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Returning to the Roots of Commerce and Positive Contribution

This article was originally written in September of 2009 when the U.S national debt was 3 trillion , as of June 2023 it is above 32 trillion USD. Mr. Jeremy Blatch suggests current economic conditions warrant further reflection.

As the bloodletting continues in an attempt to cure the banking disease, we are no closer to resolving the root cause of the problem of the financial crisis. Unlike the proletariat in France before the revolution, the masses have not been offered cake to chew on, but a diet of more indebtedness. The chosen elite have distributed billions of other people's money leaving the silent majority to choke in anger and incredulity.

The Chairman of the U.S Federal Reserve, when challenged by Congress as to the authority which allowed him to give away billions of tax payer's dollars, nervously sighted the Federal Reserve Act of 1913. The total capitalization of the USA at that time was perhaps USD 500b. The current Public Account Deficit of the USA is around 3 trillion USD (3,000,000,000,000). Where is the money coming from to repay this?

The Dominance of Central Bank Policy and Government Mismanagement

For the first time in history, we have witnessed central banks and governments acting in unison to give away huge sums, seemingly daily to banks and the capital markets. In the press and media, figures in billions and even trillions have become common place. Governments are not companies. They cannot manufacture anything except perhaps lies. Or misspeak if you prefer to be politically correct. What they can do is print money, as they own and control the printing presses. They can then distribute the paper. In this case swallowed up by a banking system, drowning in its own sea of corruption, deception, mismanagement and greed.

We are told that the banking system is now stable again. But for how long and at what cost? The Damocles sword for failure in times of plenty, has yet to fall and will do so as a crippling tax burden on future generations. This at a time when Western governments are unable to guarantee their own elderly a life of dignity in their final years. The great champion of freedom and equality - the USA, cannot even guarantee its people a basic level of free health care at point of need.

The last decade has ended on a sad but predictable note, proving that we have sown the wind of increasing wealth at any cost, and have reaped the whirlwind. In the process we have singularly failed to distribute that wealth and resources equitably to where it's needed.

Ironically one if the trends to emerge over the past decade of plenty are the development of socially responsible funds. The concept is to allow investors to direct their money into companies whose activities and 'modus operandi' are contributing positively to society. This is of course is selective, but at least the investor knows what their money is buying.

The Rise of Sovereign Wealth Funds as a 'Caretaker'

Governments, especially with oil revenues have joined the band wagon creating Sovereign Wealth Funds. Norway the third largest oil producer, has formed a fund aimed at being socially responsible. In a global economy, ownership of companies is the most important way to have influence claims the Norwegian Foreign Minister. More humanitarian than an oil baron, the Norwegian government was key in gaining the International Land Mines Treaty, and also hosted the historic meeting in Oslo between Israel and Palestine. With the wisdom of Joseph they established a Petroleum Fund, in 1996, now renamed the Pension Fund to take care of the future generations. What a comparison to the arrogant ineptness of the USA, UK and Europe, who have burdened their future generations. The Norwegian government pension fund excludes companies that it believes are failing ethically. Interestingly, there are as many companies who are blacklisted abusing their employees as there are failings in other areas.

Whilst Norway has unambiguously laid out its outline addressing the needs of its own people before the needs of society at large, not the same can be said of Sovereign Wealth Funds which in general are about gaining political and strategic power by buying into the economy and owning strategic assets in the western industrialised nations. As we witness a shift in the balance of world economic power, ownership of strategic assets and the ability to guard and maintain trade routes will dominate the next decade's macro economic strategy.

The concept of allowing investors choices consistent with their ethical beliefs is nothing new. But is it possible to combine successful business practices while looking after the disadvantaged.

The Impact of the Quakers in the Business World

The first funds to allow investors to direct their money into companies whose activities they approved of were pioneered by the Life Assurance Group Friends Provident in the 1980's. This pioneering move was typical of the Quakers who were the founders of the Life Assurance Company. The Religious Society of Friends was a Christian movement founded in England in the 17th Century by George Fox. Puritans and non-conformist, they were given the name Quakers' a term of derision, as they would often quake in the presence of God. They gained a reputation for social activism and were instrumental in the campaign against the transatlantic slave trade of the 18th and 19th centuries. Many were imprisoned for their faith and beliefs.

The Quakers flourished in business and due to both their success and religious beliefs made more enemies than friends. Persecuted and unable to gain insurance, they formed their own company. One of the overriding concerns of the Friendly Society, was to care for the poor and disadvantaged in their own communities.

Many captains of commerce and industry, in the 1800's were Quakers, who founded and managed their businesses on biblical principals. Joseph Fry who started the famous Fry's chocolates built a small town for his employees of his factories, with all amenities, schools, hospitals and recreation facilities. Work was scare, and many had to leave their home towns to find employment. Fry's were bought by the Cadbury company. John Cadbury, himself, also being a Quaker. Edward Pease, owner and pioneer of the first railway in England from Stockton to Darlington housed his own employees, and Joseph Rowntree founder of the famous Rowntree Chocolates was the first person to develop low cost housing for the poor.

Barclays Bank had its roots in the Quaker movement. Unable to obtain loans the Quakers decided to form their own bank. True to their faith and beliefs employees were well housed and looked after.

In spite of being persecuted for their beliefs, through their success in business they were able to alleviate much poverty in serve the wider community. They didn't need to wait for governments to bankrupt their future generations, they used what they had wisely, and gave something back. The bottom line in any business must be to make money. But as we have seen with the banking and financial crisis of today at what cost?

Originally published in in September 2009. Jeremy Blatch is the Founder and Consultant of Ein Harod Family Office.


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