WRITTEN BY JOHN SAFFORD
Capitalism without a grassroots ethos of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” is nihilistic and ultimately un-useful. There is a reason that “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism,” a book written by Max Weber in the early 1900’s, forms a foundational social/economics thesis among modern social scientists and scholars. Written strictly from an agnostic evaluation of American ingenuity and economy, Max Weber’s book reveals a dynamic functionality between successful Capitalism and a Christian ethos. Having now lost this balance, the simple truth is that modern Capitalism, standing without this counterweight, is worthy of the criticism it often receives. Capitalism has lost its “savor” by forgetting its roots in the Golden Rule.
I stand with many others in taking exception to Hillary Clinton’s book “It Takes a Village” because it was, in my opinion, written from a “government is best” point of view. But the fact is that it does take a village to create an economy. In other words, The American Dream is not strictly individualistic. The Christian Ethic is no small or insignificant part of American history but the Christian Ethic, while empathizing individualistic responsibility, is not completely individualist as it also supports collaborative effort and the honoring of intersectional abilities. It takes honest work and all hands-on deck to make a village and entrepreneurial enterprise at a “village” level is the way to raise all boats.
I don’t know when the idea of money accumulation became the dominant measure of value in America, but it surely has risen to a high place in our modern system of merit. The love of money certainly drives status seekers and grifters to exceptional levels of hubris, but the love of money in the general population also drives a stake into the heart of the true catalyst of Capitalism and that is profit, being misunderstood. While a profit motive alone or making money only for money’s sake is “chasing after the wind,” a proper understanding and use of profit is essential for the functional and sustainable existence of any economic society.
What really counts is the Marginal Propensity calculus at the local level. A Marginal Propensity calculus is a metric used to evaluate the ways that “extra” income is used in a community. In other words, when an individual or family realizes that they have income over their basic needs, Marginal Propensity measures how that “profit” is used. There is an old story told many times at Scout meetings called Stone Soup. Basically, it is an economics story about the value of sharing what you have and thereby creating enough for everyone. When profit is used to either save (at a local bank who invests in the community) or spend for local goods, the effect is multiplied as many times as it is transferred. It is the banker, the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker on steroids that creates wealth for a broad spectrum of that “village.” This kind of wealth building is true Capitalism.