Monday, April 28, 2008

Spiritual Enterprise, by Theodore Roosevelt Malloch

mpepAt this time of the global credit crisis, for all who long to understand the relationship between that crisis on the one hand, and on the other hand, moral and spiritual matters, comes this relatively short, easy-to-understand yet profound book by one of the world's leaders:

SPIRITUAL ENTERPRISE (just published by Enterprise Books, New York and London) is by Theodore Roosevelt Malloch who is Chairman and CEO of The Roosevelt Group and Founder of the Spiritual Enterprise Institute. After a soaring career in econometrics and financial services, Dr. Malloch held Ambassadorial-level positions at the UN as well as in the US government, and now serves on numerous corporate, mutual fund, and not-for-profit boards.

Dr Malloch is generous (possibly over-generous at points) but also clear-sighted and direct in his evaluations: "The increasingly central place occupied by China in the world economy has made the questions raised in this book especially relevant. There is a tendency among those whom Schopenhauer would describe as "unscrupulous optimists" to see China's move towards a capitalist economy as announcing the country's emergence as a normal member of the republic of nations. Such people overlook the fact that "capitalism" cannot be secured merely by allowing private property and private investment. There must also be rule of law and the kind of guarantees offered to the individual that will permit free experiment, the transfer of knowledge and the critical response to government. Those conditions do not exist in China, and corporations that are nevertheless entering the Chinese market are faced with crucial moral problems that, without the guidance of faith, may be hard or impossible to overcome. We have witnessed this in the case of two quintessentially modern companies, allegedly devoted to the pursuit of free opinion and open information: Google and Yahoo. The first has found itself acquiescing in censorship; the second has even become complicit in surrendering dissidents to punishment by the Chinese state. These cases show us the confusions encountered by companies operating on purely secular principles (however admirable those principles may be) when entering a sphere of genuine moral trial. The great tension that lies at the heart of the liberal order - the tension between free opinion and moral restraint - suddenly comes to the surface and, without the spiritual guidance that I have been advocating in this book, (that tension) has a lamentable tendency to be resolved in favour of the tyrant".

These are remarkably blunt words from a former diplomat at the UN.

Dr Malloch's whole argument is possibly best summed up by the following adaptation by me of his concluding paragraph: "I do not deny that people, and companies, can be virtuous (even) if they lack faith. But...virtue endures and spreads because it is sustained by and through faith. The spiritual capital built up by previous generations (can be squandered, or it can be) borrowed 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. In the new conditions created by the global economy, the informaiton revolution and the growth of smart technologies, it is more than ever necessary for all companies to be guided by (a) rich spiritual inheritance, as spiritual enterprises. For only in so doing will they realize (the) incomparable source of the certainties that they will need in order to succed in (the) highly competitive and interconnected international commerce that we have (created)".

For its unfashionableness, for its honesty and integrity, and for the elegance of its thought and expression, I thoroughly recommend this book. It is essential reading for everyone concerned about the issues of our age. Sphere: Related Content

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