Inclusive Capitalism: You May As Well Get Used to It

Most Americans pursue a high standard of living, while most Danes seek a high quality of life. This answers a lot of the questions about each other’s lifestyles.

Inequality in the world has become too great. This is clear to most of us, whether it is those who, from a global perspective, are at the top, or whether it is those who find themselves at the bottom.

This inequality has primarily arisen from the fact that those at the top have been better at taking action than those at the bottom. This means, of course, that those who have succeeded have a lot, while those who have not succeeded have nothing.

And since all these interactions are carried out through the economic system that we know as capitalism, I suggest that we correct this system. In other words, update capitalism. The overarching goal is to create a more balanced world and to achieve a shared, firm stance on climate change.

Since I am not an economist, but a very idealistic coach, I will give my take on the most important perspectives as I see them.

One thing that is worth considering is whether it is better for us to pursue a high standard of living or a high quality of life. I am sure that it is not sustainable for the world that Elon Musk has a personal net worth of $164 billion. The world does not seem able to balance such extreme differences in wealth. When we praise Musk and hope to see more people like him, we do so at the expense of the global poor and the environment. I have been alive for almost 60 years, and my eyes and ears have been wide open for most of that time. I have, with a lot of enthusiasm and curiosity, made great efforts to understand why things are the way they are, and indeed, why we are here.

And my best guess is that we are here to learn and to live with others. I do not think we are put on Earth to make more money than others.

Over the last 20 years as an executive coach, I have posed the following question to my clients: “How much money is enough for you?” I ask them because the question opens up a rare and significant moment of contemplation.

The answer is often surprising, because in many cases it turns out that the amount is lower and easier to come by than you might imagine. In this way, the dream of money becomes a rational and realistic calculation, which creates peace and balance. And then you can instead take on all your other dreams.

My good friend and colleague TJ and I have had several fascinating conversations about the differences between the U.S. and Denmark over the last 10 years. When I returned to Denmark after four years in the U.S., I spent the first couple of years back home reflecting on these differences and arrived at this conclusion: If the two countries could somehow influence each other positively, then I would want it to be where the notion of Danish solidarity influences Americans, and Americans’ concept of individual independence influences us. This would be good for both sides.

TJ largely agrees with me. He has been living in Denmark for eight years but is originally from North Carolina. I was greatly inspired by him at the start of our friendship when he suggested that the difference between our two societies can also be seen in our different aspirations. For most Americans, aspirations are measured through the standard of living, while for Danes, it is the quality of life.

And when you reflect some more on that difference, then it seems to answer a lot of the questions we have about each other’s lifestyles.

Barack Obama used Denmark as an example of “inclusive capitalism” when he was a guest on “The Daily Show” with Trevor Noah the other day. I imagine he means that we in Denmark represent “inclusive” while the U.S. represents “capitalism.”

We saw this on a global scale at COP27,* when 130 of the world’s poorest nations asked the world’s richest nations for help. They suggested that the rich countries contribute money from their surpluses to meet the poorer countries’ deficits. This is both easy to, and quite reasonable to, understand since the richest countries are by far the most significant consumers of resources. For me, this is an example of “inclusive capitalism.”

I envision a future for my business where the maximum profit margin lies in the 10% range, rather than chasing a profit of 20, 30 or 50%. The business world will not hail my company as a “unicorn” or a “moonshot,” but who cares?

This means there will be room for people other than myself to make money. And who knows, maybe we can even work fewer hours. And then we will have a kind of “inclusive capitalism.”

How much money is enough for you?

*Editor’s note: COP27 stands for the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.

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