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Spiritual Enterprise: Doing Virtuous Business

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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.

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.



 
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