Don't get too comfortable: they still hate you
Updated: Jan 21
The Conservative victory in December's General Election was not a sign that capitalism is forgiven. Over the next few weeks I will be explaining why.
For all of the mockery about Labour’s assertion that they ‘won the argument’ in December’s election, there are signs that public attitudes have been shifting towards Corbyn’s worldview, and that the British public is increasingly anti-capitalist and pro-government intervention.
A 2017 poll by Populus found 77% Britons in favour of capping executive pay, for example, and 64% thought that government should do more to regulate businesses. Strikingly, 60% agreed that some companies make so much profit that it cannot be justified – instead of backing the right of businesses to make as much as possible as long as their methods are legal.
Politicians are immune to neither the zeitgeist nor the views of their constituents and therefore government policy has also swayed away from laissez-faire policies towards intervention. A prime example would be Theresa May’s embrace of the energy price cap.
For people working in the private sector and grappling with hardening public attitudes and government policies, this shift can seem frustrating, confusing, frightening and downright unfair. You work hard, stay within the law, provide a service that your customers are content to buy – why should you not expect the same salary drawn by your mentors and managers? Why are you now expected to deliver social and environmental policy and goodness knows what else? The answers to these questions are two-fold, the first surprisingly simple: you need to care about these things because they matter to your bottom line. Reputations have foundered – and will continue to do so – on these rocks.
The second is bamboozling complex: to understand the drivers behind these grievances is the work of many lifetimes. Authors and academics and activists have devoted decades to the study of individual strands of the public anger that fuels anti-capitalist sentiments, be they white fragility, the patriarchy, income inequality, the attention economy... This list continues and the book pile grows and too often this makes understanding their arguments intimidating, time-consuming, threatening. But you don’t need to have read all of the books to make a small and functional step in understanding. You don’t need to become an expert to make positive steps for the world and your organisation. What you need is clarity about the problem and some understanding of the place that you and your organisation have in it.
Over the next few weeks I will be highlighting areas in which corporates score horrendous own-goals. This won’t be a comprehensive deep-dive, instead I am going to give you an overview of the problem, point out some great examples of leadership in the area, and offer a list of resources for anyone who wants to delve further. I will then keep those resource lists updated with new and relevant information so that you can check back when you need them.
We will kick off next week with income inequality and salary ratios – get in touch if you have read anything that has stimulated, irritated or inspired you on this topic!
Make sure to subscribe if you want to understand more about why people hate business and what we can do about it.