Capitalism with a Real Conscience:


New Member
Feb 16, 2009

MR SINGH is a contender for the Mayor of London 2012
Policy Adviser to the Mayor of London on Asian Affairs at Greater London Authority
National Training Officer at Sia national development agency
Senior Human Resource Development Consultant at London Borough of Hackney
Lecturer II at West Yorkshire Language Link .

Expertise in government relations and public policy with focus on progressive governance and strategic positioning in Asian Affairs

There have been many views on the subject of capitalism and whether it has any relationship to morality. I believe that capitalism without morality is really bankrupt capitalism. In fact, capitalism and a conscience go hand in hand.

During the Industrial Revolution in the UK, capitalism grew up with a conscience. It was expressed in legislation by the Tories and Liberals - from education to housing to standards in food quality to stopping exploitation of children to numbers of hours worked. Charles Dickens' expressed in popular form empathy with the poor and marginalised of society. This was again repeated by Lloyd George and after that by Atlee's post Second World government and then carried on in a bi-partisan way. .

The USA fought a civil war to free the slaves during the rise of American capitalism. President Abraham Lincoln symbolised this development. During the USA's Great Depression, F D Roosevelt, the President introduced the New Deal and a huge wave of reforms to protect people. In the 1960s, there was another wave of change of social change expressed in the civil rights movements. USA radicalism was borne in this period with its highly developed conscience and respect for a wide range of human and individual rights including for women and lesbians and gays. Equal opportunities was the rage during this period, alongside a fierce and passionate sense of individual freedom.

The European Union is concerned about protecting people's rights as much as about creating a free market. Equal pay for jobs of equal value was brought in through European legislation as well as the directives on working hours. Social Europe is a fact alongside the European Common Market.

Scandinavian capitalism is known as 'welfare capitalism'. There is a unique attempt to create social equality alongside capitalism with incredibly positive results.

The emerging capitalist economies (China - albeit with a Communist political system, India, Russia, Brazil, South Africa, Middle East etc) have all developed a strong capitalism, but now have started to develop policies on tackling the worst abuses of 'nascent' capitalism. For example, in India (like the UK during the Industrial Revolution), there is a fight against child labour. There is fight for South Asian and other migrants' rights in the Middle East. In China, there is a fight for ordinary farmers and villagers against big property developers and corruption in local government. In South Africa, there is a big battle for housing rights in the post-apartheid era.

There are many instances of abuse and capitalism without a conscience. However, I would argue that capitalism with a strong conscience is the best form of capitalism. It is a system that delivers economic growth as well as social equality and progress.

The famous work by Max Weber on 'The Protestant Work Ethic' showed that there was a strong relationship between capitalism and emergent religious ideology. Modern religious values are part of the drivers in making capitalism with a strong conscience. Today, looking aside from religious sectarianism, one can see an intimate relationship with modern religious developments and capitalism (e.g. modern Sikhism and Hinduism in India, modern Buddhism and Confucianism in China, modern Islam in Indonesia and Dubai, modern Christianity in south Africa etc.).

In fact, it can be argued that capitalism was preceded by revolutionary progressive movements ( e.g. the English Revolution which asserted the sovereignty of Parliament over the divine rule of Kings preceded the English industrial revolution, the French revolution with its great universal declaration of the Rights of Man preceded the emergence of European capitalism, the American revolution preceded American capitalism with its values of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, India's successful independence struggle with its anti-sectarian values preceded the emergence of Indian capitalism in the late 1980s, the defeat of apartheid preceded the development of black capitalism in South Africa etc).

The recent election of Barack Obama in the US has shown the combining of capitalism with a real conscience. I believe this political change signals more of the shape of things to come.

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