Learn about capitalism and money and how they can help improve not just our own lives but that of others too in this guide. An audio version is available here: Positive Capitalism.
Read on to learn more.
The truth about Capitalism
Capitalism has been the backbone of our economic systems for a very long time. For as long as we can remember capitalism has been the standard principle according to which our economies function. But it’s been getting a lot of negative reviews of late, with income and wealth disparities around the world being cited as the result of capitalism. It’s almost like every time you hear about capitalism these days, it has a negative connotation.
Here’s the thing though, capitalism is simply a tool; it is merely a system, an economic principle and is neither good nor bad. Capitalism is not inherently bad, in exactly the same way money is not and has never been the root of all evil. If anything, capitalism is a great facilitator.
It is, in fact, the greatest facilitator of our time.
The role of money in helping yourself, and others
Money is a great tool. It’s a great resource, and if doing good is your goal having more money only helps you, whereas not having enough really restricts your ability and capacity to do any good.
Here is a scenario to demonstrate this point – let’s say you want to do good and help others, but live paycheck to paycheck. In a scenario like that nearly all your time and energy will be spent on making ends meet. In a scenario like that you’ll be too consumed by worries of meeting your basic needs, you will be stressed and most of your time will be spent worrying about money.
This, unfortunately, is not just a hypothetical scenario by the way, but is the reality for far too many people.
So money is a very useful and important resource. Lack of money, on the other hand, is one of the biggest sources of stress and unhappiness, both directly and indirectly. In that sense lack of money is a major handicap, whereas having enough money, having financial freedom, means you can unleash your desire to do good without having to worry about losing the roof over your head or not being able to pay the bills you need to.
Moreover, having financial stability can enable you to do more to help those in need.
Even humanitarians like mother Teresa needed a lot of funding – a massive humanitarian operation like that requires a lot of resources after all. If you think about individual impact, two names that come to mind these days are that of Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. They are two of the richest people in the world, and they have dedicated most of their vast wealth to doing good.
Then there’s Andrew Carnegie, one of the richest people in the history of the world – he more or less singlehandedly established a network of public libraries throughout the whole of the USA (2,509 libraries in total), which had a major impact on the collective wisdom of that nation for decades.
Having money is very very useful. At the very least, it gives you peace of mind, which then frees up mental energy and time to invest in the things you enjoy, create the life you want, and make a positive impact in the world.
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Money and capitalism are very useful tools. That said, I am against hoarding money. In Islam there’s this principle of not hoarding wealth and letting your money stay still, the recommendation being that if you have excess money after meeting your needs, you should invest it in either your own business or other businesses. That way the money circulates in the economy and generates better standards of living for those around you too.
I won’t be surprised if similar principles exist in other religions as well.
But whether that is the case or not, the fact is that entrepreneurship is a great way to improve lives and entrepreneurs are some of the best problem solvers in the world. Some of the biggest problems in the world have been solved by entrepreneurs: be it the invention of light, electricity or any of the other countless innovations, both big and small, which have changed and improved our lives through the ages.
Entrepreneurship has been one of the biggest reasons for technological, health and social advances in the world, and none of that would have been possible without capitalism and money.
The role money plays in improving lives
Money is a great motivator whether you want to accept it or not. It makes the world go around. It always has, and it always will. That’s just the reality. And that’s not a bad thing either, especially taking into account the fact that we need a practical and easy means of transaction.
Money is really useful.
Having enough of it enables you to live a good life and help others. Not having enough, on the other hand, can lead to a whole host of worries and stress and uncertainties and can significantly limit your ability to unlock your potential and help others.
Money isn’t the problem and neither is capitalism.
The problem is how we use them.
Greed is the root of all evil
One of the biggest problems with capitalism has been greed – that’s what caused the biggest recession of recent times, the one that created an economic meltdown worldwide.
But here’s the thing: greed is not a uniquely capitalistic concept. No matter what political or even religious doctrine you look at, you will see the presence of greed. During the nineties greed was being normalised in the mainstream. During that time it was a widespread notion that greed is a good thing and businesses exist solely to generate profit. But those are flawed concepts.
Gordon Gecko was wrong when he said (in the movie Wall Street), that greed is good. It is not.
Greed is bad.
A single-minded pursuit of wealth just for the sake of having more money is rarely ever a good goal to have, and thankfully that’s not what most people aspire for anyway, especially nowadays.
Most people are good, and want to do good. So having more money won’t lead most people to just hoard money and practice hedonism, it will improve the overall standard of living and quality of life. At the very least, more people having financial stability will reduce poverty around the world, poverty which is one of the biggest causes of problems regarding health and safety in many parts of the world.
Capitalism, the idea of using your talents and resources to create wealth, is actually a great concept, when used responsibly.
Money, at the end of the day, is like any tool – used well it leads to good things. Whereas when used badly it leads to negative outcomes. It’s like any resource really: in the same way the internet can be used to help people or harm people, or how a hammer can be used to fix things or break things.
How you use the tool determines the outcome, positive or negative.
This, by the way, is one of the biggest reasons why upgrading your mindset is so important. Having a negative mindset will without a fail lead to flawed ideas and thinking patterns whether you have money or not, whereas a positive growth-focused mindset will not only help improve your own life but that of others too. To learn more about upgrading your mindset, check out the Growth Philosophy podcast.
Individual and collective good
The problem isn’t capitalism and money, but rather how we think, and the end goal, which ends up being individual enrichment when greed becomes the focus. Our goal should not just be individual good, but also collective good.
At the end of the day, what good is it to be rich if those around you are suffering?
True joy comes NOT from sleeping on a bed of money, but rather from helping others (as research has demonstrated).
At the very least you should have enough money to ensure that you don’t have to worry about your basic needs, to the point that money worries become a thing of the past for you.
Having the goal of being wealthy is a great goal to have, but also keep in mind to do good with the resources at your disposal.
Here’s the bottomline: capitalism is not a bad strategy. In fact, when we use our resources responsibly and for good, it is a really great strategy.
It’s all about how we use this tool…
Let’s practice positive capitalism, and aim to leave a positive legacy, a legacy that will impact the world in a positive way for decades after we are no longer around. That is my goal, and I really hope that it will be yours too.
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