Monday, April 21, 2008

On God and Caesar

Christianity and economics have had a turbulent relationship for the last two-thousand years.

I suppose that I have friends that are quite hostile to the idea of a wealthy Christian. I know that at times I have felt the same way. I think that there is a fundamental understanding of the Gospel as total renunciation that is appealing to neophytes.

In fact, business in general has a hard time of it these days. Many people associate business and moneymaking with screwing people. This doesn't have to be the case.

Commerce is the life blood of culture. It is a way of sharing responsibilities in the community and making our neighbor's lives better. Any part of a community that is cut off from this life blood will eventually wither and die.

I think the aversion to business is part of the general aversion to achievement and activitiy that has gripped our culture in recent years. We have built up a "cult of the loser", where the real hero isn't someone who changes things or who undertakes a challenge. The hero for many Americans is the one who exposes the lie, or who resists the oppressor.

Perhaps this is a valid response to a capitalism that has become independently powerful. I mean "independent" in the sense that businesses are no longer accountable to small communities. Companies no longer have to play nice, and often don't. When your market cap is bigger than the GDP of Smallville, and your employee roster is bigger than the population of Smallville, you don't necessarily have to take into account what Smallville thinks about your activities. This is a valid consideration.

The solution isn't to chuck business entirely. This will leave you even more at the mercy of unscrupulous businessmen. The answer is to remind the culture of the principles of ethical business.

And this is where it gets complicated. How do you teach ethics?

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