Virtue Capitalism: The Current Problem of Profit Motive or, Using Vice to Make Money


VIRTUE CAPITALISM

The Current Problem of Profit Motive | The Problem of Socialism | The Problem of Capitalism | The Good Life or, The Chief End of Man | Business as a Tool | Virtue Capitalism or, An Economy of the Kingdom

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DSC02087As American corporations continue to get bigger and bigger and obtain more power, there is a recalcitrant truth that continues to plague these companies. That truth is that businesses motivated solely by profit tend to fail in one way or another. Paul wasn’t lying in 1 Timothy 6:10 when he stated that the love of money is the root of all evil; when a company enacts policies solely for profit gain they are betraying a love for money that ultimately makes the company’s practices evil.

Now, do not think I am condemning an attempt to earn a profit. After all, everyone is in it for the profit somewhere along the way. No one would work just to get by or to just pay the bills – ideally everyone wants enough money to take care of the necessities of life and then have some left over for liesure spending and/or savings. Companies should be no different, they should seek to make a profit because that profit can help advance the local economy. Profit in and of itself is not a bad thing, but seeking profit with no ethical parameters is dangerous.

The Myth of Profit as Success Continue reading

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Death of Virtue or, Here Once Stood Virtuous Men and Women


IMG_0352There is no escaping the fact that we live in a society that is void of virtue. The title of this post is not meant to be read literally as virtue, being abstracted, cannot die. We do not live in the aftermath of virtue’s death, rather we fail to live because we ignore the life of virtue. For those wanting a more in depth understanding of virtue, you can see my thoughts on it here, here, and here. For an example of this, we can look to a young man in Calgary who stood up for a friend who was being bullied and even had a knife pulled on him. Rather than being celebrated by the school for an act of bravery, he was chastised (though not punished) for intervening. The school went so far as to say that it wasn’t necessarily a case of another kid being bullied, but rather was two students just fighting and one pulled out a knife.

Let us assume that one kid was not being bullied. Does that mean the young man should not have intervened? We are told that he put his safety in danger, but since when does doing the right thing come with a promissory of safety? Certainly in standing up for justice, or love of one’s neighbor, or courage one is likely to face danger to one’s safety. That is, after all, the entire point of virtue; this life isn’t about you, but is about the Good and the pursuit of the Good, meaning that sometimes you must take risks.

A fulfilled life is not the safe life, a fulfilled life is full of scrapes and bruises, it’s full of struggle and pain; it is what weak-willed adults called unstable and what playful children call adventure. We lack adventure in our world. We create the simulation of danger, a simulacrum of courage, we tell people to jump off bridges with a bungee cord attached, we encourage rides on amusement parks, we pump money into the artificial stimulation of adrenaline. We are rational animals and our body, being a beast, can be easily tricked. Provide enough simulation and the body will react and think it is in a dangerous situation when it really is not. After all, with the bungee cord, though there is some danger, it is controlled. The same stands true for rides on amusement parts or any other “adrenaline junkie” favorites.

Jumping from an airplane with safety equipment and a tested parachute with a low to no fail rate doesn’t require courage, at least not true courage. Jumping from an airplane with that same equipment and parachute into an occupied territory in an attempt to deliver liberty to a people, knowing that you may have to give your life to advance the cause of liberty, now that takes courage. True courage doesn’t exist unless there is a little bit of danger involved, unless there is a little risk of personal harm; after all, if harm (either physical or emotional) is not a risk in doing something then how does it take courage to do that something?

Thus, the boy in Calgary was courageous and rather than saying, “You could have gotten yourself hurt,” we should applaud him for acting as he did in lieu of the knowledge that he could have been harmed. The “it’s not my business” mentality and “I don’t want to suffer harm” is what has allowed perpetrators to continue to have victims. But not only did this boy show courage, he also showed love. He showed love not only to the potential victim, but also to the victimizer.  Continue reading

Why Should I be Moral? or Here’s to You Akron!


Last week for Mystic Mondays I posted a passage from the Wisdom of Solomon which outlined some of the consequences of embracing a naturalistic ethic.  One of the questions I asked readers to consider as they meditated on this passage was: if God does not exist why should we be moral at all?  One of our regular commentators, Akron,  was kind enough to take the time to respond to this question.  His answer was that we should be moral because, “it’s the right thing to do,” and he further asserted that we, “don’t need orders from God to do the right thing.”

Let’s take some time to dwell upon this question and upon the answer that Akron gave (an answer, by the way, which is very common among your average atheist or agnostic).

To begin with, let’s consider the question itself: if God does not exist why should I be moral at all?  If God does not exist we are living in a universe in which there is no objective purpose, no objective morality, no underlying intelligence or rationality, in which men are simply the chance byproduct of blind brute physical processes, in which we cease to exist upon death, and in which there is no one watching over what men do or holding men accountable for the things in which they do.  If this, indeed, is the type of universe we live in, this question becomes extremely difficult to answer because it is hard to know, objectively, what it is to be moral in the first place.

Now, there are several ethical theories that a naturalist could maintain but these theories hardly explain the nature of morality in any objective sense.  For example, a naturalist could adhere to some form of Utilitarianism in which the good is defined as whatever brings the most pleasure (and the least pain) to the most amount of people.  However, adopting this ethical system would be completely arbitrary.  Defining the good in such a way would be totally subjective.  According to naturalism, there is no underlying law written within the fabric of the universe which states that the good is whatever brings the maximum amount of pleasure, and least amount of pain, to the most amount of people.  We may argue that Utilitarianism is a useful way of living one’s life and good for maintaining a stable society, but we could not argue that Utilitarian ethics, or any ethical system, was objectively true or said anything concrete about right and wrong.

Hence, if we embrace naturalism, we must also embrace the fact that morality is totally subjective–that is, dependent upon an individual or a society.  From this point we may now examine the question of why, under the naturalistic worldview, someone should adhere to some form of morality?  A naturalist who was being honest with himself would have to answer that there is no objective reason why someone should adhere to an ethical system.  This is not to say that an individual or society might have reasons why they would want to adopt some form of morality, but simply to acknowledge that there is no objective reason why they should adopt a form of morality.

Perhaps I may want to embrace a form of anarchy in which I do whatever pops into my head at any given time.  When I see a beautiful woman I just walk up and kiss her, when I see something in a store that I want I just take it, if I suddenly have the urge to hit someone or something I act upon that urge without restraint.  You might tell me that it would be more advantageous if I were to embrace some form of Utilitarianism, and perhaps that would be true; or, perhaps, I feel that I am more powerful than most people and don’t really care about the rest of society.

Perhaps I don’t care if I live a long life and don’t care about anyone else’s welfare; perhaps I’m only interested in the here and now.  There is nothing about the nature of reality, according to naturalism, which states that I am wrong to live this way.  No one could point their fingers at me and claim that I’m being immoral or evil.  All they could do is claim that I was not adhering to the social norm or that I was disrupting society.  They could not say that I was being objectively evil or that anything I did was objectively  wrong.

All of this is to say that to claim that, if God does not exist, we should be moral because it is the right thing to do is simply question begging.  If God does not exist there is no such thing as the “right thing to do.”  There is what I say to do, or what society says to do, or what some ethical theory says to do, but there is no such thing as the right thing to do.

If, however, God does exist, then there is an order and a purpose woven into the fabric of reality.  There is, more specifically, an objective purpose to human life; there is an objective standard that we must all measure up to which is independent of our society , our culture, or our feelings.  There is also someone watching what we do and to whom we are accountable to.  It is only under this scheme that there are objective reasons why we should be moral and in which there is a clear and definable sense of what being moral is.

Why Modern Economic Systems Fail


Ever since the United States dove headfirst into a recession a few years ago, everyone has been quick to say, “See, Capitalism doesn’t work! Capitalism has failed us!” The alternative, however, have been some type of socialism, a hybrid of Capitalism and Socialism developed by the economist John Maynard Keynes. The system basically calls for more regulation, more spending, and more government oversight; by doing all three things, so the theory goes, we’ll get out of a recession.

Many proponents of “Keynesian economics” point to WWII as an example where massive spending actually increased the job force and allowed us to have an economic boom in the 50s. In fact, the current system has been Keynesian economics put into practice with the bailouts under Bush in 2007 and then under Obama in 2009. Yet, even after the massive influx of cash into the economy we’re still stuck in a recession (the stock market isn’t a good measure of the economy; looking to actual unemployed or underemployed figures, actual consumer spending, and foreclosure rates are better ways of measuring the health of an economy).  Continue reading

A More Virtuous Society


There can be little doubt that we live in a society that lacks virtue and that such a lack of virtue is causing the downfall of our society. While there are those who would disagree with my assessment, the fact is those who disagree are part of the problem.

By denying an ethical standard based upon virtue – which is external to humans and leaves humans attempting to achieve a standard – many people are turning to Hedonism, where man becomes a measure of himself. Hedonism teaches that so long as you’re not harming anyone else, what you’re doing is ethically good. This is the predominate ethical standard in America and is sadly being co-opted by Christians as well. Whereas one used to engage in moral actions for a multitude of reasons, including a desire for good judgment in the afterlife, in modern times men are only moral so long as it is within their best interests to be moral. At the point morality would prevent a hedonistic desire and violating such a moral code would come with little to no consequences, modern man then acts out against that moral code.

We see it in our CEO’s who will bring in $9 million in bonuses a year, but then put a pay freeze on their employees paychecks or induce economic panic by saying that their company teeters on the brink of bankruptcy and therefore needs a bailout. We see it in the MTV culture that has turned sex into a recreational tool or a commodity to get what they want rather than a mystical act that brings husband and wife together. We see it in our young teenagers and in our Congress, who often only differ in their vocabulary, but not attitudes and thought processes, in wanting everything to go their way rather than come to a compromise. Our society is becoming more individualistic because it’s becoming more hedonistic. At some point, hedonism will lead to dire consequences.

How much longer before our young people begin to ponder the possibilities of eradicating those who are of lower intelligence? After all, such people require sacrifice and require us to help them. Perhaps our society will refuse to devolve to a position where we are eradicating undesirables, but can we not see how we’re moving towards a classist society? Again, the hedonism of America is beginning to procure a class society where the rich can avoid the poor. We send our extremely poor to public schools, but we should never pretend that they get the same education as the child of rich parents, who generally send their children to private schools. A hedonist looks at such a situation and asks why people can’t have disparity in education, never realizing that it creates a permanent disparity between the classes, which soon become castes that people are not allowed to leave. Continue reading

You Can’t Have Your Cake…


Recently, there’s been quite a bit of outrage over the greed that corporations have shown, as well as over corrupt politicians (either selling senate seats or going on prolonged vacations to visit their mistresses in Argentina). This has led some to distrust the government. It has also led others to distrust corporations and capitalism in general. In order to solve these problems, many are turning to the government (which is ironic as it currently stands as the poster child for corruption). Insurance companies are greedy – at least in public opinion – thus we will turn to the government to fix these problems. Corporations are greedy, so we’ll have the government put regulations on them. Senators and representatives are greedy so we’ll just elect a president who says he’ll change it. The president’s administration has been shown to be greedy and corrupt, so we’ll just…grin and bear it?

But in all of this, there’s one simple truth that everyone is ignoring; it’s our own fault. What do I mean?

Since the 1960’s we’ve bred a culture that says, “Don’t you shove your morality/religion down my throat!” We’ve built a culture of tolerance, one in which moral values are cultural and personalized. Following in the words of Lyotard, we have lived lives of incredulity towards the metanarrative, the overall story. We’ve abandoned a belief in some overarching ethic that all people are accountable to. Much more, we’ve abandoned a belief in God, a God who will hold us accountable for the things we do, whether in this life or the next.

In place of absolute morality and God we have placed psychological morality (“be tolerant”) and Darwinian ethics (“survival of the fittest”). We tell people to do what makes them happy and advances them in life, so long as it doesn’t harm (or bring significant harm) to other people. The rule of tolerance (which is impossible to live by – one must be intolerant in order to enforce tolerance) contradicts survival of the fittest, leading to a very confused and backwards culture.

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From Virtue to Vice (part 3)


We now come to the 7 Vices, which have become virtues in the modern day. These are the things that traditionally have been viewed as the seven major categories for sin; though there are multiple sins, they can generally fit within one of these seven categories (and all fall under pride).

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