Excerpt from World Inc.
The Panic and Resolve of Corporate Leaders
Over the past one hundred years or so, innovative industrial products from milk containers to high-speed trains have brought many of us wealth, freedom, and the promise of something better. We've heard so many tales of Ben Franklin — like modern tycoons, who started out walking to school barefoot and ended up founding their own billion-dollar businesses. We look forward to and find hope in these rags-to-riches stories, in which innovative leaders and investors reap the benefits of their new, superior products. Whether it is a better valve in an artificial heart, a new Lockheed Martin Air Force fighter jet that can fly faster than Mach II, or simply a better toothpaste or mouthwash for aching and aging gums, we are a culture that understands competition, its benefits, and its market needs. We also know, maybe unconsciously, about the panic and resolve this competition creates beneath business success.
This competition, while fostering new and better products, also creates an underbelly, a dark side, to business successes — from the Enron scandal to the products that do as much to destroy social values as to embrace them. This industrial underbelly has led to pollution, climate change issues on a global scale, resource depletion, new forms of economic imperialism, and regional resource wars over water, clean air, and trees. From the existing oil wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and perhaps other hot spots in the Middle East and Asia, to this new generation of water wars I see percolating in India and China, we can expect to pay a mounting price for goods we need to support our lifestyles, if not merely to survive — if current rates of consumption continue with our existing set of energy and consumer products.
This is a challenge as alluring as the tales of glory and success, for it encourages our search for superior products — from the cars we drive to work to the many fossil-fuel-based appliances in our kitchens and the stunning spectrum of beautiful electronic goods in our playrooms. However, now the search focuses not only on consumer convenience, but also on what these new and better products can do to create a happier and healthier world....