Overcoming obstacles in our business (#9)
9. Businesses certainly have the potential to be a force for great good in any society, and many do live up to their moral and economic promise. Numerous obstacles, however, may stand in the way of realizing this potential. Some of these obstacles are external to the business and its leaders usually have a limited capacity to influence them, such as the absence of the rule of law or international regulations, corruption, destructive competition, crony capitalism, excessive state intervention, or a culture hostile to entrepreneurship in one or more of its forms. Others are internal, such as treating employees as mere “resources”, treating the business itself as no more than a commodity, rejecting a proper role for government regulation of the market place, making money out of products which are not truly good, or services which do not truly serve, or exploiting natural and human resources in a destructive way.
Commentary: This is a rich paragraph, with two major themes:
1. External obstacles that may prevent a business from becoming a “force for great good.”
2. Internal obstacles.
The external obstacles listed are worth considering as perhaps we have more influence on them than we think.
· Absence of rule of law (probably doesn’t affect most of us)
· Corruption. Do our companies have a firm policy against bribery? Is there any chance we’re looking the other way?
· Destructive competition, such as lowering prices to eliminate a competitor. Or promoting false statements about another company.
· Crony capitalism. Do we contribute to political campaigns with the clear understanding that our companies will benefit?
· Excessive state intervention. Are we participating in lobbying and trade association activities that push back against this intervention?
· Culture hostile to entrepreneurship. Are we fighting against government policies that inhibit entrepreneurship (excessive taxes, policies that make investment difficult, etc)?
· Treating employees as resources. We can’t “use” people as we use other resources in our business. People are the purpose of business, and we have to do what we can to help them grow in their dignity as children of God.
· Treating business as a commodity. Our companies are where God intends us to grow in holiness, by offering our work. It’s his garden, not a commodity.
· Rejecting a role for regulation. We might not like regulation, but unfortunately it’s necessary as some would plunder the environment to make a dollar.
· Selling products that are inferior or serve no useful purpose. We should examine ourselves about our attitude about the tradeoff between cost and quality, and convince ourselves that the world is a better place with our product or service. Could we change it to make it more useful?
· Exploiting natural and human resources. The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church has a whole chapter on the Church’s defense of the environment. It’s worth reading.