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SEP 18, 1998

Synchronous World Recession: Away from Crass Capitalism, Toward Inner “Satisfaction-ism”

By Yoshito Hori
iStock photo/phototechno

While envisioning scenarios for a synchronous world recession, I began to think about the era that would follow such a situation.

Imagine a situation in which the U.S. economy is in decline. The end of the century will see a simultaneous global recession, and one can predict that this will last a long time. Amidst this depression, the question will rise as to whether capitalism is really the best system for humanity.

Since communism collapsed, the only economic principle governing the world has been a capitalistic ideology that mobilizes the economy through a lust for money.

However, since capitalism is destroying nature and giving rise to problems such as global warming and environmental toxins, it may not necessarily be the best system in terms of the environment and human health. It’s time we begin a quest for a new framework.

Several years ago at the Harvard Business School, the bastion of capitalism, I learned all about the concept of markets and the principles of capitalism. At HBS, as with the Forbes ranking of wealthy people, the net worth you accumulate is the basic structure of the value system. In other words, this value system amounts to “those who make money = great.”

Over the past two years, I have scientifically studied methods necessary for making money by creating value for society. In all seriousness, I even bet a friend one dollar over who would have the highest net worth by the first day of 2001.

But when I look at the bubble in Japan, and the way people maintain a life of materialism amid the bubble in Asia, I wonder whether the scale of money really is so important. This doubt crept up inside me.

I think money, at the end of the day, is a scale of material value, a medium of exchange, a means for saving. It is nothing more and nothing less than coins and notes representing an economic concept. Even if you acquire enough money to become a billionaire, seen from another point of view, your “greatness” is hardly guaranteed.

Our way of thinking would change amidst a simultaneous world depression at the end of this century. I expect a paradigm shift away from the value system of capitalism. Is increasing GNP really that important in the first place? How much value comes from simply having more money? I think these doubts will start to rise up as a matter of course.

So, what on earth will be the new paradigm?

The first half of the 20th century was all about military power, the second half centered on capitalism, and I think that the 21st century will focus on inner satisfaction.

Simply put, I think we are entering an age in which value will depend on other things in place of how much money we make, such as: an abundance of heart; how much love, dreams, and emotion we inspire in others; or the number of people we guide toward a new way of living (this might mean a return to the value system of the era before capitalism and militarism).

As someone involved in business, my greatest interest is not in how much money I can make, but in how much value I can create, how much I am sharing my dream with good friends, how many people are receiving a quality education from my efforts, how many people I am able to show a way for bettering their lives.

In terms of venture capital investment, how much new value for society can be created? What is vital for me as an individual is how many good friends I have. For me, the network of staff and students at GLOBIS represent an immeasurable fortune.

Having said that, of course, sales and profits are also very important. Just as there are the numerical scales for these, there is the scale of the heart that determines how many people one is bringing satisfaction to. These two scales exist alongside each other, and are inextricably linked. The balance is very important.

As a manager, I have a responsibility to my stakeholders to increase sales and profits. If profit does not increase, I cannot pay salaries to staff or produce returns for stockholders. Many people will be unhappy. This part of business is still within the framework of the capitalist paradigm.

However, from now on, I feel that the source of sales and profit will be changed by applying the scale of how many people we provide with a sense of inner satisfaction. In other words, unless the products and services a company offers, as well as a company’s management principles, deliver a sense of psychological satisfaction, profits and turnover will not rise.

Therefore, even as we maintain the capitalist framework of sales and profit, I think society will begin to place higher priority on a new value system and scale.

Amid the social and economic chaos at the end of this era, I wonder how people will start to change their sense of value. The 21st century may become truly bountiful.