enabling society to develop this sense of values and also providing mechanisms for them to implement, rather than as establishing what those values are (see behaviour vs structure for more detail).
Decision-making in the economy – a new ethical recipe
Our main ambition is that when decisions in the economy are made then a full spectrum of relevant factors – including the financial and the ethical – should be evaluated and given due prioritisation. This would also redress the alienation that the capitalist economy has fostered.
Now we first explore four key ideas for understanding how ethics and economics can fit together, signposting and classifying the various types of solutions that exist. Then we explore the solution that we are advocating in more detail.