Take your two bottom lines, label them to your own satisfaction. Mine are God and Mammon. Those two axes define four quadrants. In one quadrant you do well for God by doing good for Mammon. That is the world of social venture philanthropy. The promoters like to pretend that this quadrant is the largest or only one. We can all do well by doing good. But the most interesting quadrant is the one in which we do very well for God and not at all well for our own worldy self interest. Benefaction means good deeds. Those who peacefully resist injustice and die for the world we want are doing a good deed. They are not doing well by doing good, unless you believe that eternal life, or the kingdom within, is their reward.
How many kind of capital are there? We have certainly financial capital, but it seems from my reading in venture philanthropy and related fields that we also have human capital, social capital, moral capital, political capital, spiritual capital, and many more kinds of capital, almost too many to count. When we systematically misdescribe God's gifts, or those of the holy spirit, in the language of Mammon, how is that account squared?
In the Temptation of the Kingdom, Jesus was given a choice of two bottom lines. He was not given the choice of both bottom lines. What was the problem with Satan? Was he stupid? Our new social capital marketeers could have seduced Jesus himself.
The price we pay by investing so heavily in market-speak is sin and death. Our own dead eyes are the negative balance we carry. Jesus made the blind see and the dead walk. When he returns perhaps we will have the Rapture, or maybe we will simply slough off our deadness and rise albeit briefly to eternal life.
Clearly we need another category: capital capital, which refers to our available supply of market imagery.
Which brings to mind one of my favorite McLuhan quotes: "Man's reach must exceed his grasp or what's a metaphor?"
Posted by: Jeff Trexler | May 11, 2008 at 10:17 AM
I'd like to give the concept of capital back to the cost accountants .. and while I am at it, ROI.
The problem is that eventually everything leads to some sort of unconscious (and constant) reckoning of "what's in it for me", regardless of whether you even want to think like that .. can't escape it, 'cuz everyone else is thinking like that, even if unconsciously.
I have friends (well, used to have) who think that thinking, and asking, "what's in it for me" is the height of being shrewd and aware of what's going on. They think other ways of thinking are lame, for sissies, or unrealistic.
Using accounting principles to run societies will some day be seen as antithetical to, and detrimental to, human society.
Posted by: JJ Commoner | May 11, 2008 at 10:26 AM
We will look back from the poisonous slag heap,and wonder, "Who was doing the accounting as we destroyed the planet?"
Posted by: Phil | May 11, 2008 at 12:08 PM