If asked for a one word explanation of what is most needed in U.S. public affairs today, I believe a substantial majority of business leaders would say, “Leadership.” What most science-respecting, innovative business leaders and investors would not likely initially think is that the leadership we most need in public affairs must come from them.
That is, however, exactly what the CEOs, entrepreneurs and investors who make up the Alliance for Business Leadership have learned from years of speaking with top experts and state and federal policy-makers. As stated in the Alliance’s Leadership Commitment, Alliance Leaders agree that “economic development and social justice are mutually reinforcing.” Specifically, Alliance leaders have agreed on the need to substantially increase public investments in education at all levels, to implement universal access to affordable healthcare and to effectively price carbon pollution to better meet the challenges of an increasingly global economy.
Alliance Leaders have applauded the emphasis of progressives on greater collective responsibility and the emphasis of conservatives on greater individual responsibility as Alliance Leaders have advocated for greater social and environmental responsibility. Alliance Leaders have discussed reconciling the progressive and conservative impulse towards “greater” responsibility through recognizing that the proper end of increased collective responsibility is to help empower individuals to embrace and master greater responsibility. As governments and businesses are made to serve the purposes of citizens exercising greater personal and public sovereignty.
This approach is both individually and collectively demanding and, in the eyes of many Alliance Leaders, no less than required for competitive success in an increasingly knowledge based, global economy. It is also consistent with professor Jerry Muller of Catholic University recognition of the need to focus on “human capital” formation in his recent cover article Capitalism & Inequality; What the Right and Left Get Wrong for Foreign Affairs March/April 2013. This call for greater individual and collective responsibility to empower the personally and publically sovereign citizen as the proper end of both public policy and business – might well be described as a commitment to “Revolutionary Responsibility.” This effort, however, is stymied by some think tanks, paid media and some politicians who assert U.S. “business” and “job creators” will be hurt if taxes are raised for investment in human capital formation or regulations are promulgated to advance citizens’ interests in the integrity of U.S. financial markets or to protect citizens’ air, water, soil and food from excessive pollution.
This is frustrating to Alliance Leaders who actually add high-paying U.S. jobs as they build or help build companies in high-tech, life sciences, health care, social media, the professions and in clean energy. As often wealthy Americans and business executives, Alliance Leaders know that the wealthiest 1% of Americans and global businesses are enjoying an absolutely unprecedented amount of liquidity and that the emerging global economy demands both ever better educated workers as well as dramatically increased concern about our environment. Furthermore, Alliance Leaders know first-hand that increased capital does not increase the number of U.S. jobs; they know instead that it is an increase in the purchasing power of U.S. customers that increases U.S. jobs (a fact of business life vividly explicated by venture capitalist Nick Hanauer in a recent Tedtalk; see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1w5OovJX8KA&list=PL2AE2611B1A749B87 ).
When Alliance Leaders have shared this perspective with policy experts and leading U.S. Governors and U.S. Senators who share Alliance Leaders’ commitment to greater social and environmental responsibility as a way to increase U.S. competitiveness, we have been told nothing would make a greater impact than having innovative business leaders who are expert at adding and investing in U.S. jobs step forward in their capacity of business leaders to help explain the short and long-term advantages of greater social and environmental responsibility. Which is exactly why the greatest unmet need in U.S. public affairs is for science respecting, innovative business leaders to step forward and lead publicly towards Revolutionary Responsibility.