Wednesday, May 31, 2017
Book Review: The Clean Money Revolution by Joel Solomon
By Joel Solomon, with Tyee Bridge
New Society Publishers
Earlier this year, journalist Jane Mayer released her book Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right. It’s billed by publisher Penguin Random House as a look at how elite plutocrats have bankrolled a systematic plan to alter American democracy. Mayer writes in the preface that Donald Trump’s election as president was a huge victory for these billionaires.
The Clean Money Revolution: Reinventing Power, Purpose and Capitalism, by Joel Solomon with Tyee Bridge, is the antidote to Dark Money and the powers behind it.
Solomon, a Vancouver-based philanthropist who tries to use his money to create positive social and environmental change, appeals to others who, like him, stand to inherit money over the coming decades. He wants the $40 trillion that he says will change hands as the Boomers pass on their money to their children in North America by 2050 to go to good use, rather than investing in companies that contribute to climate change or exploit the poor.
Here’s how he defines clean money: “Clean money is money aligned with a purpose beyond self-interest. Money for the commons. Money that makes the world better. Money regenerating ecosystems and engendering a healthy balance between people and planet. Money that builds true security: long-term, safe, fair resilience.”
He comes at the idea of clean money from a position of privilege and he recognizes that. “I believe I am one of the luckiest people in the world,” he writes. Solomon grew up in Tennessee, the son of a man who got wealthy building shopping malls. He writes of the prejudice he experienced as a Jewish person and of finding out he inherited polycystic kidney disease. He also inherited enough money build his dreams of a better world.
Today, Solomon is involved in several ventures, all aimed at creating social change. He is chairman of Renewal Funds, a $98-million venture capital company. He is a founding member of the Social Venture Network, a group of business leaders that invest in social enterprises, Business for Social Responsibility, a non-profit organization that works with business to build a just and sustainable world, Tides Canada, a foundation that funds non-profit organizations, and is the board chairman of Hollyhock, a non-profit learning centre on Cortez Island.
In The Clean Money Revolution, he tells readers how he got there and explains his vision for a positive future. The book is an interesting mix of memoir and manifesto that also includes several profiles of and interviews with other socially aware entrepreneurs, which Solomon says are signs the clean money movement is catching on.
He calls money, “the sly foil, the crass seducer” and says “an obsession with growing and clinging to money can damage us and those we love. We need self-awareness and spiritual grounding for safe, healthy engagement with that kryptonite-like substance called money.”
His vision is to create a new world for seven generations into the future. “I hope that five hundred years from now, people will be highly advanced, living in a better world where poverty, disparity, lifestyle diseases, slavery, climate chaos, and refugees are stories form history. One where our infrastructural systems — food, housing, buildings, travel, good and services — work intelligently within natural limits and thriving ecosystems for an appropriately sized human population.” He says logic tells him it can’t be done, but nonetheless he has chosen to believe in a positive future.
Those who are either about to leave a large sum of money to their children or those who are about to receive such a sum would do well to read Solomon’s book — it may change your ideas about investing, endowments and how to make the world a better place.