Bernie and Common Good Capitalism Movement

Senator Bernie Sanders now needs to make a decision. Should his movement be a fundamental movement, political movement, or both?
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Senator Bernie Sanders now needs to make a decision. Should his movement be a fundamental movement, political movement, or both?

A political movement is people joining forces to get political power, such as electing candidates, moving a political agenda forward, or both.

A fundamental movement is people joining forces to mature something in the way we all think. Not just some of us but all of us. Its leaders have identified a current social tradition they accurately declare is now immoral. It is not something we can or cannot continue to do. As a society, it is something that we can't continue to do because we have matured to where we can see it is immoral: not fair. Therefore, they also know that no matter how long it takes or how difficult the task, this movement will eventually be successful. As individuals and as societies overall we are consistently maturing, admittedly in steps forward and backward. However this change is maturation we are now able to understand and embrace.

The Civil Rights Movement was a fundamental movement. We have matured to where we know it is immoral if we do not extend equal rights to African-Americans. The Woman's Movement is another example of a fundamental movement. We have matured to where we know it is immoral to not extend equal rights to women. We also know that just as today all children are born into societies that know the Earth is round someday all children will be born into societies that know women, black, whites, all colors, and all human beings deserve equal rights relative to one another.

What is the fundamental movement at the bottom of Bernie's call for "a revolution"? I believe it is accurately declaring that the currently acceptable social tradition of giving priority in economic activity to one's self-interest is immoral. It is not something we can do or not do as members of a society. It is something we can no longer allow ourselves to do because we have matured to where we know it is immoral.

Like any fundamental movement this will not at first be something easy to explain because it is currently such a deeply held social tradition. However at the bottom giving priority to one's self-interest in anything at any time is immoral. Also freely choosing to give priority to the common good not only does not threaten individual freedom but also enhances the safety necessary to exercise it. Let me explain.

Anytime two human beings come together they have two choices: to compete or cooperate. If they choose to compete they will be in a constant relationship of conflict. If they choose to cooperate, they have used their human skill of self-consciousness to make an agreement. The agreement is they will give priority to the common good of the two of them as if they are two parts of a whole. If many people agree to do this, we call it "a society."

Therefore people who no longer give priority to the common good of the society in all they do have left it and are in competition with it.

Whether the society is a group of friends, a village, a company, a democratic nation, a communist state, or any other kind of nation, self-interest can be secondary; but it cannot be primary. Also, because of our modern technology and media, like it or not we now all live in an Earth society. Therefore to not give priority to the common good of us all in anything we do at any time is immoral. We are all in this together now.

Throughout history "moral behavior" has been defined as "freely choosing to give priority to the common good." It is the fundamental agreement of being in "a human society."

Our marketplace used to be based on an agreement that we would cooperate by competing based on self-interest without collusion among competitors. That agreement was the cooperative context that gave priority to the common good. Therefore the classic competitive marketplace was fundamentally moral.

However we no longer live in a classic competitive marketplace. Our Information Age has made it possible, without talking to each other, to legally cooperate with competitors to give priority to mutual self-interest. Let me explain this as well.

It used to be that companies existed in silos where they did not know what was going on in each other's company. Today everyone has access to nearly all information and the marketplace is global. Also, a monopoly is illegal but a duopoly monopoly is legal. A duopoly monopoly is when two companies dominate a product market - think of CVS-Walgreens, Home Depot-Lowe's, Visa-MasterCard, and Ben & Jerry's-Haagen Dazs.

Today the rush is on to become number one or two in each product market or to get out of it. If you are part of a duopoly monopoly you have a legal backdoor to monopoly behavior: without ever talking to each other you simply match each other's price increases. In fact because of this Information Age more than two companies can also do it. For instance, in the USA we are down to only four major airlines that can easily do it: United, Delta, American, and Southwest. Therefore the days of breaking up companies by the government can't end this as well.

I am on the board of Ben & Jerry's. In the USA Ben & Jerry's and Haagen-Dazs control 82% of the super premium ice cream market. We never talk to Haagen Dazs but also quickly match each other's price increases. We are a duopoly monopoly with Ben & Jerry's based in Bernie's home state of Vermont. Our two companies are expanding into about the same 35 nations around the world. We are now each owned by one of the most powerful consumer products companies on Earth: Unilever and Nestles. If we did not become a duopoly monopoly in our market two other products would. So in the 2016 global marketplace we have no choice but to seek to become one of the two dominant companies. We will probably eventually become the global super-premium duopoly monopoly. Because of the power of our parent companies it will not be easy for any other company to stop this from happening. The one that began to eat into our market, Talenti, was immediately bought by Unilever and copied by Haagen-Dazs. They did not want to sell but quickly realized they had no choice if they wanted their product to survive, get its value in dollars, or both. Welcome to the duopoly monopoly 2016 marketplace.

Bernie has the potential to create both a fundamental movement and a political movement while fully doing both. The most fundamental platform of his "revolution" is economic reform. He can have it be a fundamental movement by declaring that we have matured to now know it is immoral to give priority to self-interest in economic activity. In our now global economy with global companies that are now capable of primarily cooperating for self-interest without ever talking to each other it is essential that we all publicly declare that in all economic activity our highest priority is the common good, not self-interest.

If companies can now primarily cooperate for mutual self-interest they can also primarily cooperate for the common good.

There will be a continuation of the proliferation of global duopoly monopolies. It is now easily possible. Thus, practically, common good capitalism will be when the duopoly monopolies in each product area voluntarily meet, along with all the smaller competitors, and reach agreements that give priority to the common good. A couple of public officials without a vote could be present to provide evidence to the public that the agreements were based on giving priority to the common good, not collusion for self-interest. The former is legal; the latter is not. Then the companies could not only annually provide the public a financial audit but also a common good audit. It will report on their agreements and the progress of each in fulfilling them. This will also allow the public to be in an on-going conversation with the companies on what we have matured into identifying as new agreements we want to make that give priority to the common good. We are constantly maturing as the Civil Rights, Women's, Environment, and Gay's Right to Marry Movements have revealed.

The agreements they could forge are quite obvious. One could be to have the minimum wage be a livable wage in each employment location and other good labor agreements. It could be certain environment and safety standards. It could even be to donate the same percentage of annual net profits to reduce poverty around the world.

As a secondary activity they could compete as ferociously as before in all other areas such a packaging, marketing, distribution, and new product development. Of course this process could eventually lead to legislation nearly all support.

What is significant about common good capitalism is that it fully honors individual freedom and free markets. There is nothing to prevent another company being so successful that it replaces one of the two duopolies. Secondly, relative to one another it will not cost the companies a penny. If they need to raise their prices to afford some of their agreements, such as a livable minimum wage, they will both do so at the same time; and they will still be able to compete on price but now it will be based on efficiencies, a committed workforce, and better service to the customers. Thirdly, the conflict between workers and employers can end and be replaced with joint cooperation with the priority being the common good. Lastly the continued proliferation of duopoly monopolies will be supported by the public rather than attacked. They will overtly, publicly, and freely choose to give priority to the common good. Thus, our multinational corporations, some of the most powerful organizations on Earth, will be primarily cooperating with all for the common good. This, by the way, will be essential for the Environment Movement to succeed.

Common good capitalism is inevitable. In the Information Age it is the only solution to the now easy global duopolization of our product markets. We want these companies to continue producing all the things we need. At the same time monopoly behavior through a backdoor is not acceptable. Common good capitalism is the only solution that both honors individual freedom and free markets that is something we definitely want to build on and not end. It also enhances the safety for all so we are able to more easily, broadly, and safely exercise individual freedom.

In addition to becoming the Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., or Nelson Mandela of the common good capitalism fundamental movement, as the above three did Bernie can also seek political power by getting officials elected and legislation passed that supports it.

Bernie now has a golden opportunity to create both a common good capitalism fundamental movement as well as a political movement. I hope he does both.

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