Moral Capitalism and the Unending Quest for Human Perfection Remarks by Stephen B. Young, Global Executive Director IberAmericana University June 15, 2006 What is the program of Moral Capitalism as advocated by the Caux Round Table?
You can think about it from two divergent points of view. First, from the perspective of business, of capitalism as traditionally presented in our political rhetoric, it is a strategic approach to increasing wealth and business success by taking care of the interests of key stakeholders in the business – customers, employees, owners, creditors, suppliers and communities. From this perspective, Moral Capitalism looks to the intangible assets of a business, its goodwill, and asks how can we build more goodwill?
Second, from the perspective of ethics, morality, and religion, from the related perspective of the left and progressive critics of capitalism, Moral Capitalism integrates concern for others – ethical reflection – into business decision-making.
Moral Capitalism presumes that our values count, that they determine outcomes. So, Moral Capitalism asks us to take our values into account and to apply them in our lives, even our business lives.
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2 For example, much of the harshness of some capitalist orders and of some capitalists flows directly from their values of elevating self over others, a form of Social Darwinism. I argue in my book that any such system of brute capitalism is wrong, does not create maximum wealth for society, and should be shunned by well-meaning and right-thinking people. It is only one version of capitalism. Our challenge is to build a better version of capitalism, one that spreads its advantages throughout society.
The plan for a moral capitalism offered by the Caux Round Table rests on three core values: Kyosei, human dignity and stewardship. Each of these core values rests on religious teachings or intuitions.
Kyosei is a Japanese concept drawing on Buddhism, Taoism and Shintoism. Kyosei is a perception that all living organisms such as plants, animals, people and social structures like a business or a corporation live in an ecosystem and depend on many interactions with that larger organic system of life and energy. Mutuality and interdependence, reciprocity and symbiosis, make life possible. Isolation, conflict, exclusive appropriation without balanced recompense in some form lead to decay and death in such a life world.
Thus, a business needs customers and employees. They are in an important conceptual sense “part” of the business, on the inside, and can only harmed or punished at a cost to the business. The health of a business depends on the health of those who provide it with money, labor, supplies, patronage and good reputation. Harm the inputs to the business and you damage its outcomes. This is only common sense.
The second core value is Human Dignity. This framework for living comes most explicitly from the social teachings of the Catholic Church, most tellingly from the Papal Encyclicals Laborens
3 Exercens and Centissimus Annus. I need not here in IberAmericano University elaborate on the theology supporting a commitment to human dignity, but I would like to point out a few important implications of this teaching.
Human Dignity complements Kyosei and brings new meaning to its perceptions of interdependence. Human Dignity deepens Kyosei by placing emphasis on the value in creation of the human. Those aspects of our work and our actions that impinge on Human Dignity have special importance. Living up to the potential of our own personal dignity and living with respect for the dignity of others gives a calling, a vocation, to the human person. It is our special place in the cosmos; it is our proper home where we can be masters and kind hosts, a state of mind where our powers can be graced by compassion and elegant self-restraint.
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