Capitalism – John Fullerton’s Regenerative Capitalism

So the first thinker who speaks to some of the points I’ve been considering lately is John Fullerton. Mr. Fullerton was once the COO of JP Morgan Bank and had a successful career for 20 odd years. During the Morgan-Chase merger he began to question his industry and left. He came to believe that the financial system is deeply flawed and founded the Capital Institute as a result. He aims to educate the public about “Regenerative Capitalism.” Regenerative Capitalism has several tenets, but essentially he wants to create a self-sufficient, self-sustaining biomimetic economy that fits in a holistic way to the limits of our biophysical environment. Lots of words there…

One thing Mr. Fullerton acknowledges is that there are physical limits to growth on earth. I don’t mean “Well, human intellect is infinitely creative so we’ll think of something”, no, he acknowledges that the Earth is physically a limited resource itself and that a large, large amount of it is unusable to humanity. So how does the Earth continue to sustain life? Life is part of a regenerative cycle, so we should strive to emulate this cycle in order to similarly sustain life. This heavily implies one thing though: Growth must eventually stop and simply be sustained. As he puts it “Growth is the ideology of a cancer cell.”

My thoughts: The fact that Mr. Fullerton attempts to sever the relationship between growth and Capitalism, especially as a former banker himself, is novel, necessary, and admirable. He tends to lead into flowery, hippie BS stuff a lot, but that’s par for the course with most environmentally minded initiatives and I don’t hold it against him. My biggest issue is that Fullerton doesn’t offer an institutional way forward, but he defines a better place to get to and hits a key issue in our system: growth.

Growth as a systemic problem tends to be fairly controversial I find. My thought is that growth is a good thing, but too much of a good thing is too much of a good thing. Our economy is defined by ad creep, hyperinflation, neocolonialism driven by consumerism – essentially issues predicated on out of control growth. If it is possible to sever growth from our capitalist system, it s indeed worth looking at if for nothing else to be engaged selectively so that it does not compel corporations and companies to make dire decisions in order to return the minimum dividends their stakeholders demand.

I know this one was a little vague, but I still think it was necessary to at least put this out there, the radical notion of a steady-state capitalistic system.

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