AS THE CONSCIENTIOUS middle child of Holocaust survivors, my objectives as a young man were narrow and conventional: to become a better person, build a strong and loving family, achieve financial security and find happiness. I worked hard, was lucky in love and health, and built several successful businesses. Twenty-five years ago I was able to lift my eyes and expand my horizons. It was time to give back. I began to volunteer a large proportion of my time and financial resources to community and philanthropy. These beginnings are hardly the makings of an economic radical. But my story has an unexpected twist.
Dipping in and out of business, community and philanthropy, combined with curiosity, a love of learning and a dutiful nature have, for me, been a potent and dangerous combination. I was increasingly confronted by two incompatible worldviews. On one hand I believed that our economic system, underpinned by capitalism, was a force for good, creating enormous wealth for society. I believed that those who create the goods and services that people need deserve the profit they earn – and the idea that profit should be aligned with social value is essentially the vision laid out by the father of economics, Adam Smith, more than 200 years ago. At the same time, I’ve come to understand over the past twenty-five years, and the past three years in particular, that there is a vast gulf between this vision of the economy and the way it operates in practice.
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