Where Capitalism is a Thing of Beauty

23. August 2010

13. August 2010, 18:06:13 | Chris Meyer & Julia Kirby

Over the past year, we’ve been researching a book on how capitalism will evolve now that its center of gravity is moving away from mature, western economies. Looking around the world for companies that hint at capitalism’s next phase, we’ve tended to focus on businesses that an economist would say belong to an “emerging” stage of development — an ambulance service in Mumbai, for example, or aircraft manufacturer in Brazil. It hadn’t occurred to us that the cosmetics industry might be a source of inspiration.

It’s an industry, after all, that is so easy to see as representing the ugly excesses of the old capitalism. Made up of large companies who spend billions to create brands that delude us with illusions of eternal youth, its main achievement has been to create marketing channels capable of selling elaborate packaging (as well as some useful products, we acknowledge) at huge margins. If the best argument for capitalism is that it allocates resources efficiently, the cosmetics industry would not seem to be Exhibit A. Read the rest of this entry »