Mary Rose Cook

The C word

Bill Gates recently gave a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos. He argued that “creative capitalism” was the way to satisfy both philanthropic and economic concerns. The idea is this: the increase in standards of living brought by capitalism mainly benefit the rich, so companies should put more effort into developing products and services for the poor.

The phrase “creative capitalism” brings to mind another alliterative pair of c-words: compassionate conservatism.

Both these concepts are, in effect, bargains. Creative capitalism says to companies, “If you make products for poor people, you will be rewarded with greater profits.” Compassionate conservatism says to governments, “Give control of social services to external organisations who you are strongly aligned with and you’ll be rewarded with goodwill from the population and you can distance yourselves from any bad results.”

And both these bargains are bound up with capitalism, which is centred not on the free market or the accumulation of wealth, but instead on the idea of false choice. Yes, you may buy from or work for a number of companies, but they are all motivated by the same desires and thus, really, you only have one choice.