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At the Crossroads

A letter from the founding editors.

Something is wrong with the new economy. The problem is not that more people are making more money than ever before. The problem is not even that more people are making more money in a shorter period of time than ever before. The problem is that more people, having made more money in a shorter period of time than ever before, are losing track of what matters.

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In Built to Flip, Jim Collins has it right: At the heart of the new economy, there lies a revolutionary set of propositions about work and business. The initial manifesto stipulated that this generation would not sell out for money — not after witnessing the joyless workaday world of the 1950s, the antibusiness spasm of the 1960s, the cold calculations of the 1970s, and the greed-is-good grotesqueries of the 1980s.

A generation that started off by saying that it couldn’t be bought is now yielding to the siren song of money. What is at stake today is not merely a particular vision of work but also the social fabric of the country — our shared sense of fundamental fairness, the implicit social compact that guides us through our civic affairs, and the story that we tell ourselves, one another, and our children about the kind of people we are and the kind of society we hope to build.

The good news is that this situation is neither unprecedented nor irredeemable. Back in the 1920s and 1930s, the old economy came to a crossroads of conscience. Industrialization brought a moment of truth: What was to be the relationship between democracy and capitalism?

What emerged, as Peter Drucker has brilliantly chronicled, was a “Pension Fund Revolution.” Ordinary working men and women began to own a piece of the industrial wealth that their labor was helping to create. Democratic capitalism emerged alive and well.

Now the new economy is at its own crossroads of conscience: What will the new version of pension-fund capitalism look like? Who will apply the qualities of the new economy at its entrepreneurial best — creativity, innovation, a sense of purpose — to the cause of social entrepreneurship?

We invite you to read Jim Collins’s stirring essay, to reflect on the responses by five thought leaders to the question Built to Flip: Where Do You Come Down?, and to consider our “call to action” — our summons to create a new economy that is Built to Last. We also ask you to visit www.fastcompany.com/online/32/action.html, to sign that call to action, and to share your thoughts on this pressing issue. It’s time to take stock: Where do you stand? What will you stand for?

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