Warren Buffett Could Be Leading the Charge for a Moral Capitalism in America
Billionaire Warren Buffett is ready to help pay away America’s $15 trillion debt. I guess not all 1 percenters are evil.
Saying he’d match congressional Republicans $1-for-$1 if they donated towards the national debt, Buffett is proving that those who reap the fruits of capitalism are not all greedy money sharks. But what’s more interesting is that Buffett – who has made his fortune through the American capitalism – is pedaling a new type of “capitalism with a heart.”
Is this the sort of economic philosophy America is shifting towards after the economic agony of the Great Recession? Let’s hope so.
It was the fundamental principles of capitalism that sent America and the world spiraling into the worst economic calamity it had seen in 80 years. A fundamental rethinking of economics, debt, wealth, money sharing, profit, and the policy effects big financial decisions have on the wider nation is in serious order.
If any other person aside from the business-savvy Buffett had suggested such a moral capitalism, they’d be called a socialist. Yet Buffett is showing that America’s affection with capitalism doesn’t need to be the devilish businessman image projected by the “1%.” Moving forward, American capitalism can very much be something that transcends the growing gap between rich and poor, and actually takes into account that profit–driven actions can have an adverse effect on the nation.
In this week’s Time magazine cover story, Buffett says that he is ready to pay $1 towards the national debt for every Republican in Congress who also pays $1. For Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), he says he will triple the rate, paying down 3-to-1 if McConnell donates. The wager comes after Buffet’s October New York Times op-ed called for America’s richest citizens to pay higher taxes. In the op-ed, Buffett said he paid a lower tax rate than his secretary. Responding to this call, McConnell suggested that if Buffett felt “guilty,” he “should send in a check.” Soon after, the “Buffett Rule Act” was floated in the Senate — a measure that would allow the rich to check a box if they wished to pay more in taxes.
To all of this, Buffett said, “It restores my faith in human nature to think that there are people who have been around Washington all this time and are not yet so cynical as to think that [the deficit] can't be solved by voluntary contributions.” The “human nature” aspect should be the key take-away.
As Time explained it, “Buffett doesn't want to hobble capitalism … he just wants to give it a heart,” a statement that very easily could encapsulate a new metamorphosis of American capitalism.
Popular discontent with the free market and capitalistic profit has gushed in American society as of late, evident in the Occupy Wall Street movement’s crusade against the 1%. As the Great Recession has created the hardest economic conditions since the 1930s and stretched the gap between rich and poor to historic levels, it has been the greed, selfishness, and crushing ability of a single person or company to severely damage the country which has been so startling. Clearly, business-as-usual economics in the U.S. isn’t working.
In response, we have seen everything from the Tea Party demanding an end to wild spending, libertarians calling for a renewed faith in pure free-market principles, to OWS’ call for a change in the fundamental way America’s biggest financial firms operate.
The free market is, of course, a finicky thing. The ebbs and flows of capitalism are based on a variety of factors and are determined by so many different variables that trying to harness the American economy very much is like trying to harness the forces of nature. And, as with the man-made environmental problems seen in nature, human beings can very much negatively affect economics.
At the 2010 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said, “We will only save capitalism by reforming it, by making it more moral.” His speech was met by hisses from the ultra-capitalistic business crowd he was speaking to.
But Sarkozy was making clear that things were no longer working. Capitalism has to evolve. In order for us to maximize profit from a capitalistic system, we must be sure that we don’t destroy society in the process.
The type of moral capitalism that Buffett is now championing is the start of an economic transformation that will help both American business and socitey. A moral capitalism, one which understands that profit-by-any-means can negatively affect society a large, will help America avoid the future pitfalls that have brought our country into the current socio-economic mess.
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