January 27, 2008
Bill Gates' "Creative Capitalism" Speech
For those of you who saw the earlier blog posting about Bill Gates' "creative capitalism" speech at the World Economic Forum, here is an excerpt from the speech:
As I see it, there are two great forces of human nature: self-interest, and caring for others. Capitalism harnesses self-interest in helpful and sustainable ways, but only on behalf of those who can pay. Philanthropy and government aid channel our caring for those who can't pay, but the resources run out before they meet the need. But to provide rapid improvement for the poor we need a system that draws in innovators and businesses in a far better way than we do today.
Such a system would have a twin mission: making profits and also improving lives for those who don't fully benefit from market forces. To make the system sustainable, we need to use profit incentives whenever we can.
At the same time, profits are not always possible when business tries to serve the very poor. In such cases, there needs to be another market-based incentive—and that incentive is recognition. Recognition enhances a company's reputation and appeals to customers; above all, it attracts good people to the organization. As such, recognition triggers a market-based reward for good behavior. In markets where profits are not possible, recognition is a proxy; where profits are possible, recognition is an added incentive.
The challenge is to design a system where market incentives, including profits and recognition, drive the change.
I like to call this new system creative capitalism—an approach where governments, businesses, and nonprofits work together to stretch the reach of market forces so that more people can make a profit, or gain recognition, doing work that eases the world's inequities.
For the entire speech, go to "World Economic Forum: Prepared Remarks by Bill Gates (January 24, 2008)," available at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation website.
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