What kind of society do we want and how do we create it?
The first step in deciding what an entrepreneurial society should look like or whether it is even feasible we need to decide what we want as a society. While we like to blame others for things we don’t like such as offshoring of jobs, income inequality and environmental problems we as the people of society cause them to happen. We do this by how we spend our money and time, who we vote for, who we work for and other activities. Therefore we will need to align our activities with what will bring about the society we want for the future.
As a start, do we want to retain the shopping driven consumer culture we have been living for a good part of our lives. There is a lot of evidence that this mode of living has not made us happier or has created a better place to live. A lot of evidence points to the fact that it has the opposite impact. We have also driven corporations to reduce costs by moving production to lower cost locations and automating away manual processes (i.e. jobs). Further, it has created a lot of debt for people, companies and countries. So even if we have a desire for a growth based society we need to do a better of job of it.
If we don’t have a growth driven economy we have something called steady state where things remain in a holding pattern. This steady state economy is not the same as a failed or stalled growth based economy. Instead it is one where the plan is not to grow but to live with what we have. It is a more egalitarian society and has gained a lot of popularity in recent years with the economic and ecological concerns that exist. I just wonder whether we know how to live in this type of steady state. Unless we were able to somehow gain unanimous agreement there will always be some groups that will try to move ahead either economically or militarily.
So we need progress and we need markets but we need to do them better. We can decide to do growth differently and to make sure we have real markets instead of the distorted ones we have today. Shouldn’t people be able to look forward to having a job that enables them to live fulfilled lives and be connected to society? You shouldn’t have to be elite or rich to enjoy life. Whether or not you believe in global warming is it reasonable to believe we can continue to grow in the way we have and not overrun the resources of the planet? This is especially true if developing countries also want to grow and enjoy prosperity. Shouldn’t technological advances improve our lives in some way rather than being wasted on trivial applications? How can we keep people as productive participants in society as they age? Wouldn’t we prefer products and services that create value over ones that divert existing value towards selected segments of society? As individuals we have to think about what is important and ask ourselves these and other questions.
I am not suggesting that everyone will get together and make some grand plan on the structure of society. That would not be possible and there probably isn’t some homogeneous model that would work for everyone anyway. We also can’t let governments decide since we have already seen what planned economies turn into. It will be something that will evolve over time as we make the choices we make. Society will evolve with the actions of its people.
So in effect it will be the mirror image of the entrepreneurial side of society. Entrepreneurs will create organizations based on what they think people will want and what will make society better off. As consumers, employees and voters we will determine which of these venture will succeed and which ones won’t. This bi-directional action will help shape organizations as the organizations shape society and its citizens. So we all need to start looking at our actions as an opportunity to shape society and not just as random acts. That way we can get it right and create a society that is worth living in for everyone.