Wednesday, April 28, 2010

7) Being Green, Seeing Red




n this essay, you will read about Responsibility.  Key words include: 'Show me the money', ‘green’ = social responsibility, ‘green’ = ‘wet’/new/inexperienced, ‘green’ = money, ‘Moolah’, ‘green-backs’, ‘wet-backs’, ‘saw-bucks’ ($5), ‘two-bits’ (25¢), ‘green-eyed monster’ (jealousy), 'Being Green’, ‘Seeing Red'.  You have as much time (i.e. a lifetime) to complete the questions.  Please use a No. 2 pencil in case you wish to change your answers.  Please show all work in the margins.  Warning: Anyone caught cheating might be expelled; if you are not caught, you might be rewarded - Big Time.

          'Round up the usual suspects', the famous, intriguing line at the end of 'Casablanca' that represents a convenient excuse for misrepresentation and a misleading abuse of power, but that also honorably protects a greater good, shows compassion, and performs a personal favor.

            When are we responsible?  To whom are we responsible?  How do we act responsibly?  How can we BE responsible?

            We live in a Democratic society (government); we live in a Capitalist society (economics).

(‘Democratic’ ( Unabridged/Random House Dictionary): “pertaining to or characterized by the principle of political or social equality for all”, from Greek)

(‘Capitalism’ (Investopedia Financial Dictionary): “An economic system based on a free market, open competition, profit motive and private ownership of the means of production.  Capitalism encourages private investment and business, compared to a government-controlled economy.  Investors in these private companies (i.e. shareholders) also own the firms and are known as capitalists.”)

Due to human nature, Capitalism tends to, not only promote self-interest, but often exaggerate it.  A healthy person balances mind-body & spirit, doing with being, and being loyal, simultaneously, to both one's self and society (it is assumed that people are a social being, requiring the company and help of others).

            In addition, modern Peoples have a Social Contract with their government; the government is there with the permission of the People, to promote the interests of those they govern.

            (‘Govern’ ( House): “to rule over by right of authority”, whose derivation/etymology comes from the Greek “to steer a ship”).

Government is comprised of members of society who have pledged their fiduciary commitment to the good of the people, above their own.

(‘Fiduciary’ (Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law, © 1996): “one often in a position of authority who obligates himself or herself to act on behalf of another (as in managing money or property) and assumes a duty to act in good faith and with care, candor, and loyalty in fulfilling the obligation”.)

In the USA, as Abe Lincoln so eloquently recited it at the end of his, rather short, Gettysburg Address in 1863, “-- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.  (BTW, the anniversary of his assassination was April 24th; just a few days ago.)

            Individuals have freedoms, and enjoy civil rights that extend only to the point at which they might infringe upon the rights of others.  Corporate Citizens possess all of the same rights and responsibilities as a ‘Real Person’ (with the possible exception of its inability 'to plead the Fifth').

However, in the mad rush for newfound honor and integrity, many companies, want to show you 'green' in order to attract your 'green'.

            Right now, they may be addressing the greater good, but I fear we must remain vigilant.  Vigilance is our citizenry responsibility, as humankind, governments, and Corporate America all have dubious histories.

            In order to ensure our evolution, we must foster the concept of Responsibility. I, for one, prefer not to see society stagnate, or devolve, or disintegrate and become extinct.  (I've spent far too much time taking care of, and improving myself!)

            I believe in living for today, while planning for tomorrow, and being true to myself.  I like to do 'my part', 'the right thing', help people, and animals, and be a good person, a good neighbor, and a good citizen; all the stuff we were taught in grade school, like that the police are our friends, and that we should vote, pay our taxes, serve on juries, and ‘cross at the green’.

I also believe that there's enough money out there to be made legally, ethically, and responsibly, to go around.

            And maybe, one day, our reward will be to no longer need money, except as coin collectors, historians and competitors in my Annual Monopoly Championship of the Universe.

            Unfortunately, almost daily, we seem to hear of Real Persons and Corporate Citizens who seem unenlightened and selfish to the point of infringing on their neighbor’s rights, or actually harming others -  whether it be an individual, a company’s shareholders, his/her constituency, society and even non-US Citizens of the World.

            So how do we put our capitalist investment money where our mouths - or hearts - or higher selves are?  Here’s one idea.

A Mutual Fund is a form of corporation.  Instead of operating a regular business, it mutually pools the money of many investors, to invest, based on a stated objective.  So long as it pays out 90% of its profits, it does not have to pay corporate income taxes (which would reduce the amount of profit available to distribute to you).

The benefits can include: 1) professional investment management (i.e. they are trained & work full time), 2) diversification (i.e. safety through numbers’ by having many more investments than you could afford yourself), 3) lower investment minimums, 4) tax-management (e.g. record-keeping & strategic trading to keep taxes low), 5) liquidity/marketability (i.e. you can get in and out easily), 6) lower costs (e.g. economies of scale for better prices on trading or other discounts), and 7) opportunities that may not be available to you otherwise (e.g. reserved offerings, new issues).

Many mutual funds cater to various forms of social responsibility; the investment category is referred to as SRI - Socially Responsible Investing.

            The category includes everything from avoiding 'Sin' stocks (e.g. Alcohol, tobacco, pornography) or the Defense industry, to supporting religious values (e.g. Christian, Muslim), or workplace values including executive compensation caps, or clean/renewable/sustainable energy (e.g. solar, water, wind).

                Many corporations are ‘jumping on the bandwagon’ and touting their 'greenness' and social responsibility.  In return, they hope to attract your ‘green’.  But ‘caveat emptor’ (buyer beware).


            Nevertheless, maybe the travails of the last decade shall help to us to ‘turn a corner’ or ‘reach a new plateau’ in human development.  Have you heard of ‘Capitalism II’? (Not the game; see Prof. Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Investment Strategist, Philosopher & Author (recently: ’The Black Swan’) on Charlie Rose:

Then again, since all things are cyclical, could that simply mean we will face new challenges such as World War or some other destructive force?  I know not - which is why I live for today while I still plan for tomorrow.

             (SFN, BTW, always has and always will be 'green' - by any definition you choose.  It’s what we do; it’s who we are.  It’s a high bar.  (

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