Billionaires in Chains...Redefining Freedom

The appeal of a billionaire "telling it like it is" has me thinking about Money, Investing and the key American ideal of Liberty. I am wondering if any of the politicians are acting out of freedom. "Telling it, as if it is" may be more accurate. Saying something is so does not make it so, but thinking clearly with heart and head congruent, values aligned, vision intact as a basis for speaking and acting, is a prerequisite on the path to freedom. Anything less is virtual and cheapens the ideal that makes America great: true Liberty.

Liberation from oppression is the first Liberty. Internally, to be free is to choose freely what you want to do, and, on a deeper level, to be truly free: choosing what you want to want! An un-free person does things automatically, or out of tradition, or because of what someone else says they should do. Unless we take the best ideas we know and choose the ones to act on, in our own unique way, following no one else's lead, then we are not truly free. Freedom is not just doing what you want instinctively. It takes imagination to picture a new possible outcome: something never quite done that way before, and going for it. Candidates may appear to be in that liberated zone and that is their appeal. But are they truly free?

Now billionaires in general may appear to be inherently free. But in reality they may be entirely enslaved by greed or fear, or by opinions. They may not be able to help themselves as they display conspicuous disregard for others. Doubly ignorant: they may not know what they don't know.

We mostly assume that successful entrepreneurs are driven by their desire for money more than their desire to make a difference. This means their success and their inner freedom are not necessarily aligned. Much depends on their psychological make up (see ) and how much they can overcome their worst attributes.

Money as a motivator is insatiable. There is never enough. It is a slave driver when the most important goal is: more! On the other hand, a free deed of goodness is complete. It does not require more of you. To develop or invest in an initiative to make a unique difference can be rewarding in a lasting way if it continues to be meaningful. This is the key to inner freedom: meaningful self expression or realization... acting intuitively with your star clear ahead.

How much fun can money buy? How much pleasure did Brad Pitt get from spending $33MM in one hour on antiques? Or Zuckerberg when he gave $100MM to the Newark school system? My guess is that billionaires do not buy their fun or even their pleasure. They may buy stuff and discard it to buy more, over and over, but the fun, the pleasure, the experience of joy or love happens or doesn't, regardless of wealth.

True freedom is not natural, but it is the next step in our evolution: each time we recognize the limits of our personal knowledge and nevertheless say no to our natural inclination and yes to what we know intuitively is best, we bend toward freedom. This may be hardest for those who have more money than they themselves can fathom.

On the other hand some big money is "wanting to want" positive impact from investments and choosing it. This is an important evolutionary shift. At the recent Mission Investors Exchange Conference "Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, pledged that it is time for their '95% money' to start acting like the rest of their mission expenditures by going all in with 100% of their assets in Impact and Mission Oriented Investments" Imagine this as another tipping point, like CALPERS and Goldman Sachs publicly stating last year that all their investments screen out environmental, social and governance issues (ESG) and look for positive impact.

Impact used to mean the force of a collision until the 1900's when it became more subtle: What impression is a decision going to make? Everything matters... every decision has an affect, including investment is up to investors, like consumers, to set goals and parameters. Impact investing can be a meaningful self-expression, an act of freedom.

In the 21st Century investors of conscience were already expressing themselves, banding together to put pressure on companies to change ESG policies through proxy voting. Then the concept of impact began to take hold. Initially addressing the hypocrisy of foundations whose values were ignored in the investment committee's choices, impact investing was considered to be concessionary: impact first and only partially concerned about financial returns. No more! Smart managers with conscience can invest in beneficial products/services in all asset classes, and study after study shows that companies with purpose and integrity in general match or outperform the rest. Investors do well, doing good.

In summary: for freedom to ring globally: 1) keep money out of politics; 2)focus investments on meeting needs; and 3) foster an innovative culture where new ideas will thrive.