You don't know me but my name's Ian and I'm a capitalist. I know you won't find it fashionable but it's true. I invest capital in my business expecting a return. The bigger the better if I'm honest.
I set up my own business in January this year; already we employ over 70 people, many of them in their first jobs. We put money in their bank accounts and provide a friendly and stable environment for them to develop their careers. If we didn't have the capitalist drive to reach our ambitious target of £100m sales by 2018, there's no way we would be employing so many people in such a short space of time. We're not alone. According to the Federation of Small Businesses there are an estimated 4.9 million businesses in the UK employing 24.3 million people. Do you really think this is such a bad thing? If you do I'd love you to visit my business and tell me what you'd do differently.
As a business owner, I'm concerned young people will take your ideas seriously because of your celebrity, pop culture status. So, in the interests of balance I'm calling for a revolution too - a revolution within the current system not outside it. You see, although I believe capitalism is to global prosperity what breathing is to human life I recognise it has as many imperfections as participants. Yes it was capitalism (not, as far as I can see, your revolutionary "brand" of socialism) that enabled the world to meet the millennium development goal of halving global poverty by 2015 five years early. Yes it is capitalism that puts the food on our tables and will pay for the move of your beloved West Ham to the Olympic Stadium. It even helps you sell your revolutionary Booky Wooks.
Capitalism is a massive force for good. It has helped us build a better world. But I recognise it also brought us the financial crisis when our reckless banks had to be bailed out. Payday lenders thought it was okay to charge the poorest in society interest rates up to 5000%. A desire to maximise profits put horse meat in our ready meals and has led to the use of indentured labour to cut the costs of our t-shirts.
These failings have made you angry and it's easy to see why. They make me angry too. The question is not whether but how we should respond. The anti-capitalist movement you support wants to tear the system down. But their prescriptions will only make Britons equally poor not progressively better off. Then there are those who seek to win political power by promising ever-increasing regulation of business and higher taxes for those best at it. This would strangle our economic recovery. Look at France if proof is required.
Of course we should deal with those who've broken the law and close loopholes which allowed malpractice to go unchecked. But that addresses an extreme minority. If the rest of us want to see a better, more ethical capitalism then we need a new blueprint to work to. So I'm offering five principles for an ethical capitalist revolution that would make a massive difference to business life whilst maintaining all that's good in the current system. If they'd been followed none of the bad examples would have happened. I can't think of one good reason why entrepreneurs cannot stick to them in 2015. Actually, there is a successful precedent in the great 19th century entrepreneurs who founded Lever Brothers, Cadbury, Rowntree and Boots. I'm hopeful you might agree with me that this type of change to the system would be much better than its overthrow.
Under my golden rules" businesses should:
1. Treat people how they'd like to be treated. Business is about relationships between people. If you rip customers off, treat staff unfairly or squeeze suppliers unduly then you're destroying the social capital that makes the world go round and denying your business the allies it needs.
2. Explain their offer clearly and deliver it reliably. Businesses have no valid reason to hide behind complex terms and conditions, use confusing jargon or offer products that don't do what a reasonable buyer would expect them to. It's short termism at its worst not to do business in a straight-forward, trustworthy way.
3. Offer value for money. Businesses should work out the value they're adding and charge for it - no less but no more. If they aren't adding value they 've no business doing the business in the first place.
4. Do business sustainably. Although I want to make a profit sooner rather than later business can't just be about making a fast buck. Surely capitalists should be concerned with building long term shareholder value. Making this the focus informs all decisions relating to investment, staff, remuneration and dividends. Relationships with employees, suppliers and customers look totally different when you have this perspective. Frankly, if you don't plan with a sustainable business model in mind you can't expect your business to even be in business over the longer term.
5. Consider the wider public interest. If capitalists seek to exploit every loophole, break the spirit if not the letter of the law and show insufficient regard to the environment the Government will be forced to take a tougher line against them. I don't want to live and work in an over regulated society. Red-tape is bad for business. But businesses must work harder to gain and maintain public trust if they want to be regulated with a light touch.
So I'm calling for companies to meet these golden rules in 2015 and for shareholders, commentators and politicians to hold them to account. I 'm convinced this is a revolution worth fighting for. It's also something that meets the desire for change whilst being likely to carry widespread support from all sections of society.
And to those who aren't sure I'd say this. We're lucky to live in one of the most open and flexible free market economies in the world. Let's not undermine this but instead work together to secure an even better, more successful future for capitalism in the UK addressing its weaknesses while building on its strengths. Come on Russell mate, you know this makes sense.