Today I saw three men standing around a ladder that extended, to start with, upwards to the third floor of the building across from us. They are chatting quietly amidst their concentration as one man supported the ladder, another climbed up the ladder, and a third expertly pulled on a rope to extend the ladder higher and higher as the man on the ladder climbed higher.
Capital is created by human beings. That is, in the production of capital, the human being has to be present. We take a lot of dead material and with human ingenuity put it together. And we have a piece of capital like a hammer or a machine. In everything that goes into making capital all elements are replaceable except one: the human presence. Without the human being no capital would be produced. Without any one of the dead or inert materials we may have many substitutes now and in the future. But there is no substitute to the human element in the creation of capital.
In other words capital is in its entirety dependent on the human presence that created it. The quality of the capital created, its very nature, is dictated by the quality of the human presence behind it, that went into making it. So to classify capital we must look at the nature of the human presence in its making and its use.
We may define live capital as capital with a living, higher human presence. We may also define dead capital to be its opposite: a lower human presence that is close to dead.
Capital that is live is the kind of capital that Gandhiji encouraged. Back in Gandhiji's day, the charkha, or spinning wheel, was a wonderful example of live capital. Gandhiji attached himself to it to demonstrate its effectiveness and power of symbolism. It is very hard to mistake a charkha for an industrial cloth mill!
Now we come to my point: today, this very day will we come alive to the necessity to recognize live capital in our midst and even more, create live capital in our own communities?
The ladder that I mentioned above that extended, eventually to the fourth floor, is live capital. The three men were getting some important work done. They were doing it as a team, with great sense of concentration. They were also alive to each other's presence, chatting amiably, using the capital in their hands as a valuable tool in their work and friendship.