If a couple of old pensioners called Mervyn and Warren insisted that you sit next to them for a minute while they give you the benefit of their advice, you’d be forgiven for respectfully accepting their offer but privately hoping it won’t last longer than the time it takes you to sink the lukewarm cuppa you’ve just been handed by their stony-faced young careworker.
But when those senior citizens are giants of finance (one a swashbuckling 83-year-old multi-billionaire, the other a retired custodian of global levers of finance) – and the advice is their pronouncements on our economic wellbeing, then it is worth taking heed.
“Only a fundamental rethink of how we, as a society, organise our system of money and banking will prevent a repetition of the crisis that we experienced in 2008.”
Those are the words of the former Governor of the Bank of England and railway porter’s son, Mervyn King – and he should know, given that he was in the saddle when the bucking bronco of 2008’s financial crisis brought the world’s economies to its knees. In isolation, Lord King (as he’s now modestly known) is hardly going to set the world alight with this less than earth-shattering revelation – but when considered in tandem with the views of another of the business world’s most enigmatic figures, it takes on a different perspective.
“There is a class war. It is being waged by my class, the rich, and we are winning.” Those are the words of Warren Buffet, a one-time pinball-machine investor who has an estimated personal fortune of $62bn – 99% of which he has pledged to give away to charitable causes. Every year, in his capacity as CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, he writes a letter to his shareholders. This year’s letter is 18,000 words long – which is almost as long as the title of Mervyn’s new book: The End Of Alchemy: Money, Banking And The Future Of The Global Economy.
Warren Buffet’s remark wasn’t intended as a pompous boast – it was an alarm call. Like all sensible capitalists he understands that the route to wealth must be made accessible to as many people as possible – otherwise the system collapses. If there is no avenue for ambition then all we are doing is driving at high speed into the dead-end inevitability that is system breakdown.
So when you sit down with those two old codgers – Warren and Mervyn – to listen to their pearls of financial wisdom, why not offer them some wise words of your own? Those words being crowd and funding. Because if Mervyn truly wants to “fundamentally rethink our system of money” and Warren is genuinely concerned that capitalism is under threat from “class war being waged by the rich” – then the focus of their solution should be the stony-faced young careworker who handed you that lukewarm cup of tea as you sat down.
Because if there is no stakeholder future for the young then there is no genuine future for any of us.
Crowdfunding can provide that stakeholder future.