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Doing Virtuous Business

Doing Virtuous Business

Can the concept of “spiritual capital” actually ensure a company’s success?

Critics of capitalism view big businesses as insatiable masters of the universe with little regard for the public. They label those who create wealth as greedy, malicious, and unscrupulous. Doing Virtuous Business answers these charges head-on. In this insightful and original book, Theodore Roosevelt Malloch presents the bold idea that the creation of wealth by virtuous means is the most important thing that can be done for society…

Doing Virtuous Business explains the true purpose of business and illuminates the connection between a free economy and religious liberty. Drawing from the notion of “social capital,” which has been developed by generations of scholars, Malloch adds the concept of “spiritual capital” as a foundation for social progress and also a necessity for responsible and successful enterprise. He details the virtues that sustain a business and a free market—virtues that build up a network of trust, which is critical to the global economy.

Malloch reveals that a company’s soul determines its “spiritual capital,” an equally imperative foundation to success. From Wal-Mart to IBM, Malloch demonstrates how companies that operate on ethical models informed by spiritual traditions have outperformed their competitors. This book is a welcome moral defense of free enterprise and a sensible guide for achieving the ideal of virtuous business.

Besides making the world a better place, Malloch argues, virtuous enterprise makes companies far more successful and profitable than they otherwise would be. He presents case studies of virtuous business in the Judeo-Christian tradition as well as statistical analysis demonstrating how companies that operate on ethical models have outperformed their competitors over the long run.


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Spiritual Enterprise: Doing Virtuous Business

imgAfter years of booming business and unbelievable wealth creation, the economy has slowed, stunned by a mortgage crisis that has only reinforced the notion of big businesses as insatiable masters of the universe with little regard for the public. The critics of capitalism have emerged from every corner to harangue those who create wealth with charges of greed, thievery, and malice.

Theodore Roosevelt Malloch answers these charges head-on. In Spiritual Enterprise, he explores the opportunity of doing virtuous business – a concept that has been disappearing from our public consciousness. Malloch argues that the creation of wealth by virtuous means is the most important thing we can do for ourselves and for the world at large. But more than simply explain why free enterprise makes the world a better place, Malloch documents how virtuous business models have made many of the brightest companies in America more successful than ever.

Spiritual Enterprise rehabilitates the idea of big business as a force for good in society and offers a sensible guide for realizing this ideal. As antiglobalization and anticorporate tides are rising, Malloch’s books is both a much-needed defense of free enterprise and a vital call for better business.

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Renewing American Culture : The Pursuit of Happiness (Conflicts and Trends in Business Ethics)


The rapid changes affecting America and the world have been led by economic and technological forces. The cultural dimensions of this change have been largely ignored in the process. Without a significant advance and innovation in the realm of culture and value, the great economic and technological gains of the recent past are exposed to great risk. A new, life-affirming framework that reconnects economics, culture, science, art, and leadership is critically needed to mitigate this risk.

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Being Generous


Through the ages, the world’s cultures and great religions have in profound, though different, ways sought to answer the big question: How should we live? Part of the answer has to do with how we ought to treat others, particularly those who are most in need. Ample evidence suggests that giving selflessly to others lies at the heart of what it means to be a thoughtful and moral human being. In Being Generous, author Theodore Roosevelt Malloch leads an exploration of this important concept of generous giving.

He begins by examining how generosity fits into the various spiritual traditions, philosophical schools, and economic systems. Further chapters illustrate how generosity need not necessarily always be about money, showing instead how it might also involve the sharing of time and talent. Elsewhere, Malloch explores the science behind generosity, looking, for example, at the relationship between various chemicals in the brain and generous behavior. Beyond the theory and the science of generosity, readers will also find a wealth of inspiration in a collection of personality profiles of past and present icons of generosity.

Being Generous concludes with a practical action plan that lays out concrete steps that can guide readers toward lives of greater giving.

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A Proper Understanding of Debt

‘Debt’, simply put is a means of using future purchasing power to obtain goods or services before they have been earned. It is nothing more, nothing less. Companies and governments, as well as individuals have long used debt as part of their finance strategies. Such debt is created when a debtor agrees (by word or contract) to lend a certain sum of assets to a debtor. Repayment involves a scheme (terms), timeframe and agreed interest. Debt comes in many forms—loans, syndicates, bonds (a debt security is issued by an institution, a government, or a company). Securitization of debt occurs when an institution groups together similar assets or receivables and sells them in units to the market. Any asset with a cash flow can in principle be securitized.

There is a rather complex economic relationship between debt, inflation and the money supply. Suffice it to say that the store of money in any nations’ economy is based on that state’s ability to guarantee and make repayment of its debts. Countries, states, municipalities, companies, or persons who fail to do so pay the consequences: they pay higher interest rates or cannot borrow any longer and have to workout their situations through protracted legal negotiations and even foreclosure. The ratings of institutions, companies and even individuals nowadays affect the cost of borrowing and depend on what is termed “creditworthiness”. Short of bankruptcy, debt is not typically forgiven. You may recall in the 1980s third world debt became problematic and reached a level and scale that prompted many, including developed country governments and notable economists, to urge that we (and the global financial institutions) cancel debt obligations of the poorest of countries. Such policies were seen as a way to restore equity and improve relationships with developing countries that borrowed too much and were unable to meet their original obligations. But ‘workouts’ as they are known are always messy — whether they involve sovereigns or families that lose jobs or are caught in the newfangled subprime housing situation.

Over the long course of history but especially in modern times, debt has been a useful way to grow economies because it allows people and companies (even small ones as in micro-lending) to do things they would not otherwise be able to do. Companies use various debt instruments to leverage the investments in their assets. However excesses in debt accumulation have been blamed for exacerbating economic problems and damaging both firms and individuals in a culture where debt has become far too easy to secure and is often based on instant gratification of wants, not needs. A culture of debt has grown up where we used instead to practice both personal and public thrift.

There are many arguments against debt. Islam forbids lending with interest even today. The Catholic Church only allowed it since 1822 and the Torah states all debts should be erased every seven years. But markets are in part sustained by debt and they typically win out over dogma.

Debt does increase over time and if not repaid the level of interest can be heavy, even onerous. ‘Usury’ (above reasonable interest rates for the risk assumed) has been a long-standing moral issue in just about every culture around the globe. Debt bondage or indentured servants remain present in many settings outside the West. Peonage may be over in the US proper but it still exists elsewhere in the world in this 21st century. Yet some Americans seem unable ever to get out from under their plaguing debt, racking up more and more as life unfolds. We have an atrocious savings rate and the societal emphasis has shifted to material accumulation and away from delayed gratification.

Debt is neither a good or bad thing in and of itself. It can be useful when done in moderation and with a fair scheme for repayment. Today the debt industry is a large and growing one in global capital markets. Debt underwriting continues to grow and has totaled over $6 trillion a year in the most recent years. Debt continues to fuel economic growth but in recessionary periods it is obviously more difficult to repay past debts. Debt, like many things is best when ‘your eyes are not bigger than your stomach’. Or as one of my more crass hedge fund manager friends put it, “ If you can fly it, float it or *&#$ it, lease it.” How much stuff do you need anyway, since to date no one has yet invented a way to take it with him or her, after death?

In reality gambling generates more than $20 billion a year in taxes and lottery revenues for state budgets, according to industry estimates that don’t even include fees from Native American-run casinos. Just as America’s poor gamble away money they are getting pay advances on, our government has gambled on the funding of school programs on the bet that gamblers will keep giving them those billions each year. How can a government expect its citizens to respect personal debts when it is leading the charge in racking up its’ own debt? $9 trillion, last time I checked.

The annual deficit is this year’s spending minus this year’s income. If the general fund spends $900B with income of $600B in one year, the annual deficit is $300B. That makes the national debt go up by exactly $300B. And all that debt has to be financed! The annual deficit is how much the debt increases each year. If someone ran a household like that they would not have a very good credit score … unless they were able to print money in the basement, which is what our government literally does to repay its growing (foreign) debt. Other countries, China, Japan and the Middle East hold more and more of American paper. Is that a good thing? For how long can it go on?

So you could ask the question: should this same government now significantly increase its debt further to help the Americans who were given the privilege to borrow from it? And should they also write-off their interest as a tax deductible expense, which never made sense in the first place – thereby encouraging people through taxation to buy houses that they had no right buying in the first place? Can I have a tax-deductible interest only loan, please! The larger the loan, the better, with subsidies on top. There are two answers, one is, why not? It seems like the government has already chosen the path of borrowing until severe consequences set in but before then sweep critics under the rug and pretend like you have a clean house. The second answer would be to do what the financial markets are doing right now and tell these people to delever, just like the credit card companies and other debt collectors do when they face overexposure to a non- creditworthy client.

What happens what you buy something with your credit card that you can’t afford but is ‘within’ your credit limit of say 25k? You default on your credit card bill (after some harassing calls and threats) and unfortunately can’t buy anything for a long while and sometimes the stuff you bought actually gets repossessed. Why shouldn’t leveraging yourself up in a house loan be any different? You can be for the forgiveness of sins, but loans are not sins, they are contracts. The American Dream (warped from ‘owning a place to live’ to ‘getting rich by owning no equity in a house but paying interest until you can sell the house for a profit’). Unfortunately, that has now become more like the American Nightmare for millions of families. So perhaps, we should borrow more from Social Security to fund something we can’t afford in the first place? Another war or maybe developing a newer space station called Noah’s Ark II, where we could shoot two of every mammal on earth to live on Mars may be in the offing? Both would probably incur the same amount of debt that we never intend to pay off if one wanted to be cynical. My point is we are in a shambles because both public and private thrift have been squandered and exchanged for a hollow but costly fool’s gold.

In Christianity the fact of debt has at times outstripped its evils. On television even today some preachers rail against debt altogether, including for home or church mortgages. But in truth the Bible neither expressly forbids nor allows the borrowing of money. Wisdom down the ages suggests debt should be entered into sparingly and in good faith. Paul’s charge in Romans is a reminder of God’s distaste for all forms of debt not paid in a timely manner. All of us are debtors, as the Lord’s Prayer forcefully reminds us and we need forgiveness and God’s grace – for ourselves, and all those around us. The biblical example certainly allows for charging interest (Matt. 25 and Proverbs 28 both). At the same time the ancient law also allowed for mercy in forgiving interest. Christ’s own parables (in Matt. 10 and 18) perhaps most instructively give this advice to His followers: “Freely you have received, freely give.” My best advice is to live within your means, save and take (little) debt, use it, but don’t let it use or ruin you and yours.

Dr. Theodore Roosevelt Malloch is the author of the newly released book, Spiritual Enterprise: Doing Virtuous Business, Encounter Books, 2008. He is founder and Chairman of the Spiritual Enterprise Institute. He has been a global strategist, ambassador, Wall Streeter, and has been involved in politics and economic policy at the US Senate, US State Department, and the United Nations.

Renewing American Culture: The Pursuit of Happiness (Conflicts and Trends in Business Ethics)


“A bracing, ebullient book that brings readers face to face with their most valuable and overlooked asset: spiritual capital.” — Roger Kimball, Co-Editor and publisher of The New Criterion

“This ambitious book focuses some of America’s best minds on the most important questions that face our nation.” — Martin Jischke, President, Purdue University

“This is a profound contribution to America’s place in the world!” — Herman Pirchner, Jr. President, American Foreign Policy Council (AFPC)

Spiritual Enterprise: Doing Virtuous Business


This book is a classic. Ted Malloch does a masterful job in helping the reader understand the important role of faith in the leadership and operation of a successful business and also the necessity of “spiritual capital” for a healthy market. – Bill Pollard, Chairman of ServiceMaster

I have never seen a better outline of the social and spiritual factors responsible for stewardship of the modern political economy and its main agent, the corporation. – Dr. Luder Whitlock, Chairman of the Trinity Forum

The owl of wisdom takes flight in this book. Malloch provides a framework for building the values and virtues of a good corporation. Don Soderquist, Former Chairman of Wal-Mar

Seed Corn and spiritual capital
John Seel, Ph.D.
Farmers know that there are no quick fixes. A failed crop is not re-grown by good intentions or wishful thinking. Nature has its rhythms and its painful inevitabilities. It’s why farmers are prudent, hardworking, practical people. The soil keeps them honest.

Farmers are extremely protective of their seed corn. Seed corn is their future; they need it for survival. No matter how hungry they get in the winter, if they eat their seed corn, they will surely starve by the next fall.

So when the seed corn is eaten, it marks the beginning of the end.

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American culture has eaten much of its spiritual seed corn. The crises on Wall Street and Main Street alike stem less from questionable lending policies and exotic derivatives, than the shift in perspective that made these decisions seem like a wise thing to do.

The blame game has now begun. Congressional Hearings have been launched and CNN adds nightly to its rogue gallery of those deemed most culpable. But this fiscal meltdown is a more widespread problem than many are willing to admit. Even the bailout simply moves the debt to a bigger credit card. We are systematically incapable of long-term thinking – and with it the choices and restraints that long-term investments demand. The attitude is “Why do today, what can be put off until tomorrow.” “Tomorrow” has arrived in the financial sector. Soon it will arrive for under-funded pension funds, Social Security, and Medicare. Foreign countries, sovereign wealth funds, and petro-authoritarians will someday stop their fiscal largess. And on that day, we will realize how much of the spiritual seed corn is gone.

No doubt, a cottage industry of books will soon emerge discussing the causes and cures of the Fiscal Crisis of 2008. But it is particularly heartening to read an author who understood what was at stake well before the crisis made headlines. Theodore Malloch has written a timely and largely hopeful book about companies who incorporate spiritual capital into their wider corporate vision. Malloch is chairman and CEO of The Global Fiduciary Governance LLC and founder of the Spiritual Enterprise Institute.

Building on Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam’s study of social capital, Malloch develops the concept of spiritual capital. spiritual capital is the external moral resources stemming from religious belief that give work meaning beyond itself. It is the source for the “why” beyond the “what.” He defines it as “the fund of beliefs, examples, and commitments that are transmitted from generation to generation through a religious tradition, and which attach people to the transcendental source of human happiness.” It appears that few on Wall Street measure companies by their store of spiritual capital. Few corporate CEOs remember that Adam Smith himself warned that The Wealth of Nations is dependent upon The Theory of Moral Sentiments. In pursuing wealth without morals, we’ve come to the place where we are in short supply of both. If business is the real test of the moral life, as Malloch alleges, then modern business has been tried and found wanting. Wealth has become an end rather than a means to other transcendent ends – and as such has become its own gravedigger.

The argument of this book has emphasized the way in which human achievement arises from and depends upon resources that are not mentioned in the standard inventory of material goods…. [M]aterial wealth is not the sole or the principal input into wealth creation; if it were, then the process of wealth creation could never begin. The primary input is human freedom, and the store of trust, faith and hope that enables people to work together to produce what they collectively need.

The importance of nurturing spiritual capital within enterprises is compounded in a global marketplace. China, Malloch argues, cannot succeed in its aspiration for economic global hegemony based on private property and private investment. spiritual capital will be required.

spiritual capital is the invisible seed corn of free market enterprise. It must be continually renewed. Malloch warns, “The spiritual capital built up by previous generations can be honored and invested by others who do not have the faith to renew it, though at some point it surely must be renewed. This renewal of spiritual capital in the business sphere and its specific enterprises is what the faith-guided company achieves.” Capitalism thrives not because of a supposed relationship to Protestantism, but to its relation to this religious state of mind.

Though set against the news of unprecedented bankruptcies, massive bailouts, and turmoil in the markets, Malloch’s book is finally hopeful, for he provides ample examples of companies who are integrating spiritual capital into their organizational culture. A particularly telling story is that of Rumi Verjee, an Ismaili Muslim who came to England as a refugee from East Africa, but found success in outspoken Catholic Tom Monaghan’s Domino Pizza. Verjee explains, “Although you can get on by being ruthless, by thinking of nothing but your own profit, and by rejoicing in other’s loss, this is not the way to true success. Compassion is as important in a businessman as in any other human being. It is important not only for others’ sake but also for your own.”

Clearly, headlines skew reality. There are a host of bright lights – companies who routinely celebrate hard and soft virtues in the workplace. In fact, the dark clouds of scandal only serve to further illuminate their distinctiveness. There is a better way: economic enterprise suffused with spiritual capital that serves the welfare of all whom it touches. And so this book serves as a timely reminder of what capitalism demands, and when husbanded wisely, what it promises to each succeeding generation.

The Fiscal Crisis of 2008 is a generational indictment – and with it the loss of America’s financial moral authority. Its solution begins with taking seriously the message of this book.

John Seel is a cultural renewal entrepreneur. He is a Senior Fellow at Cardus, a public policy think tank, equipping change agents with a strategic public theology to renew North American social architecture.