Thinking through all of the stock market strife over the past week I find myself in agreement with Elon Musk; that short selling is not an ethical activity appropriate for a stock market. Practices like short selling make the stock market little more than a casino. How can it be an ethical and sound business practice to sell stock you do not own? The ordinary citizen can’t sell a car he doesn’t own, or a house he doesn’t own. The only people who lease homes they don’t own are scammers and criminals. It may have been a bold move by a group of motivated traders to bring down big hedge funds, but the little guy will still end up losing in the long run. I think it’s time to change the rules of the game.
Perhaps the most notable reason for a short sale is to gain financially in a situation where the market isn’t moving in the way you want. And the only way to do it is to sell something you don’t own. It’s compelling evidence of a much bigger problem, a brand of capitalism based on greed, on the love of profit for profit’s sake. Another symptom: certain share holders’ desires for short term wins instead of long term stability and sustainable performance.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a businessman firmly on the side of capitalism and democracy. A dozen years ago I first began thinking about need-based versus greed-based capitalism. More recently I learned of an organization that promotes Conscious Capitalism, a way of doing business that encourages true corporate social responsibility, not just reporting based lip service to the idea. Its focus is on people, community, and the environment. It’s driving purpose is the production of goods and services that fill human needs in a socially and environmentally responsible way, and a reliance on profit as a reward for success rather than profit for profit’s sake. That’s my idea of need-based capitalism. It’s a kind of capitalism that can provide good jobs, encourage sustainable business growth, offer security in retirement, and address major environmental challenges quickly and timely.
In an era where the government expects its citizenry to provide for their own retirement and encourages that effort through IRA and 401k type investing, it’s unfair to expect the long term individual investor to continue risking his retirement at the hands of greed driven overseers of financial markets. It’s extremely risky to bet your retirement on the whims of brokers and traders, of hedge funds, and venture capitalists whose sole purpose seems to be to buy a business, strip it of its cash, put it deep in debt, close down most of its business activities and then part it out to buyers who hope to come away with a small piece that might still be profitable.
Now is the time to start converting to a new form a capitalism; one more focused on long term performance in a socially and environmentally responsible way, that generates steady rewards for all investors particularly those who must depend on those returns for their post-retirement financial stability. Maybe we should start by banning an already unethical and immoral process, short selling.
Looking for a dependable, sustainable, and socially responsible capitalism worth fighting for… Pops