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Creative Capitalism [Paperback]

Michael Kinsley
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

7 Jan 2010
Bill Gates is not only the world's most successful capitalist; he's the world's biggest philanthropist. Gates has approached philanthropy the same way he revolutionized computer software: with a fierce ambition to change the rules of the game. That's why at last year's annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Gates advocated a 'creative capitalism', in which big corporations should integrate doing good into their way of doing business. This controversial new idea is discussed and debated by the more than 40 contributors to this book, among them three Nobel laureates and two former U.S. cabinet secretaries. Edited by author and columnist Michael Kinsley, Creative Capitalism brings together some of the world's best minds to engage Gates's challenge. From Warren Buffet, who seconds Gates's analysis, to Lawrence Summers, who worries about the consequences of multiple corporate objectives, the essays cover a broad spectrum of opinion. Creative Capitalism is not just a book for philanthropists. It's a book that challenges the conventional wisdom about our economic system, a roadmap for the new global economy that is emerging as capitalism adapts itself once again to a changing world.

Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket Books (7 Jan 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847394205
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847394200
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 993,947 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Michael Kinsley is a distinguished political journalist, commentator and US television host. He is the founding editor of the online journal Slate and was named 'Editor of the Year' by the Columbia Journalism Review in 1999. He is the former editorial and opinion editor for the Los Angeles Times and wrote a weekly column that appeared in the Washington Post. Kinsley is currently a regular columnist for Time magazine.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Wealth of Nations 12 Mar 2011
Bill Gates is one of the richest men in the world. He is also one of its biggest philanthropists, having given over $30b to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation of which $16b has been spent. This book centres around a speech Gates gave to the World Economic Forum at Davros in 2008. He argued the world was getting better thanks to science, medicine and technology. However, "the great advances in the world have often aggravated the inequalities in the world. The least needy see the most important and the most needy see the least." He accepted market incentives played a major role in creating this situation. "The genius of capitalism lies in its ability to make self-interest serve the wider interest." Further, "capitalism harnesses self-interest in helpful and sustainable ways but only on behalf of those who can pay." Basing his analysis on the social principles of self-interest and caring for others, Gates argued that market forces should be encouraged to serve more people and reduce inequalities. Creative capitalism can meet the needs of the poor by making products which fit their market price while simultaneously looking for higher prices from those who can afford them.

This viewpoint constrasted sharply with the opinion of Milton Friedman set out in "The social Responsibility of Business, written in 1970." Friedman argued that promoting social ends was "pure and unadulterated socialism" and that businessmen talking this way "are the unwitting puppets of the intellectual forces that have been undermining the basis of a free society these past decades." Corporate executives had a responsibility to their employers and the shareholders of the company for whom they work. Social responsibility was a matter for them to determine on an individual basis, it was not for the company to do so.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting overview 7 Oct 2010
I really enjoyed reading this book. Composed of different articles (posts from a blog) written by different professionals (professors, business people, journalists, ...), this book gives a good overview and critique of Bill Gates's idea of Creative Capitalism.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in capitalism and helping others.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought churning stuff 13 Jan 2010
Although a colleciton of essays I was worried there would be alot of repeating of the same thing by deifferent people, but they have been carefully selected to give a good representation of the subject across the board. Having a colleciton of essays on the subject by a multitude of authors instead of a book by one author gave way for a lot of differnet opinions and great variance in proposals.

Despite being light in detail and content it is an informative worthwhile read, I'd recommend it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More books are needed to further discuss this topic 20 July 2011
By Premkumar Masilamani - Published on
January 24, 2008 - The World Economic Forum, Davos, Switzerland. A speech by Bill Gates, one of the most successful entrepreneur & philanthropist created a whirl wind in the business circles. Gates proposed a new idea of making capitalism work for the poor and needy in the developing world. He coined the term "Creative Capitalism". This book is a compilation of discussions, blogs, critics by 43 well known successful business leaders, economists etc around the topic. Micheal Kinsley did a pretty good job in compiling 300+ pages with thought provoking ideas, approaches to Creative Capitalism. Many of you may have seen Gates speech on youtube or read the transcription in Microsoft website. But, after reading this entire book, you will have a complete knowledge, different thinking and a birds eye view of this topic. About the pros and cons of what was proposed by Bill Gates. Many of the business leaders do not agree with his idea of Creative Capitalism (with valid statistics and business ethics). Some, do agree with Bill Gates.

Here is the cheat sheet of Creative Capitalism:
1. Markets respond only to "demand", not to "need".
2. The world is getting better, but not fast enough and not for everyone. For ex., Climate change will impose the worst effect on those least responsible for it.
3. In a system of pure capitalism, the incentive to serve people rises as their wealth rises and falls as their wealth falls. This needs to be changed so that there is an incentive to serve poor people too.
4. A revised capitalist system would both make a profit and improve the lives of the have-nots.
5. Creative Capitalism is a system where incentives for both profit and recognition motivate both self-interest and caring for others.
6. Under Creative Capitalism governments, businesses and non-profits works together.
7. Some real world scenarios are : Corporations donating money or products. Tiered pricing by drug companies for vaccines against diseases affecting third world. Help poor world business do business in developed world. The Bono RED campaign model.
8. Corporations should allow "top innovators" to spend part of their times on issues facing people too poor to be customers. This "takes the brainpower that makes life better for the richest, and dedicates it to improving the lives of everyone else".

The book starts with the conversation with Warren Buffet, Bill Gates and author Micheal Kinsley. They discuss in detail about all the possibilities of making this concept to the real world. To my perception, Warren Buffet is much more experienced and knows what he puts forth on the table. Bill Gates is very impatient and wants to change the world very fast. Just like switching on a PC and start working. Warren Buffet suggests to tax 3% from the corporation and let a neutral body consisting of Government officials, Business leaders and NGO manage the fund to make the world a better place for everyone.

But Gates proposes a different approach, where the businesses using its technology & resources get into the field of philanthropy directly. He urges the businesses to explore the unexploited business opportunities available in the sub-saharan African countries and thereby improving the lives of the less privileged people. He urges the corporations to donate huge amounts of money, resources or employees time for those who cannot afford it. What would the businesses get in return?. Recognition as do-gooders which will improve the company's reputation and in turn improves the profits. The ultimate aim is again profit maximization. But, he does not mention who has to make the decision to decide the charitable cause. The corporate managers or the share holders or the stake holders?. There are a lot of practical complications around this. This could be an easy option for the companies that are about to go to IPO.

Hundreds of pages discussing about each and every specific good and bad things in Gates speech. How is it different from Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)?. Why do we need a different form of capitalism?. etc. I feel good about Bill Gates intention to eradicate poverty in the world through Creative Capitalism. But just the intention is not enough. A complete real world implementation plan is needed to make that a reality. Apart from the speech made at Davos, what else has been done in the past three years?. Where are we in this idea?. What Gates has done other than making a speech?.

We need more people like Gates to come together and persist in the idea, so that it becomes a goal of every corporation in this world. I would suggest everyone interested in business or has that entrepreneurial instincts to read this book. It will prepare you to help others and at the same time, survive the competition.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding! 7 Jan 2009
By Loyd E. Eskildson - Published on
In 2008 Bill Gates advocated that big corporations integrate doing good into their way of doing business. "Creative Capitalism" begins with that proposal, and follows with a number of individual comments, both pro and con.

Gates points out that capitalism harnesses self-interest in helpful and sustainable ways, but only on behalf of those who can pay. Profits are not always possible when business tries to serve the very poor. Thus, there needs to be another market-based incentive - recognition.

Recognition enhances a company's reputation and appeals to customers; it also attracts good people to the organization.

Potential Creative Capitalism Mechanisms: Tiered pricing (eg. for vaccines used in both the developed and third world) is one existing mechanism. Priority for approval reviews of a for-profit drug can be offered to companies that also develop a new drug for a neglected disease such as malaria.

Warren Buffett, normally a strong Gates supporter, however, had other perspectives. He pointed out that emotional public reactions can be a problem - eg. donations to pro-choice efforts. Further, corporations donating a specified percentage of profits/revenues to "cause X" are only successful in the short run, though they do raise awareness.

Michael Kinsley raises other problems. Eg. giving priority in new drug approval reviews begs the question of "Why the delay to start with?" Perhaps it is due to important cautionary concerns; or, it simply may reflect a need for an improved review process or the need for greater funding. Then there's the manipulation potential - eg. ExxonMobil spent 3X as much publicizing its support for Masterpiece Theater as it did for the actual support.

Others asserted that Gates' ideal only works where there are sustainable (protected) profits - eg. new product, monopoly, etc.; that there aren't that many products with a unique demand in Third-World vs. developed countries (probably literally true, though the former's emphasis on extremely low-cost can also be construed as constituting unique products); that business already has an incentive to help the poor via seeking out low-cost producers (eg. China); that "Corporate Social Responsibility" people are typically woolly-headed and ineffectual; that foreign charity can reduce the pressure for good government in poor countries; and that businesses should instead stop trying to circumvent markets working well via tariffs, quotas, subsidies, etc.

Larry Summers' also had an interesting insight. Wanting to harness the profit motive to meet the social objective of increased home-ownership, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were employed. The illusion that they were doing virtuous work made it impossible to build a political case for serious regulation. On the other hand, market discipline as nearly non-existent given the perception that their debt was government-backed. Meanwhile, complaints of social failures were met by claims of a need to perform for shareholders. Thus, accountability for both objectives was largely lost.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Noble effort that fails to converge on ideas... 23 April 2014
By Michael Harrington - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
There are basically two teams in this match of ideas, with several participants trying to referee. On one side are the economists by trade, who are very skeptical about non-market criteria in economics. On the other side are the non-economists who believe the art and science of economics needs to be broadened, but are unclear on how this can be accomplished. Notably, I found the most refreshing approach of the many experts participating in the blog offered by perhaps its youngest contributor – the student Kyle Chauvin – who argued how we need to expand the reach of traditional, or profit, capitalism, not only around the world but to the overlooked corners of the developed world as well.

Unfortunately, the two sides never really converge in this debate and I suppose that may be why the conversation disappeared from public discourse (only 7 reviews?). Both sides accept some common premises that need to be challenged in order to break out of the box we find ourselves in on these issues.

These premises derive from the neoclassical school of economic theory that laid the foundation for general equilibrium theory in macroeconomics. Specifically, actors within the economy are classified according to a loose application of factor analysis, so we have workers, entrepreneurs and small business owners, corporate firms and managers, investors, savers, lenders, borrowers, consumers, and political actors. Then we lump these categories into producers, savers, and investors on one side versus consumers, workers, and borrowers on the other. The consensus seems to settle on the idea that some people produce and so policy should empower this production. Then successful producers can be taxed by political actors, and/or encouraged by philanthropy, to redistribute the wealth to non-producers for reasons that range from compassion to demand stimulus.

Capital accumulation and equity ownership in capitalist enterprise is an essential form of participation in the modern global market economy. Concomitant with ownership is the question of control in governance and risk management as the flip side of profit. But instead of focusing on how wealth is created and distributed through these market structures and institutions, we insist on dividing capital from labor and then try to redistribute the outcomes by political calculus, or by corporate largess. This is industrial age capitalism and such a mode of production will never accomplish what we hope to through creative capitalism. (I do agree with Clive Cook that we need a better term—maybe Inclusive Capitalism or the Singularity, to borrow from Ray Kurzweil.)

The problems that corporate social responsibility (CSR) seeks to address are rooted in the skewed distribution of productive resources across society, widening the gap between the haves and the have-nots. But taxing the haves to give to the have-nots is a self-defeating form of compassion. We should try to adhere to the Chinese proverb about teaching a hungry man to fish so that he eats for a lifetime. This can be put most plainly by asking the following question: If corporations work solely to enrich shareholders, then why aren’t we all shareholders? To widen the economic net even more, why aren’t all enterprise stakeholders shareholders?

Equity participation may also be the most viable way to promote “recognition” as a complement to profit maximization, as stakeholders have a broader range of interests, of which immediate profits is only one. This idea also focuses our attention on the real problem of free societies: agency failures and governance. Market economies depend on a multiplicity of agent-principal relationships in economic enterprises and political institutions. The abuse of these relationships is the mark of cronyism that dominates public attitudes toward “undemocratic” capitalism these days. This is not an easy problem to solve, but suffice to say equity ownership, control, and risk management must be as open, transparent, and competitive as possible. This is the only way to confirm that these relationships are accepted as just.

The only sustainable solution to world poverty and the skewed distribution of resources is the creation of a worldwide, self-sufficient, productive middle class. This is as necessary for democratic politics as it is for economics. For the middle class to grow, it needs access to resources, mostly financial capital and technology these days.

We can point to the history of land homesteading that built the American Midwest, and just recently, the idea floated by Michigan’s governor to promote homesteading in Detroit for foreigners. Society’s resources need to be spread far and wide in order to reap the benefits of innovation and adaptation, while maximizing the utilization of these resources. The financial imperative of capital is to maximize return, but the socioeconomic objective seeks to do so by combining capital with labor. This flies a bit in the face of the efficiency argument that some people are better at managing risk and creating wealth, so specialization of function should favor the risk managers on Wall Street. The problem is that we never know where to find the successful entrepreneurs and job creating small businesses of the future, only those of the past. And Wall St. only considers those who manage to squeeze through the narrow access door.

Without angel capital provided by family relations who merely saved and accumulated their personal wealth, many enterprises would never see the light of day. At the early stages, venture capital money is too costly or unavailable. This story is repeated across the economy, yet today’s concentration of capital in venture firms, hedge funds, private equity, buyout firms, major bank holding companies, etc. narrows capital access to those who already have it. The proliferation of ideas must be forced through this bottleneck, to what end? Better that individuals, families, small group networks, etc. are empowered by policy to accumulate their own capital to put at risk in entrepreneurial ventures. After all, sometimes the idea is not so sexy and may be nothing more than a new restaurant idea or a better mousetrap. In a world where the future is unknown, we can’t lock ourselves into narrow investment models built on the past. Likewise, we should not underestimate the ancillary growth Microsoft seeded by enriching its own shareholders.

The key point, which cannot be overemphasized, is that broad capital accumulation achieves double the impact of other policy options. First, it helps finance ideas, innovation and entrepreneurial risk-taking that will increase labor utilization, spreading the risks and benefits of economic growth. Second, accumulated financial assets, or savings, help mitigate economic risks of unemployment, health, and retirement through self-insurance. This reduces political demands on the state's safety-nets and the tax and redistributive policies on productive effort that hampers economic growth. Essentially, policies that promote broad-based capital accumulation are a win-win for all citizens of a democratic capitalist society.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great discourse on a cutting edge topic by brilliant minds 17 May 2011
By The Dude - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This was an easy read with short readable chapters. The discourse was smart and witty and the contributors consist of some of the most brilliant minds of our time. This was a great book to read for business people, entrepreneurs, and politicos. I truly enjoyed the dialogue, the format, and the subject matter, and it gave me a lot to think about.
5.0 out of 5 stars O&O ... 29 Nov 2012
By blueorange - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
I read it. Kinsley said that sometimes bill seems to be in chaos ... And they think and worry deeply about un-maximized revenues in jungle....
I read it in toilet ... Day by day... Page by page... :p
I can't find e-book ver except AMA.
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