Sowing capitalism into the next generation so they can give?
I am an American entrepreneur, living in the land of the free and the home of the brave. I am also proud to be a capitalist. I love the fact that as a college dropout, I can be a highly successful business person (in the good company of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs – God rest his soul).
I am blessed. I am also a giver. One of my favorite songs calls it “so blessed I’ve got to give it away”.
I teach my children that giving is not only a pleasure, but a duty and that it is also a responsibility. I also teach them that whether they make $20k per year or $200k, whatever percentage they devote to giving is likely to stay with them as their earning potential increases over time.
A good friend of mine, Martha Finney, recently published an article entitled “The new leadership mandate: Reclaim the next generation”.
When you look at the photo at the left from her article, depending on your orientation, you may focus on the notion of freedom, or that of oppression. Or you may even just focus on the spelling error and if you live in this chilly locale, you may wonder which school she attends or which teacher she has for language arts.
The gist of the article is the notion that in order to drown out the voices that would focus on the negative around us (e.g. oppression), we must speak with a louder, more positive voice (e.g. freedom), bolstered with knowledge and education. Finney refers not to the classroom style of education, but the sharing of life and experience, particularly by local business leaders.
Martha points out in the article that it is not natural for pre-teens to focus on oppression as a key issue in their young lives.
Frankly, I don’t know who the “oppreessed” are in this young girl’s sign. I can imagine that her parents may have lived in Berkley in the late 60’s, regularly participating in demonstrations and that for the protest, they coached her in making her sign (albeit forgetting to spellcheck).
I am going to take a bit of literary license, as Martha did and assume that she is looking not beyond our borders at oppression abroad, but in our own back yard – at workers, teachers and those that are living off of the largess of others, including that of our own government, oppressed by the capitalists.
Capitalism is an economic system that is based on private ownership of the means of production and the production of goods or services for profit. It is the engine of the American economy and what facilitates the robust philanthropic activity that we enjoy in our communities. So blessed we’ve got to give it away…..
In the 2008 election, entrepreneurs and the business community were known as “Main Street”. Now, just four years later, in the midst of all the rhetoric about the fiscal cliff, we are looked on as the “wealthy”. This term once meant the measure of success and not it has instead been tainted as a dirty word. And somehow, rather than earning so that we can give more back, we [the capitalists] are now somehow seen as the greedy oppressors. And our children are listening and depending on which side of the argument that you sit on, your children may be confused.
While the “haves” do not universally give to the “have nots”, and there are likely a Scrooge or two out there, most of you know that business owners are a critical part of the giving community. We faithfully give of our time, our talents and yes, our treasures.
While Finney’s article was not about philanthropy, one of the reasons that I wanted to write about it here is that Martha talks about how we need to sow into our local youth — not instead of doing foreign giving [e.g. building wells] — but as a purposeful priority for the future [e.g. to help even more villages get those wells by the next generation becoming contributing members of the business community]. She points out that it is an investment in the future of our businesses to help the next generation to understand what it is that the local businesses in the area do and what role they can play in the community as they come of age.
Many schools now have programs that require a certain number of hours of service – instilling the importance of giving of themselves, their time. But unfortunately, kids who do attend college are now graduating and are not able to find jobs, so while they can continue to give of their time and their talents, they can’t always give of their treasure.
Martha talked in her article about finding innovative ways to educate our educators, to help them become more knowledgeable about what goes on in the business world. I love this concept. I am a huge believer that entrepreneurialism is a vital part of the educational process. but until it gets incorporated into the curriculum, we as local business leaders can donate our time to teach a class or as Martha suggests, give teachers a chance to work with us during the summer break.
I would add that demystifying capitalism (and removing the romanticism around socialism) with our youth is in our best interest. In the words of a great proponent of freedom:
The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings;
the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.
Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy.
We can’t go through life focusing on failure, ignorance or envy, nor should we focus on misery. It is simply not productive.
Instead, we should unapologetically continue succeeding, so that we can give back of ourselves – our time, our talents and yes, of our money. I believe that we are blessed so that we can share. I believe we must share those blessings. It is our life imperative.
Long live capitalism. Long live philanthropy.
Capitalism and our ability to be anything that we want to be when we grow up (with hard work and tenacity) is what made our country great.