We all know that there is a quintessentially superficial aspect of money. “Money can’t buy happiness,” we know. On the whole, it feels like our collective consciousness is starting to wake up from a bad dream, the consumptive modeling dream, in which we are participating in an economic system rooted in militarism, the extraction of the planet’s natural resources and the use of force to take control of lands inhabited by others. It seems it is becoming harder to ignore these inconvenient truths, as our daily actions, thoughts and attitudes are amplified. Honesty and transparency are finally shedding light upon industries that have protected (and been protected by) patriarchs and predators for centuries. People across the world are demanding change, unsatisfied with and questioning a global financial system that rewards the top 1% at the expense of the public, while positing that “the economy is booming” while median wages have stagnated or declined.
Yet there is also a fundamentally attractive, even magical, aspect of capital. It is a placeholder for our time, energy and attention; it is our unit of commerce; it is an instrument of power. Each dollar, each bar of gold, each Ethereum token it has its own unique (hi)story and origin story. We know that capitalism can bring – as well as preempt, commoditize or destroy – social and environmental value. Even if we are to accept that it is a deeply flawed system, it is still the status quo from which we must proceed.
The Path Behind Us
In a way, money is not the root of our problems; it is simply a rope with which we have bound ourselves, unaware that we were purpose-built to be self-sufficient in partnership with Earth.
The mainstream media continues to define celebrity as someone making, or “worth”, an inordinate amount of money. It’s as if the media would like to keep this narrative going: “Don’t forget that money is the most important thing in the world! You can’t survive in this cold and harsh world without it! Lot’s of bad s**t happening! Don’t forget to max out your 401(k) contributions this year!” It is truly disappointing to pick up the latest issue of The Week, and see the type of content, themes, and ideas that we are being served as “couture” these days.
Distinctions matter. I understand the notion of associating celebrity with entrepreneurs, athletes, artists, and anyone else who is has “melded” their individual and professional pursuits. These passionate, inventive, driven and courageous individuals are not celebrities because they have money. They are celebrities because of their commitment to being a part of something bigger, in which genuine passion is both the individual’s competitive edge, and contribution to the collective (or) group.
Regardless of a person‘s feelings about our contemporary capitalist system, it’s impossible to deny that fiat currency has become a universal system for getting things done on our planet. For most of us, it is the “unit of power” that comes to mind when we are constructing plans for materializing things in the world. From this perspective, it seems inescapable; a given.
What we are witnessing now is a massive decentralization of control, as blockchain technology introduces integrated currencies and payment processing networks that preclude the necessity of a middleman (traditional banking institution). Simultaneously, and consequently, we are seeing a desperate attempt by the traditional power centers to centralize control, via authoritarian and monetary means.
The current system of capitalism exercises its “soft” control over us by instilling fear and rewarding greed. Thus, as we each become aware of this, we inevitably wander into the territory of, “so what does life look like in a society that isn’t based upon fear and greed?” Assuming the richest governments decided to make sure everyone was taken care of, and scaled to zero the insane waste that is the military-industrial complex, what would the mechanics of the system look like?
At its core, the value of money is intrinsically defined by our collective perception, and acceptance of money as humanity’s collective defined unit of power. If we begin to see that money is indeed just another construct, another paradigm reaching its expiration date, then we begin freeing up the space that will support that which may follow.
From Amoral Capital to Impact Investing
As a finance professional, it has been inspiring to see the rise of genuine impact investing. Impact investing (aka social impact investing, sustainable investing) is a strategy that deploys capital with the anticipation with generating a positive finance return and the intention to create social or environmental value.
One of my favorite impact investors is Matthew Weatherley-White of CAPROCK Group. In this podcast, he clearly articulates the challenges facing the investment world, as well as the general resistance from the largest and most powerful players to move from traditional, amoral capitalism to the ethical, impact investing sort.
“The capacity for truly independent thought is first of all rare, and second of all lonely. And so to pursue that as an investor is critically important, yet really, really difficult.” – Matthew Weatherly-White
Impact investing means understanding (and caring about) the non-financial outcomes of investment. Until recently, it has been technically illegal to create a company in the United States for the purpose of creating societal value and pursuing non-financial returns. As such, there remain many substantial questions of impact investing for which there are not concrete answers; but in asking the questions (rather than ignoring them), we are taking steps in the right direction.
From Impact Investing to Conscious Capital
So what would happen if, instead of traditional currency, we sought to design, create and accumulate a new unit of value that was innately connected to improving the conditions of our global community, that we will be passing on to generations to come? Rather than the amoral (i.e. dispassionate, emotionless) nature of money today, what if we created capital that was imbued with consciousness?
As more and more people choose to invest with genuine impact investment firms – and impact investment firms continue to outperform their non-impact counterparts – the concept of conscious capital will emerge into the collective human consciousness, as a mechanism for folding our intentions into that which we choose to define, and use, as capital.
Conscious Capital means capital that is designed and deployed upon a foundation of transparency and accountability. Money with karma; with maturity; with memory; with wisdom.