The spirit of stakeholder capitalism
Two remarks overheard on the same sidewalk (a real one, not metaphorical) have stuck with me for decades. One was from a girl of about 8 or 9 to another girl of the same age, about some people she had encountered who were “mayaman pero mabait”—as though rich people were rarely kind. The other was from an acquaintance; dirt poor, he was asking a relative for money to buy a shoeshine kit so he could work. His relative asked why he should give him money at all, and my acquaintance replied, “Kasi meron ka, ako wala (Because you have it and I don’t).” He said it as if existential reality made it necessary to give something unearned.
These thoughts came to me as I read the part of Michael L. Tan’s “Davos ‘astig’” (1/22/20) that said “I do wish our economic and political leaders in the Philippines would adopt more of that spirit of WEF [World Economic Forum] and ‘stakeholder capitalism’ with its philosophy that we’re in this together, so let’s all see what we can do (even if the capitalists do end up giving too little).”What struck me was that parenthetical aside, as it implied that capitalists were obligated to “give” and give “enough”—and that anyone would readily find that thinking valid.
Is it some kind of universal tenet that one side of humanity should give and the other receive? Why not make it so that both sides give and receive?
I read somewhere about a company that made a change, and made it so it both gave and received. It’s a water distributor (one of those being pummeled with the presidential verbal sledgehammer). It had a problem in slum communities in its concession zone. Residents there bought water not from it but from vendors, who charged more than the company did, for water that was generally less than safe. (Some also stole water from the company’s pipes.)
The “capitalist” innovation now seems simple. The company installed pipes and faucets in the slum areas and now bills the barangay councils, which then bill the residents. The residents get clean water 24/7 at a cheaper price than they had previously paid, and the company has turned big parts of its concession zone into paying customers. Both sides give and both receive. I’d call that company “mayaman at mabuti.”
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