The phrase “living capital” has at least two meanings.
First, natural environments, people, and societies are all alive in the usual sense of being vigorous, vital, and animated. Capitalism was in the past, and still often is today, guilty of reducing the living value of natural, human, and social resources to grossly quantifiable and consumable land, water, minerals, timber, wildlife, and labor. Little thought has yet been put into how we ought to work to live within our means, in the sense of restoring, and even growing, global stocks of resources in a sustainable fashion.
But many today are progressively shifting their conceptions of the universe of capital assets away from the classical metaphor of an infinite resource well made to be mechanically conquered and consumed. In its place are emerging new metaphors of interdependent and limited resources that must be constantly renewed and nurtured. It is right and good that we learn how to make ourselves properly accountable for living capital assets in ways that respect and care for the value of all life, human and otherwise.
And it is precisely in making ourselves accountable that there is a
deeper lesson to be learned about living capital. A second sense of
what it means for capital to be living becomes apparent when we come to
understand that capital is dead not only when it exists as inanimate
machinery, property, cash, or credit.
Capital assets can be
also be considered dead when they are resources that are unleveragable
and unfungible. Capital resources that have not been brought to life
have value that can be recognized, accepted, and exchanged only at the
most local level, in the most concrete form. Living capital, however,
is mobile. It travels. It is leveragable and fungible because it has a
common currency as a medium of exchange. And there we see the truth of
McLuhan's maxim, the medium is the message.
Copyright 1995-2014 Living Capital Metrics Last updated May 9, 2014.