Forum: Consumers have power to direct a moral capitalism

Capitalism works best when it recognizes its responsibilities. That’s where our money should go.

Ron Friesen

Ron Friesen

By Ron Friesen / Herald Forum

When I visited New York City about one year after 9-11, I was able to go to the top of the iconic Empire State Building and look down at all the “ants” scurrying around on the streets below. The thought suddenly hit me in that New York moment, “If I could make just one dollar from each person down there, I would be rich beyond my imagination!”

There is something about New York. It’s like Frank Sinatra sang, “If I can make it there, I can make it anywhere.” It is the quintessential center of capitalism and success.

But New York capitalism has a huge problem. Success is defined as winners and losers. Winners who take the most are revered. Businesses and people with morality are ridiculed. For example “If you aren’t cheating, you aren’t trying!”

Have you noticed how this has wormed its way into our divisive politics from a certain presidential candidate, formerly of New York?

Capitalism is more than what someone can get. Nor is it how to give the least in order to get the most. Fundamental capitalism is providing a quality product or service to meet a real need, and competing with others to do your best. Even the “Shark Tank” investors agree on this.

The person or people a the company benefit, because of the quality of the service or product offered, which people respect and trust. Then, they share the wealth with workers to the benefit of the communities they serve.

Small, local businesses understand this. Find a company who does not have to advertise, or is all booked up, and that business is respected by the locals. Recommendations are spread by word of mouth by satisfied customers.

A small start-up in Kirkland learned this lesson, and today, Costco has some of the most loyal shoppers ever. They keep customers and the employees that serve them as their top priority. They prosper, not by what they take, but first and foremost by what they provide. This is capitalism at its best!

Bill Gates at Microsoft and Warren Buffet at Berkshire-Hathaway are starting to wake up. They accumulated great wealth and are realizing they have a duty to give back to the world which made them wealthy. Amazon and Jeff Bezos do not have a clue yet. Nor does Elon Musk at Tesla. And the Sackler family who made their riches addicting people to OxyContin showed how capitalism rewards cheaters.

Capitalism is hands-down the best economic system we have come up with. But when it victimizes people, is it right? When its sole goal is to take, not give, is that OK? When the ones at the bottom of the ladder do not have affordable food and housing, or don’t have access to quality education and health care, is that OK? That’s “immoral” capitalism.

I support Moral Cpitalism. That means giving your best, not your least, and sharing the wealth instead of hoarding it. To the extent that unions and government have to force accountability on businesses is evidence of systemic corruption. Boeing is learning the hard way after embracing “give the least to get the most” for 20 years. Just as the day of reckoning has arrived for Boeing, it will eventually arrive for all other wealth hoarders.

It would be game changing if Moral Capitalism would lead us instead of New York Capitalism. But if we keep electing legislators or a president purchased by “winners,” cheaters and liars, the rest of us will keep being the losers.

How do we overcome this? Not with torches and pitchforks at the gates of the wealthy! But most importantly, by all of us being generous and supporting the generosity of others. When we just shop for “cheap,” we support the wealth hoarders. When we shop for “best value to us and our community,” the tables are turned on the takers. And when we volunteer to help others, we light a candle of hope. Will the wealthy voluntarily set this moral example for us? No. They won’t.

However, we can. We 99 percenters must be the moral example. Then, that day will come when all wealth hoarders must face their responsibilities. It is inevitable.

Ron Friesen is a longtime Marysville resident, a retired music teacher and community and church musician and is committed to community improvement.

Herald Forum

The Herald Forum invites community members to submit essays on topics of importance and interest to them. Essays typically are between 400 and 600 words in length, although exceptions for longer pieces can be made. To submit essays or for more information about the Herald Forum, write Herald Opinion editor Jon Bauer at or call him at 425-339-3466.

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