- Professing Catholic social thought in business and business schools. By: Gasper, Louis C., Review of Business, 00346454, Fall97, Vol. 19, Issue 1
Citing survey results from the Center for the Study of Social and Political Change, Mr. Novak points out that business people are more religious, measured by frequency of church attendance, than any other group in America, except military officers and religious professionals such as ministers and priests [11:44].These data confirm my own less formal observations and conclusions. Having spent many years in business, government and academia, I know to my own satisfaction that the world of business is not densely populated with depraved or amoral persons. I cannot find any a priori reason to think that business is morallya dangerous occupation. My personal observations strongly suggest that if business presents grave temptations to sin, then business men and women generally have risen to their respective challenges as well as have bureaucrats, politicians, professors, students and college administrators have risen to theirs. »Common wisdom » also says that public morality has deteriorated.[ 2] In this, the common wisdom is on more solid ground. It is hard to see how anyone can deny that there has been a decline in everyday civility, which is a direct aspect of public morals. At the same time, we should recognize that some of what is now thought to be moral deviancy in public life is actually only political difference. We have always had these differences, but now we tend to assign moral valuesto them.The business world has not escaped this development, and the resulting confusion between moral and political matters is part of the problem that the Church hierarchyfaces in making itself understood and appreciated in business.
No area illustrates this better than environmentalism. It used to be that decisions, for example of what to do with effluent waste, were dependent on calculations of costs and benefits. A difficulty, well known to economists for many decades, is the presence of externalities in such situations. These are defined as costs or benefits that are borne by society as a whole but not bythe person making the economic decision. Economists have proposed various ways that government can compensate for these externalities to make sure decisions are made in a socially, not privately, optimal way [8:ch.13].
The environmentalists’ movement was not satisfied with this. It demanded, in effect, that the environment not be used at all as an engine to recycle manufacturing waste materials.[ 3] This is a demand for what economists call a « corner solution. » To an economist and a business person, it violates common sense. If there is inadequate economic and business justification for such a solution, how can one defend it? The obvious answer is to make it a moral matter. This requires some higher justification, and thus environmentalism has had to seek a religious foundation for its requirements of « corner solutions. » What amounts to a new, secularized public religion has been concocted. At the core of its creed is a belief in Mother Earth, a being superior to man which must be served and sacrificed.[ 4]
From this religious foundation comes a moral theology. The main outline of this theology is clear: There is a literally pristine ideal (the « corner solution ») which is not attainable in this world but requires constant striving. Results are therefore never adequate. Instead of judging a person’s actions against the desired consequences, we measure them against rules of environmental duty and purity of intention. An instance of pollution, therefore, is always bad, not merely costly, unfortunate or unwise but positively evil.
- Deontology and agent-based teleology
In this context, public policies are naturally transformed into moral dicta, and differences [that heretofore would have been ascribed to different judgments of 1) what goals are appropriate and 2) how they ought to be pursued] 對目的的不同認定、對義務和途徑的不同理解，are judged as patently moral evils 都成了道德議題. This is the reduction of ethics to politics. Understanding this, we can conclude that public and business morals have probably neither deteriorated to the degree, nor in the ways, that the common wisdom would have us believe. Further, there is no reason to believe, pace environmentalist doctrine, that business morality has declined any more than public morality generally.
If the business word is not the morally hostile and corrosive place it is so often depicted to be, why then do the social teachings of the Catholic hierarchy have a tough time in that word? I suggest that not all but certainly a significant part of the fault lies with the ways in which these teachings are presented by the Church. In my own experience, I have discerned three areas of difficulty.
Business people, including practitioners, professors and students, are suspicious of any statement on business or economic matters coming from a hierarchy which has embraced political priorities that the business world knows to be wrong headed and which the hierarchy has not clearly distinguished from the unchanging moral doctrines of the Church, the People of God. I think most people in business do not deny the right and the obligation of our bishops to speak out on political matters. We understand that such political statements have a definite claim on our respect. However, many are unclear about the extent to which they bind in conscience.The answer is that since they are political and not strictly moral teachings, they do not bind in conscience and do not determine what political positions faithful Catholics may and ought to take.
Generally, the hierarchy has not been clear about this matter. This is a definite fault, because they should not leave it to others to make this distinction. The bishops are precisely the ones who are best equipped to understand and communicate the distinction. By not diligently pointing it out, the hierarchy generally has allowed repugnance for its political positions to taint what ought to be clear social teaching.[ 5]
For example, the judgment of the vast majority of economists is that the minimum wage reduces the availability of jobs and increases unemployment particularly among marginal workers, precisely those who are likely to have low skills, little experience and are the victims of discrimination.[ 6] Nevertheless, episcopal support for a minimum wage increase can always be counted on.[ 7] This position on a political (not partisan) matter ordinarily comes with the color of social justice added to it. Our bishops, if they have not said it themselves, are in the company of those who say that an increase in the minimum wage will have « little effect » on employment opportunities for black teenagers. This statement is routinely voiced by, for example, managers of fast-food restaurants who would not hire fewer workers if the minimum wage was set marginally higher (nor would they hire more at lower wages).
These are not the managers who have any discretion over what we economists prosaically無想像力地, 枯燥無味地call the capital-labor ratio. Such decisions are strategic concerns of upper management, and even they may not have any understanding of the underlying economic principles on which they act. An examination of the whole problem requires an econometric investigation involving statistical inference from observational data.[ 8]
Nevertheless, business people generally side with the economists in the matter of statutory法定的minimum wages. My impression is that they do so because they see that the great bulk of an increase in their wage bill, which follows an increase in the minimum wage, goes not to the workers who are paid the minimum wage but to the large number whose labor contract sets their wages at some stated level above the prevailing legal minimum.
From this knowledge, business people, deeply suspect that the Catholic bishops are in league not with the poorest workers but with the labor unions, whose interest is to reduce competition from those who will work for wages below the floors set by union contracts.
In this atmosphere, it becomes difficult to get a fair heating for the Catholic social teaching of a just wage, something which by no means necessarily entails a minimum wage law.
The bishops are certainly entitled to their judgments, and they are entitled to make a corporate statement of their economic and political thinking. But the failure to distinguish these positions from the shared faith of the Church is an obstacle to serious consideration of Catholic social teaching by participants in business.
Business people are not accustomed to ordering commercial relationships on the basis of « rights , » but it is the language of « rights » in which our Church hierarchy generally phrases its social teachings.[ 9] This poses a barrier to communication, almost as if the bishops were to attempt to teach business people in a foreign language. Those engaged in business are accustomed to a world in which most interactions are mutually agreed exchanges as through contracts, for example. The central principle underlying commercial transactions of all sorts is mutuality, not the exertion of rights.[ 10]
It is usually said that « every right carries an obligation, » and so rights too have mutuality about them. An example of this would be the often proclaimed « right to employment. » If one exercises the right to employment, he by that very act assumes the obligation to render a just amount of diligent, reliable labor according to the direction of his supervisors. For this, he justly claims an appropriate wage. Hence, one may say there is mutuality.
However, there is a vital difference. The only reason to call something a « right » is because the choice to exert a right is unilateral, not a matter of mutual agreement between the person in whom the right is vested and the person on whom the claim of right is made, even though one may become obligated in some way by exercising the right. The bearer of a right has the freedom either to exert the right or’ to refrain from doing so; the one on whom the claim of right is made has no freedom to refrain from honoring the claim if it is exerted. Hence, there is mutuality once the right is exerted, but the exercise itself is not a matter of mutuality. The true mutuality is in the agreement to exchange labor for wages, which is posterior to the right. If there is an obligation that genuinely corresponds to the right itself, it is not an obligation owed to the employer. The right to employment is vested in the head of a household, for example, in virtue of his obligations to his family, not in virtue of anything owed to the employer prior to the exercise of the right [4:105].
The abundant use of the term « right » in Catholic social teaching is thus a problem for those who want to expose those teachings to business men and women. By its nature business is not organized as a word of right, and structuring the Church’s ideas in terms of right amounts to speaking a strange and alien language in the world of business. Right has the characteristic of being unilateral. The obligation that is involved is not mutual. In business on the other hand, relationships are typically those of mutual obligation. Contracts and commercial transactions of all sorts generally have that character. Personal relationships in business are also generally ones of mutual obligation. The employee has obligations to his employer, but the employer likewise has obligations to his employee.
Moreover, we should be careful to note that a wage is only one of the obligations owed to an employee, and it is sometimes less important than other obligations such as professional respect. Likewise, a fair day’s work is not the only obligation an employee owes to his employer. A degree of loyalty and respect are also justly due. People whose working lives are structured in the way as webs of mutual obligation simply have a difficult time relating to teachings that are phrased predominantly in terms of rights.[ 11]
Pronouncements on social justice emanating from Rome seem to be based on an assumption that capital is an endowed factor of production, whereas American business people know it to be accumulated [4:16]. In the past, particularly in Europe, it was different, but today capital goods are not gifts from nature nor are they « found goods » to those who have them. Instead, they are substantially dependent on people throughout society saving income generated by hard work and sound investment. I suspect that this assumption, as well as the free use of the term « right, » is actually rooted in a certain cultural bounding in the hierarchy of the Church — a kind of Eurocentric provincialism.
A dominant feature of Europe’s economic as well as social history has been class divisions. Until recently, the upper social classes were also the classes of wealth, and that wealth was associated with large land holdings.[ 12] Economists now understand capital to be any factor of production which yields benefits over time. For a very long time in Europe, most of society’s capital took the form of land. For present purpose, the interesting feature of land is the fact that the aggregate of land in an economy cannot increase. Accordingly, that aggregate is properly regarded as an endowment from the viewpoint of society as a whole, meaning that the total quantity is a given for the contemporary economy. It is something that society neither creates nor destroys, augments nor diminishes. It follows that rents from land cannot be earned, and from a social point of view, land cannot be accumulated.
Socially, land and its rents do not have any source involving mutuality of obligation. The concept of noblesse oblige surely would not have arisen had there been any such mutuality. In such a context, it seems natural and even necessary that there ought to have been « rights, » vis-à-vis land which as a factor of production was practically identical to the whole of society’s economic capital and was held by a distinct social class. Such rights are claims on the land owners’ morality in the disposition and use of an endowed factor that is economically necessary for minimal comfort and even survival.
This situation is not universal, and it is now very attenuated even in Europe. Capital now takes many forms, and land is possibly the least important.[ 13] By far, the greater part of our capital is not endowed but accumulated. It is the result of willingness by savers to defer consumption of their income from either labor or prior investment. By this deferral, a return on capital is justly earned, just as income is earned by labor. The deferral is put at the service of other participants in the economy, who agree to reward that deferral through a return on capital, commonly payments of interest and dividends. Hence, capital now involves in most instances a true mutuality. Moreover, because the forms of capital are now much more variegated, capital can be earned and owned by many more people. This point should be kept in mind when proposals are made to « share the wealth. » A requirement that wealth simply be appropriated from those who have it and transferred to those who do not only makes moral sense when the wealth is endowed, not when it is earned.
Those who do not have capital should be afforded the opportunity to earn and accumulate it. Those who wish in their charity to help out by giving of their abundance are certainly to be encouraged. So far as social action goes, giving people the opportunity to earn wealth is consonant with their human dignity, merely bestowing the wealth is not.
The American business community recognizes in many papal and curial statements a kind of musty, old-world smell, suggestive of feudal social organization and appealing not to business and market sense but to things like noblesse oblige. Business people are put off by this, even though in most cases they can’t say why because they too are innocent of the economics that explain it.
What American business people do know at first hand is that they have to work hard to get and retain capital that is absolutely necessary to continue in business. By no means is it some sort of unearned surplus value that ought to be distributed for consumption. When Rome views capital as the equivalent of money under the feather mattresses of business people, then those people simply know that Rome is operating on a world view completely outdated and out of touch with contemporary American social and economic ordering, a worldview which renders the Holy See’s economic pronouncements « dead on arrival. »
- 羅馬天主教卻沒有意識到這點。持續地把富人當成中世紀封建地主般以道德大旗施壓。這那些讓胼手胝足而登上Forbes 富豪榜的美國天主教企業家十分感冒，儘管他們在神學上是辯不過教廷的。
It is often said that the teachings of the Church must be conveyed in up-to-date ways. In economic matters,’ this requires a broader, less Eurocentric view of the world. Moreover, the hierarchy should avail itself of the best modern understanding of how business and commerce work. The theoretical structure explaining market transactions which exposes their essential characteristic of mutuality was set forth by Francis Edgeworth more than a century ago. Economists universally accept this theory, and every business man and woman acts on it, even if they cannot state and defend the theory in any form that would hold water for five minutes. Difficult as it may be, the Church hierarchy should gain a defensible understanding of that theory and use the insights gleaned from it to rephrase the Church’s social doctrines.
In addition, a better understanding of the mutuality of free exchange would lead to proposals for policies to support the development of markets in less developed countries. The flourishing of markets, undergirded by civil rights of property, will do more for any nation and people than will large amounts of public spending for direct provision of food, housing and other necessities of life.
Thus, resistance to Catholic social teachings, including the social responsibilities of business, should not be understood to be due entirely to the reluctance of business sinners to repent. There really are serious difficulties that can be meliorated only by the Church’s hierarchy and her other teaching organs. In summary, Catholic social teaching will have an easier time making a headway in business and business schools if our Church hierarchy will ( 1) forthrightly acknowledge the legitimate distinction between the bishops’ political positions and their moral teachings, ( 2) largely replace the language of « rights » in social teachings with the concept of mutuality in economic relationships, and ( 3) appreciate capital for what it is, the result of hard work, prior productive investment and saving.
Not all the difficulties are on the side of the Church. Certainly, there ought to be more understanding and willingness on the part of business people and their teachers to take up their proper responsibilities. Specifically, business people should have confidence in the goodness of their calling and be willing to share their way of life with those who do not yet participate in it or its fruits. The mutuality inherent in market exchange and the discipline necessary for capital accumulation are behaviors, dispositions and virtues that should be exemplified by all business persons and exhibited by them, particularly to those who have the greatest need of them, the poor and disadvantaged.
This aspect of social responsibility is incumbent on every person in business. It is part of doing one’s job in commerce, whatever the job is. On the other hand, we should not expect that every business student is going to be involved other than marginally in the formulation and advancement of social policies. Specifically, social issues rarely claim a manager’s attention. There is, of course, a responsibility to be sensitive to such issues, so that they are not neglected when they reach into the manager’s proper area of responsibility.
The business world is for the most part rather a humdrum平凡的; 無聊的; 單調的sort of place, engaged in events, problems, activities and decisions that do not rise to the heights of social issues and policies. A business firm is an organization dedicated to trade and commerce. However great its particular social responsibilities may be, a business firm is never a social agency, and business persons are not social workers. It is important to impress this on our students. This is not a matter of getting them to refuse responsibility, but one of getting them to focus on their jobs which are their callings or vocations, if they have attended to the matter of whom they are becoming. For their sakes as persons, they must not neglect their vocations in order to take over functions that are properly those of the workers in other institutions, such as the church and the state.
Moreover, we ought to heed carefully the basic management principle that authority and responsibility will find each other ultimately. Professor Peter Drucker has warned us that in giving social responsibilities to corporations we are also ceding social authorities to them which they are not fit to exercise [6:348]. My impression is that most business people hesitate to accept extensive social responsibilities on behalf of their business firms precisely because they do not feel comfortable wielding the resulting implied authority over social structures and activities.
I have noticed that those who do not share a hesitancy and wade into social waters with enthusiasm never leave to social institutions the decisions about what to do and how. Those who consider themselves to have the authority commensurate with their self-defined social responsibilities are very often fundamentally undemocratic. They assume the requisite authority quite willing and ‘like having it. This surely does not convey virtue to a business manager, even when the objectives are claimed to have the sanction of the Church’s social teachings.
If these matters can be addressed, I believe we will make significant progress toward getting a more respectful hearing for the Church’s social teachings both in the business world and in all business schools, including those in Catholic universities. Grounded in Catholic social teachings restated to reflect mutuality, business students will be encouraged to have confidence in the goodness of their chosen way of life and will be encouraged to share that way of life with those who do not yet participate in it.