Capitalism and Relgion: Principled Entrepreneurship

I am pleased that I teach in a Christ-Centered school that is of the Liberal Arts tradition. The reason I say that is because I love to teach and I love the topic of business. I want to know how the economy works, I want to teach my students how it works, and I want my students to know how to run organizations in efficient and effective ways to ensure society receives value. My understanding of value is broader than some, but I see it both as monetary and social value.

There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t read or see something negative about Capitalism. I think it is because the folks that say these things are just looking at the extreme perversions of capitalism. They don’t see private property being used to produce goods demanded by the market. They see the excesses of the system, which are real and problematic. However, I don’t think we should throw the baby out with the bath water and become Socialists.

What got me thinking about this was an article I read yesterday “Teaching Capitalism to Catholics.” The title intrigued me, and after reading the editorial I have been exposed to another great phrase “principled entrepreneurship.” I have to say I like that phrase.

I am sure all of you are familiar with Pope Francis’ recent comments about economics. As a Priest aging in South America he saw many of the excesses of Capitalism, and was very concerned about caring for the poor and marginalized. Pope John Paul II also “explicitly condemned” economies that exploited the poor, however in a 1991 encyclical noted the working man would be the first to suffer, which “was borne out by the collectivist societies of the 20th century.” He recognized that exploitation happens regardless of the economic system employed by the state. But in the encyclical Pope John Paul II he also commended an “economic system which recognizes the fundamental and positive role of business, the market, and private property.”

This is the focus of principled entrepreneurship. You see the Catholic University of America’s School of Business and Economics has received a grant to study and teach how capitalism and Catholicism are compatible. As one who sees the need to frame business within a moral structure, I am encouraged and excited to see where the CUA takes this. It is a fact that economic development has done more to alleviate extreme poverty than anything else in the history of humankind.

Catholics, like students at Warner Pacific, are concerned about social justice. Therefore, this university will be developing systems of pedagogy which understands the importance of recognizing how “free markets only work within a moral culture. When business is unmoored from a concern for the common good, capitalism can slide into cronyism and corruption.”

I for one believe that the principles of the free market can alleviate poverty only if we recognize and fight against the excesses. The free market has raised 1 billion people out of extreme poverty and created a “2 billion person middle class throughout the world over the past 300 years.

To do this I believe that business must be taught within a framework of morality. If we only teach the technical aspects of business leading to profit maximization for the 1% and not for the common good, then our motivation is wrong and immoral. Milton Friedman had it wrong. The process of making money is not amoral, it must be done with the prescription to effectively and efficiently use resources, but in a just way. I for one believe it can be done like this. I for one think that we cannot only do well, but we can do good too.ß

And that is my thought for the day!

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