TUMBY BAY - Leonard Fong Roka has suggested that rather than being exploited by domestic and international forces an independent Bougainville needs a form of moral capitalism to succeed and achieve its destiny.
Is such a thing as moral capitalism possible or is it too late in the day to create the conditions where such a thing might exist?
I’m old enough to remember a time before supermarkets and the proliferation of large retail stores like Kmart, Target and Big W.
In those earlier days there were small family-owned shops that each had various specialties like groceries, fruit and vegetables, meat, fish, clothes and linen, and hardware.
They were not located in shopping malls but existed separately, often in buildings that also housed the families who owned and ran them.
Because they were an integral part of the community their survival relied upon dealing fairly with their customers.
At the time it seemed like these shops represented something like what is meant by moral capitalism.
As I grew older I watched these stores fall victim to the big monopolising retailers. One by one most of them closed down.
The supermarkets and big retail stores congregated in giant shopping malls are undoubtedly convenient but, despite what they claim, are largely divorced from the communities that they serve.
With this detachment and their size they are free to exploit their customers through the monopolies they create and control.
As such they are symptomatic of the mounting injustice of our modern economy and the immorality that now permeates free-market ideology.
Free marketeers tend to attribute all good things to capitalism, including democracy and freedom.
In doing this they claim that the system is self- balancing.
It is now very apparent that this is not true anymore, if it ever was.
The market and the economy have, in fact, shown themselves not to be self-balancing, not self-correcting, and ultimately not tending towards most of the virtuous directions claimed.
Instead, the market, left to its own devices, tends inexorably towards inequality and the greater and greater concentration of wealth and power in fewer and fewer hands,
It tends toward oligarchy and plutocracy, not toward democracy. The concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few inevitably and necessarily reduces the freedom of the less privileged and tends to reduce them to the position of lackeys.
The ethical standards of capitalism that existed when those family-owned stores and businesses thrived have been unalterably compromised by what has become a brutal, dog-eat-dog capitalism.
This is a tragedy of monumental proportions because capitalism, informed by egalitarianism and a rational spirit, has an immense benefit.
As Stephen Young, global executive director of the Caux Round Table for Moral Capitalism, suggests, “It is really the only system with the potential to reduce global poverty and tyranny and address the needs and aspirations of individuals, societies and nations.”
Moral capitalism of the sort that Leonard Fong Roka is talking about is based on the idea of refocusing economic activity towards the improvement of human lives and ensuring that nobody is left behind along the way.
According to US Democrat congressman Joe Kennedy, moral capitalism would be “judged not just by how much it produces, but how widely it shares; how good it does for how many; how well it takes care of us. All of us.”
Kennedy goes on to say, “We do not stand a chance until we come together to neutralise the weapon on which [capitalism] most depends: an economy that keeps most Americans hanging on by the skin of their teeth.”
Even though Kennedy is talking in an American context his comments are relevant to most other capitalist economies in the world, including Australia and Papua New Guinea.
Other commentators have pointed out that a system like capitalism cannot be moral or immoral in the sense that a person can be because only individuals can be moral agents.
This suggests that the moral behaviour of individuals who act within the capitalist system has to be changed rather than the system itself.
So how do you make capitalism’s ruling players moral? In a supposedly rule-based market capitalist system and liberal democracy how do you stop these people breaking those rules?
How do you convince all of those obscenely wealthy individuals sitting on their piles of money to share a bit of it around?
Someone once said that it’s impossible to take one sip of wine without consuming what’s left in the glass.
So it is with wealth, I suggest. Once people have got a taste for it they are extremely reluctant to let it go, even though they can see the enormous damage their attitudes create.
So, is moral capitalism possible?