Giving Capitalism a Social Conscience
For more than 40 years, Muhammad Yunus, the Bangladeshi founder of the Grameen Bank and recipient of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, has been asserting that the most powerful way to eradicate poverty is to unleash the untapped entrepreneurial capacity of people everywhere. “Poverty is not created by poor people,” he says. “It’s created by the system we built. Poor people are like a bonsai tree. You take the best seed from the tallest tree in the forest, but if you put it in a flower pot to grow, it grows only a meter high. There’s nothing wrong with the seed. The problem is the size of the pot. Society doesn’t give poor people the space to grow as tall as everybody else. This is the crux of the matter.”
Yunus has recently written a new book, “A World of Three Zeros: The New Economics of Zero Poverty, Zero Unemployment, and Zero Net Carbon Emissions,” in which he argues that capitalism is in crisis and remains moored in a flawed conception of human motivation. He proposes a far more robust role in the economy for “social businesses,” which he defines as “non-dividend” companies “dedicated to solving human problems.”
At 77, Yunus shows no signs of slowing down. He reports on an astonishing array of work he has been involved in — supporting and codeveloping social businesses (often in partnership with large corporations) in Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, France, Haiti, India, Japan, Uganda and numerous other countries.