Opinions vary, but the economic forecast for 2014 is generally optimistic, if only we invest wisely!

The start of the new year is a time to focus on making a few changes in your life. And for savvy investors that should mean an opportunity to rejig your portfolio. Predicting how markets will perform in 2014 is difficult. But there are plenty of optimists who believe gains can be made by picking the most promising investment profolios, those with the highest possible added value.

However, a wise invester who does not wish to have his fingers burnt again, needs to reflect more carefully on how to invest this time around, remembering the day when in September 2008 the global financial system  crumbled and was  shattered to pieces.

As has been noted many times over, our poverty in this globalised world is not that of the wallet but rather that of social connectedness. It is true, whilst globalisation has made us neighbours it has failed to make us brothers and sisters. This deregulated and money-oriented globalisation not only demonstrates a profound lack of fraternity, but it also manifests the absence of a culture of solidarity.

The Dalai Lama was once asked what surprised him most. He replied: "Man, because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future. He lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived."

Now let me share with you the words and sentiments of a young executive, a CEO, earning a lot of money, with bonuses, power, and more: “Now it's all about Productivity, Pay, Performance and Profit - the four Ps – which are fuelled by the three Fs: Fear, Frustration and Failure. Just sometimes I wish that in the midst of these Ps (& Fs), there was some time left for another set of four Fs: Families, Friends, Festivals and Fun.”

You see, we need values, we need love, friendship, kindness, generosity, sympathy, empathy, and compassion to be the guiding principles of all we do. In all, we need to be for the common good. Otherwise, no amount of money, capital, technology, IT, theories and policies, deregulation and privatisation can save us from our own mistakes, the crises of our own making.

Thus my New Year resolution is: I will carry on and continue to invest in the “Common Good Portfolio”. I deeply believe that if we all work together for the common good, we can turn these difficult times into something that can have a significant beneficial effect for all.

Let us in this New Year recall the wisdom of Adam Smith, “father of modern economics”, who was a great moral philosopher first and foremost. In 1759, sixteen years before his famous Wealth of Nations, he published The Theory of Moral Sentiments, which explored the self-interested nature of man and his ability nevertheless to make moral decisions based on factors other than selfishness. In The Wealth of Nations, Smith laid the early groundwork for economic analysis, but he embedded it in a broader discussion of social justice and the role of government. Today we mainly know only of his analogy of the ‘invisible hand’ and refer to him as defending free markets; whilst ignoring his insight that the pursuit of wealth should not take precedence over social and moral obligations.

We are taught that the free market as a ‘way of life’ appealed to Adam Smith but not that he thought the morality of the market could not be a substitute for the morality for society at large. He neither envisioned nor prescribed a capitalist society, but rather a ‘capitalist economy within society, a society held together by communities of non-capitalist and non-market morality’. As it has been noted, morality for Smith included neighbourly love, an obligation to practice justice, a norm of financial support for the government ‘in proportion to [one’s] revenue’, and a tendency in human nature to derive pleasure from the good fortune and happiness of other people.

Building a new economics system will demand challenging and novel ways of thinking, perspectives that encompass the broad swath of human experience and wisdom, from the natural sciences and all the social sciences, to the philosophical and spiritual values of the world’s major religions and of indigenous peoples as well.  The task before us is a daunting one, and wisdom in how to proceed will come from a multiple of sources, and must embrace the panorama of cultural and disciplinary perspectives.  Let us not carry on constructing a global society that is materially rich but spiritually poor. Let us begin to construct globalisation for the common good, as a path to construct a just and sustainable world.

Globalisation for the Common Good Initiative (GCGI): Where we connect our intellect with our humanity

To understand, appreciate, and face the challenges of the contemporary world requires us to focus on life’s big picture. Whether it is war and peace, economics and the environment, justice and injustice, love and hatred, cooperation and competition, common good and selfishness, science and technology, progress and poverty, profit and loss, food and population, energy and water, disease and health, education and family, we need the big picture in order to understand and solve the many pressing problems, large and small, regional or global.

The “Big Picture” is also the context in which we can most productively explore the big perennial questions of life - purpose and meaning, virtues and values.

In order to focus on life’s bigger picture and guided by the principles of hard work, commitment, volunteerism and service; with a great passion for dialogue of cultures, civilisations, religions, ideas and visions, at an international conference in Oxford in 2002 the Globalisation for the Common Good Initiative (GCGI) and the GCGI Annual International Conference Series were founded.

We recognise that our socio-economic problems are closely linked to our spiritual problems and vice versa. Moreover, socio-economic justice, peace and harmony will come about only when the essential connection between the spiritual and practical aspects of life is valued. Necessary for this journey is to discover, promote and live for the common good. The principle of the common good reminds us that we are all really responsible for each other – we are our brothers' and sisters' keepers – and must work for social conditions which ensure that every person and every group in society is able to meet their needs and realize their potential. It follows that every group in society must take into account the rights and aspirations of other groups, and the well-being of the whole human family.

One of the greatest challenges of our time is to apply the ideas of the global common good to practical problems and forge common solutions. Translating the contentions of philosophers, spiritual and religious scholars and leaders into agreement between policymakers and nations is the task of statesmen and citizens, a challenge to which Globalisation for the Common Good Initiative (GCGI) adheres. The purpose is not simply talking about the common good, or simply to have a dialogue, but the purpose is to take action, to make the common good and dialogue work for all of us, benefiting us all.

What the GCGI seeks to offer - through its scholarly and research programme, as well as its outreach and dialogue projects - is a vision that positions the quest for economic and social justice, peace and ecological sustainability within the framework of a spiritual consciousness and a practice of open-heartedness, generosity and caring for others. All are thus encouraged by this vision and consciousness to serve the common good.

The GCGI has from the very beginning invited us to move beyond the struggle and confusion of a preoccupied economic and materialistic life to a meaningful and purposeful life of hope and joy, gratitude, compassion, and service for the good of all.

Perhaps our greatest accomplishment has been our ability to bring Globalisation for the Common Good into the common vocabulary and awareness of a greater population along with initiating the necessary discussion as to its meaning and potential in our personal and collective lives.

In short, at Globalisation for the Common Good Initiative we are grateful to be contributing to that vision of a better world, given the goals and objectives that we have been championing since 2002. For that we are most grateful to all our friends and supporters that have made this possible.

Wishing you all well,

Happy New Year

Kamran Mofid, Founder, GCGI

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