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Peter Tunjic Presenting at Better Boards

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Commercial Capitalism

Commercial capitalism is an economic system based on the concepts of capital, value, work and capitalisation

  • Capital is any store of value - human, intellectual, social, natural, manufactured and financial capital to name a few.

  • Value is a measure of the unique and differentiated capacity of each capital to do work. Value is the “energy” embodied in a capital.

  • Work represents the amount of energy required to transform one form of capital into another.

  • Value is created when the value returned from the transformation of capital is greater than that invested.

An economic system based on these logical principles is organised around the proposition of efficient capitalisation - the capacity/value returned is greater than the capacity/value invested for that return. The positive return on value being the essence of what it means to be commercial. The net outcome of commercial capitalism is the growth of the capitals. And an ever increasing capacity to do the work of human progress.

Contrast this with the current epoch which can best be described as "decapitalism".

Decapitalism is marked by a belief in the primacy of financial capital that leads to a systemic negative return on capitals - where the value (capacity/energy) invested and stored in social, human, intellectual, natural and other forms of capital is greater than the value (capacity/energy)received from that investment and stored in the form of profit.   Under the conditions of decapitalism financial capital increases but total value stored across all other forms of capital is in decline. It leads to a capitals crisis. More money but less overall capacity distributed to do the work.

The cause of the problem is the confusion between money and value. Capacity is the true currency of capitalism.  Money has capacity as a medium of exchange, and therefore it is a store of value. But as useful it is its capacity is limited. Chiefly because it exhaust its capacity by use (and non use). Spend a dollar and you no longer have it. Compare this with social and intellectual capital. Their capacity to do work may actually increase through use and therefore their capacity is greater.    

If the net capacity, accumulated in all forms of capital, increases as a result of any process or transaction that’s commercial. Moreover, value is agnostic when comes to the form of the capitals. What matters is the capacity of a capital to do the required work. There is no evidence that financial capital can do more work than the other forms of capital.

However, if the process of converting all other capitals into money results in more money but less overall value the process is, on the face of it, un-commercial.  Financial capital increased, but in aggregate less total energy/value was created.  In other words, what was exchanged for money, had more accumulated value/energy in it than the accumulated value in the money received.  That defies energy return on energy investment - the logic that governs the existence of all things including corporations. Deny that and eventually all things die.

Read more about the 3 c’s of commercial capitalism - value, capital and capitalisation.

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