In a post noting the death of San Diego business giant and philanthropist Sol Price Monday, I solicited comments reflecting your personal connections to the man and his work across the region.

Michael Shames, executive director and co-founder of the Utility Consumers’ Action Network, responded with a story about the first time he had lunch with Price. Shames was a young University of San Diego law student aspiring to a career as a corporate watchdog. Not long after that meeting, and motivated by Price’s business philosophy, Shames founded UCAN, a consumer protection group. Here’s an excerpt from his story. You can read the whole post here.

It turns out, Sol Price was a true capitalist. …

He explained at that lunch that capitalism had a lot of strengths — it promotes motivation, creativity, daring and efficiency. He also saw that unfettered and/or corporate capitalism could undermine essential institutions, such as justice, equality, community and education.

He talked about the need to impose a higher ethical and legal standard upon companies, government and institutions often blinded by the singular pursuit of capital. He had little faith in any institution, but was convinced that they could perform if subjected to effective checks.

He viewed the role of the Consumer Advocate as a necessary vigilante prepared to fight for real capitalism (not the corporate-controlled kind) while at the same time giving weight to the need for justice, equality, and community…. In his eyes, they had the potential of being an institution that preserves balance in the markets, kept government from disrupting competitive markets and that made the individual count in society.

From our conversation, I took away a clear role for providing comparative information to make up for the poor quality of information peddled by self-interested sales-driven marketers. I saw the value of giving strength and esteem to a customer who must deal with these businesses. By aggregating individuals and representing them as a group, I could bring the strengths of community to a disconnected society.


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