Every now and then a person comes along of such great intellect and deep compassion that one has to stop and take notice. The Nobel prize for peace was awarded to such a man today. He is Bangladeshi banker Muhammad Yunus, who invented the practice of making small, unsecured loans to the poor. He warned in his acceptance speech that the globalized economy is becoming a dangerous “free-for-all highway.”
“Its lanes will be taken over by the giant trucks from powerful economies,” Dr. Yunus said during a lavish ceremony. While international companies motivated by profit may be crucial in addressing global poverty, he said, nations must also cultivate grassroots enterprises and the human impulse to do good. Challenging economic theories that he learned as a Ph.D. student at Vanderbilt University, in Nashville in the 1970s, he said glorification of the entrepreneurial spirit has led to “one-dimensional human beings” motivated only by profit.
One-dimensional human beings. Mr. Yunus is speaking bluntly, of course, about our friends, the free-market fundamentalists.
Dr. Yunus, 66, then took a direct jibe at the United States for its war on terror, telling about 1,000 dignitaries at Oslo’s City Hall that recent American military campaigns in Iraq and elsewhere had diverted global resources and attention from a more pressing project: halving worldwide poverty by 2015, as envisaged by the United Nations six years ago.
He said terrorism cannot be defeated militarily and the concept of peace requires broadening. “Peace should be understood in a human way, in a broad social, political and economic way.”
Dr. Yunus called for legal recognition of a new category of corporation that would be neither profit-maximizing nor nonprofit. It would be a “social business,” like Grameen Bank, the Dhaka-based microcredit institution he started 30 years ago. The bank has lent nearly $6 billion to help some of the poorest people on earth to start businesses, build shelters and go to school.
I have little understanding of what a "social business" is or exactly how it would operate. But I like the idea in concept. In fact, some faculty at the UNC Business School are already exploring a similar notion called the triple bottom line which posits more responsibilities to businesses than simply making money.
Don't expect this kind of thinking to get much traction with the Republican Party of Greed or their cheerleaders in the John Locke Puppetshow. Those guys spend their lives doing just the opposite of what Dr. Yunus is talking about, as Geroge Pence carefully pointed out just the other day. Too bad really. All that energy spent in pursuit of celebrating greed. What a waste.