Oxfam’s annual updates on wealth concentration have become more and more concerning. In 2019, it was revealed that the 26 richest billionaires own as many assets as the 3.8 billion people who make up the poorest half of the planet’s population.
Concentration of wealth also means concentration of power, both political and social. The reverse is also true: Poverty means no power, no privileges, no opportunities. The bottom 50 percent of the world’s population, who own only a tiny fraction (one percent) of global wealth, belong to this category.
But the richest people aren’t necessarily bad people, engineering the ever-expanding concentration of wealth with misguided intentions. Wealth concentration is an ongoing process that thrives under the present economic system. Think of wealth like a magnet: The bigger the magnet the greater its pulling force. People with no magnet find it difficult to attract anything to themselves. If they manage to own some tiny magnets, retaining them becomes difficult, as bigger magnets will attract them.
Clearly, we need to reclaim power for the people, but jobs are not the answer — that’s just an old-fashioned idea that’s driving us mad. We’re born as human beings: go-getters, problem-solvers, hunters and gatherers — not job seekers. In the very fiber of our beings, we are entrepreneurs.
My mission in life is to create jobs through entrepreneurism, and I do that by establishing social business funds. Young people come to me with a business idea. In return for funding, they have to give back by creating more jobs. Every day we tell Bangladeshi entrepreneurs to repeat, “I’m not a job seeker. I’m a job creator.”
The unemployed and the impoverished often say, “The financial system isn’t built for me, it’s built for the rich,” so I created a social business hub to alleviate the issue of start-up money. We also connect our business owners to contacts and offer them advice. It’s important not to abandon our investees.
The current education system is geared to producing workers. Instead of the children being taught “know thyself,” they’re being taught “know thy boss.” They worry about things like: “What company am I going to work for? How will I please them? How will I apply to them?” But suppose, instead of a mere certificate, students graduate as entrepreneurs with a business plan, ready to utilize their creative power to get things done?
Social entrepreneurship can solve unemployment. Take five unemployed young people and turn them into employers. Social businesses recycle money; they don’t use it up. Entrepreneurs create the demand, and in the process, they become job creators. This is where we can bring the Golden Rule of compassion into the world of wealth and entrepreneurship: If you want to have opportunities for yourself, create opportunities for others.
Many of the rich are depleting our resources with abandon because they’re too busy making money. We have to change the idea that the economy must be driven by self-interest. Human beings are not robots. The system should give them a choice: Should you run a selfish business or a selfless business? I believe in selfless capitalism — a combination of selfishness and selflessness. The present system restricts people because it only allows selfishness, and that’s why it’s unstable.
Business schools are barely discussing compassion. They should be teaching both schools — of selflessness and selfishness — so a pupil can decide which one to feed more. It seems religion talks about compassion, but business doesn’t want to talk about it. Why? Why do you divide it? Why are you one person in the office and then another person out of it? Why can’t we be the same everywhere?
Wealth inequality could lead to mass extinction, unless we change the system. It’s this generation that will decide this world’s fate; there’s no more time. They must choose the Golden Rule of entrepreneurism — which is rooted in compassion — to ensure that wealth can be filtered downward as well as upward.