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Thursday, 30 April 2015

Beyond Election Day: #Power, Money, Government & Responsibility - How do we get #politics & business working for the common good? #GE2015Beyond

I attended this event yesterday evening.  

It was organised by St Paul's Institute in partnership with Theos and Together for the Common Good.  

A summary of the subject, chair and speakers is in the pic to the left of this text, (the 1st page of the event's handout).

The format was some opening remarks by each speaker followed by a Q&A & then some closing remarks from each speaker.  There is a video of the event below. 

At the foot of this post are links to other posts of interest AND pics of the other pages of the handout giving a bit more detail on the chair, the speakers and the organisers of the event.

My summary of the main points I heard being made - using others tweets where available - is below the video.

If I was mega summarising what each speaker said in a couple of lines it would be:

Shami ChakrabartiHer 3 word summary of everything she believes about human rights is dignity, equality and fairness, and the greatest of these is equality

Conor Kehoemaximising long term shareholder is still a good guide for directors to guide what corporations do in the interests of society but assuming long term value is measured by share prices maybe leading people astray.

Loretta MinghellaAny answer to how we address the common good must be able to address the biggest enemies of that common good - climate change, international tax dodging & gender inequality for women

Craig CalhounWe no longer believe politics can be about higher purposes - that we can be more than creatures of self interest. We need a shared purpose and solidarity - common purposes - as part of our society, our country.  Politics when working well can help here

and in a bit more detail ....

Shami Chakrabarti's main points were:

She believes in fundemental human rights & freedoms - not just as a system of law but as ethical values that bind together the whole human family

Her 3 word summary of everything she believes about human rights is ....

Dignity = belief that every single human life is precious - just because they are alive (so not for what they've contributed or their nationality of sexuality or their "goodness" for example)

Equality = equal treatment under the law

Fairness = procedural - a fair hearing, presumption of innocence, access to justice

and the greatest of these is Equality because everybody loves human rights - their own & those like them.  We wouldn't have many of the problems we have if we treated others as we would wish to be treated ourselves.

During a General Election we need to remember that ....

Chakrabarti: democracy must continue in between elections. Much more than casting a vote every 5 yrs

and if we don't then those elected can take our freedoms away (as has happened in other parts of the world during our lifetimes).  Democracy is about fundamental rights and freedoms and the rule of law and these principles keep democracy alive and without them democracy would eat itself.

Some say rights are selfish and they don't build mutuality or responsibility.  Well ....

Do rights allow responsibility? Shami Chakrabarti says a bill of rights is by reciprocity a bill of responsibilities too

Closing remarks on what individuals can do

- democracy not just a 5 year thing

- live your values in your shopping basket and your home

Conor Kehoe's main points were:

2 big ideas drive how corporations are run today 
The headline from Conor's introductory remarks is that maximising long term shareholder is still a good guide for directors to guide what corporations do in the interests of society.  Citizens need to spend £'s on social (as vs for profit) programmes thru the ballot box or their own £'s. But assuming long term value is measured by share prices maybe leading people astray.

The Background to this headline
Shareholder Value - background
A corporation is like a person can enter into contracts - people can invest in and liability is limited to that investment, after all others are paid what is left is profit for investors.  But corporations are a fiction - an imaginary personas an 18th century jurist said "Corporations have neither body's to be punished nor souls to be condemned - they therefore do what they like"

Directors - appointed by shareholders - are responsible for a corporations behaviour.  Shareholders are in the main other large corporations - e.g. pension funds.  So to direct a corporation Directors need to: a) know what is going on; b) ensure their charges adhere to the law and norms of society.

Society allows corporations to exist so how can we ensure corporations act in the best interest of society?  Adam Smith's answer was the "invisible hand" (an owner operating in their own interest to gain more profit in a competitive market).  But that is talking about real people - not the imaginary people that are corporations. 

Friedman & Jenson in 70's & 80's proposed directors should run corporations to maximise shareholder value - today's profits and those out into the future.  As shareholders are the last to be paid after all others therefore maximising their value maximises value for society (competition & search for profit are the regulators much as in Adam Smith's day)

Market Efficiency - background
Share price efficiently puts a value on all those future profit streams that will accrue to shareholders.  But problem is that there is some evidence that the market is short termist.  Even if you don't buy that there is plenty of evidence that CEOs and directors believe the stock market is short termist & so behave accordingly.

Closing remarks on what individuals can do

- get engaged as a consumer and employee and as a member of a pension fund

- use the power of social media

- encourage layers to take a broader view of stakeholder value

Loretta Minghella's main points were:

Climate change is making extreme weather events that kill people or make them homeless more likely - so what are we doing about climate change?

Any answer to how we address the common good must be able to address the biggest enemies of that common good - climate change, international tax dodging & gender inequality for women (Christian Aid's big 3 causes of poverty)

"To promote the common good we must dismantle the environment where poverty can exist"

Christian Aid starts from the position that each person is made in the image of God and so is of inherent dignity and infinite worth.  

Poverty is incompatible with the common good so need to put in place building blocks so personal, social, political and economic power are truly shared and a world n which true charity flourishes

Individual charity = sympathy & giving for anothers plight & is really needed but only creates a temporary sense of connection. Less charitable is the small donation to escape a person asking for charity or some business' CSR programmes so NGOs don't disrupt the AGM.  

True charity = transformational.  Building relationships of integrity which pivot on the idea that we are all equal and all deserve a place at the table.  In a christian sense a full hearted and demanding love, a relentless commitment to what is good for the other manifested in right and just and loving relationships.

To achieve this business and politicians and civil society need to work together.  Of course in all of this we have personal responsibilities (e.g for what we buy from where) but we also need to hold government and businesses to account. 

Examples of such an approach? Dismantling of apartheid or US civil rights movement. Dropping of poor country debt.  These bear witness to the power of people of like mind coming together in a common cause.  And also, to some extent, to the power of vulnerability - how awesome it is when people put themselves on the line for the freedom of others. 

Business & government find vulnerability difficult to show and change difficult & often get stuck in defensive postures.  Often civil actors can give them the cover to be vulnerable.

Closing remarks on what individuals can do

- we have choices we have to make about the type of world we want to live in - as citizens of the world.  As part of that comes responsibility about connecting and speaking out and taking risks of failure and vulnerability

Craig Calhoun's main points were:

We no longer believe politics can be about higher purposes - that we can be more than creatures of self interest

Politics should be about education and choice: a deeper kind of politics.

Public life should be about - individually and collectively  - an awareness of how we need to grow in awareness and understanding

We need a shared purpose and solidarity - common purposes - as part of our society, our country - politics when working well can help here

We shouldn't accept the premise that the market is a perfectly self regulating system. That is a device by which we analyse it.  Its a partial truth. Markets are interwoven in all of our lives

Government isn't just those in Westminster, through politics it should be something we are all part of.

Politics should enable conditions for engagement.

LSE Director: Social responsibility not just what you do with the money you make but how you make it

Shareholder value shouldn't blind us to all other stakeholders in a business

We should look at market failures - production of bad stuff in production of wealth.

Love isn't just equality it is also connectionClosing remarks on what individuals can do

- gave an e.g. of a single student coming to him and saying LSE should be paying minimum wage

- our society is structured around getting not giving so giving can be sacrificial  - but worth it to embrace a different concept of the good

Soundbites from the Q&A


- what links all 4 speaker's contributions is internationalism - this is a shrinking interconnected planet

- the level of information gathering now going on via big data is ripe for abuse

- identity cards invariably become a mechanism for racial discrimination

- voting - a right paid for in courage and blood

Chakrabarti says women have had the vote for less than 100 yrs, so if you can't decide who to vote for vote for a woman (!)

- christian role - more attention to poverty and less to sexuality


- big companies are very powerful so we need to hold them accountable


- legislation designed to affect danger of business impacting politics seems to have instead focused on charities "sticking to their knitting"

- much more transparency needed on where businesses are making their profits where and how and how and what tax they are paying where and how and how they are using their money to create purchase on the political landscape.  Longer term businesses are at risk from each others excesses (where governments aren't equal to the task)

- if you do not make a contribution to the debate then your voice is missing and nobody else can replace that

- corporations are global but regulation of them isn't - and in short term we won't see global regulation and why transparency is so important

- christianity can speak truth to power


- often we let our discourse be dominated by how we can prevent the bad rather than what we can do accomplish for the good together

- there are always alternatives to current arrangements - and these alternatives change themselves

- firms should see employees as stakeholders in the firms

- doing business and forming a corporation is a gift from the state 

- political campaigning needs to be reformed to avoid undue influence on politicians of those with money

- land is a big issue for our national output

Q:what does relig bring? says he's a Christian and Christianity offers a willingness to speak about values

- and how to talk about values

other posts on RSA, TED, other lectures, conferences, others blog posts
18 top tips and thoughts about using #social media to enable #community source = an article by  Anatoliy Gruzd PhD & Caroline Haythornthwaite PhD 

Data Protection & Privacy - 8 issues from an International Conference
escape your social horizon limit & understand more - source = a blog post summarising the work of  Jeffrey A. Smith, Miller McPherson & Lynn Smith-Lovin
social media & death - 10 things you may not have thought about - #DORS conference

the development of the U2 spyplane - source = CIA historians Gregory Pedlow & Donald Welzenbach
considering culture and business process improvement  - source = an article by Schmiedel, Theresa, vom Brocke, Jan, & Recker 
ideas that may help you attract older volunteers - source = a paper by Brayley, Nadine, Obst, Patricia L., White, Katherine M., Lewis, Ioni M.,Warburton, Jeni, & Spencer, Nancy
physical factors which help people get better quicker - source = a paper by Salonen, Heidi & Morawska, Lidia 
a new approach to school and education - by Geetha Narayanan 
guiding principles on designing construction kits - by Mitchel Resnick & Brian Silverman
signs of overparenting - source = an article by Locke, Judith, Campbell, Marilyn A., & Kavanagh, David J
making ideas happen - source = a 99U conference

how to spot a liar - by pamela myer 
measuring happiness - source = talk by jim clifton, jim harter, ben leedle

Other pages from the event's handout

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