Sonal Shah Discusses Capitalism in the 21st Century at the United States Institute of Peace

Olivia Clark — June 22, 2018

On June 21st, Network member Sonal Shah spoke at By The People, a four-day arts and dialogue festival in DC. Her discussion, together with Todd Hitt, CEO of Kiddar Capital, at the United States Institute of Peace, focused on capitalism in the 21st century and its relationship to the rising wealth gap in the United States.

Shah’s remarks were centered around the ideas that society needs to consider the social sides of capitalism, and that business decisions need to be made with the long-term in mind. She and Hitt agreed that many business decisions in particular are made in consideration of short-term profit rather than long-term benefit or the public good.

She then focused on the value of society in our investments, remarking that success should be based on social good, rather than other external factors:

“The question is, how do we incent into the system itself the way you are promoted, the way you are given your bonuses? It’s always just based on how much money you made. Not whether you created value, but whether you created profit… I don’t know that we distinguish in the marketplace the difference between value and profit.”

Shah, remarking that she does not feel the country will address this issue until it has fully hit a “crisis point,” hopes to see a change from current business school students, and the careers they build. This, she claims, will require a change in how people view their jobs. The next generation of business needs to hold both the social impact and the for-profit in equal import.

To current students, Shah advised:

“I think you all need to push us, because the system by itself is not going to get pushed. And you all are the workforce of the future and everybody wants you to stay, so push us to do that, and I think it’s super important. I hope more people go work in government because it takes this type of thinking in government to think about how do we think long term and how do we solve some of those problems. It’s too easy to just be on the outside and say ‘government should do X,’ it requires people to go into government and also to make that change. And I hope some of you, both younger and older, will think about going into government because it requires new thinking. It really does. It requires the government to be pushed too, and not be uncomfortable in that portion of it. And then finally, be creative on solutions. Don’t just because of what you see and that’s what we did in the past, that’s not good enough. If digitization is coming— and it is coming— there are no solutions right now… Be in the process of creativity, don’t be in the process of what did the past hold because the past is changing, fast.”

Watch the full discussion here.