22. September 2015 · Comments Off on Ewing Kauffman and Martin Shkreli: A Tale of Two Capitalisms · Categories: heros, people · Tags: ,

This is the story of two kinds of Capitalism; Mr. K’s Capitalism smiled. Shkreli’s Capitalism points at his dick.

Mr. K and Martin Shkreli, who would you rather spend a day with?

Who would you rather spend a day with?

I once got to hang out with Ewing Kauffman. It was in 1987 and my dad worked for him. Dad got word to the President of Marion Labs that his son, a teenager who just bought his first car, wasn’t following through on attaining the rank of Eagle Scout (surprise) and hoped Mr. K could help get him back on the Trail to Eagle. So, one summer afternoon Mr. K summoned me to his office at 9500 Ward Parkway in KC to talk about why I was faltering and maybe give me a nudge in the right direction.

We sat in Mr. K’s nice-but-not-ostentatious office and spent the first part of our meeting talking the importance of being an Eagle Scout. He talked about how he liked to hire Eagle scouts because it was a sign of someone who doesn’t quit.

I was a punk kid; a little suspicious of the agenda of any adult who was trying to get me to do something. Mr. K sensed this unease I guess. Because after a while he set the motivational agenda aside and our conversation turned to the ways a person can do some good in the world. Regardless of being the richest man I’d ever met, Ewing Kauffman was also the most benevolent. He’d donated millions (of 1987 dollars) to help kids go to school, even more millions for people to start businesses, and even more millions for people to just get by in the world.

I asked him about doing things for other people. Sure, I’d done these service projects but I mostly did them because I was told to or because it was required by school, etc.. I didn’t understand the way one goes about being of service to others as a part of their day-to-day life. Mr. K could only speak from his own experience. He told me that he saw his own financial success not as a means to help others, but as a reason to. His success in life built this moral path that led, inevitably, to doing things for other people. A path he followed until he died.

On September 21st, 2015 Mr. K would have been 99. This is also the day the story broke about how Martin Shkreli, wealthy President of a Pharmaceutical company raised the price of a Cancer and AIDS drug by 5,500 percent.

This is the story of two kinds of Capitalism; one responsible and one belligerent. Ewing Kauffman lived an uncommon Capitalism; his took time for people, respected and helped them, and tried to make the world a better place. Mr. K’s capitalism sought to reconcile corporate profits with human needs in a way that made everyone better. His capitalism obliged him to help produce positive and outcomes. He saw his success as an means and a call to help others. The more he succeeded, the more he felt he had to do. Mr. K’s Capitalism smiled.

Shkreli lives Capitalism at it’s worst; toxic, boastful, and meaningless. It’s an accumulation of wealth for the sake of wealth, not for the sake of doing good. It’s showing how you’ve mastered the art of pouring salt in wounds, and then up-charging for the salt. It’s one thing to fulfill your obligation to make money for your company. It’s another to be a morally upright person in the process. Shkreli’s Capitalism points at his dick.

I don’t imagine Shkreli will ever take a kid into his office to spend some time trying to help him. If he does, I feel sorry for the kid.

Note: I never made the rank of Eagle. I retired a Life Scout; and I’m still just trying to do a good turn daily.

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