Being Responsible

Being responsible is something we try to teach our children. We want our children to grow up and contribute positively to society, and generally speaking, all of us want to leave this world a better place when we go on to the next life. These are personal desires that should also be corporate desires. Our understanding of what sustainability means has evolved from being economically focused to a more holistic framework that includes social and environmental considerations.

The corporate world seems to be a bit confused when is comes to the social and environmental pillars of sustainability. The ability to self police, again generally speaking, is suspect. Some think that if commerce would have been more responsible and exercised self control in its relationship with the environment we would not have the tough pollution laws that we have today. Is that a fact?

History gives us many examples of how extremist business practices have negatively impacted scarce resources. One example is called the tragedy of commons. This was a phrase used to describe how the medieval practice of allowing as many cattle as desired to graze in a public area was destructive leading to overgrazing.

Another example is in the area of fishing. If one company does not catch all the fish in the common areas, international waters, then it is leaving it for someone else to catch. However, in response to this excess, some countries have instituted a property rights system that gives catch shares to individual companies. The fishing companies then have the right to fish, or buy, sell, or trade those rights. This seems to be similar to the cap and trade pollution rules currently in debate.

Our romantic ideals of a free market are good, but the reality is if business is left to itself it will gravitate toward extremism. We need a balance, or partnership between government and commerce for the good of enterprise.

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2 thoughts on “Being Responsible

  1. Romans chapter 13:1-7 in the Bible illustrates God’s use of authority/government to create this partnership, accountability, and resposibility, between government and business.On the contrar, government is not evil in and of itself but certainly is used to bring balance to a free market society who have used their “freedom” as a license to forgo self regulation. We all hope that people and businesses will “do the right thing” but we live in a broken world with broken people. Government and business needing each other is actually proof that we need the Gospel and Jesus to be the kind of people and businesses who do the right thing because we decide to rather than we’re regulated to do so.

    • Excellent Scott! I agree! Some day I am going to write a book on the Bible and business. I think it would be very interesting. Also, from an economics perspective, the market is efficient when we allow buyers and sellers to seek self-interest. The only problem with the process is the fallen nature of mankind. We become selfish and look for advantage. When this happens government needs to step in and moderate, which is its God given role as you so eloquently expressed.

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