Trying to Walk the Talk: Putting the CRT Approach to Work in Minnesota in a Time of Moral Crisis

In the years when participants in the Caux Round Table for Moral Capitalism (CRT) have met to contribute insights to the betterment of global capitalism, they drew on experience, as well as on “book” learning.  The tensions in ethics between aspiration and reality, thought and action, hope and commitment, long-term and short-term, profit and community benefits, seem inexorably necessary.  Abstractions, what the philosopher Jurgen Habermas calls “normativity,” have their necessary place in human affairs.  But abstractions without more remain disembodied in the realm of thought and language.  To reify what is merely conscious is to leave normativity behind and enter the realm of facticity.

The CRT has, therefore, sought, with dedication, to be present in both realms – normativity and facticity.  Ideas and ideals guide and inspire and implementation – key performance indicators – changes the world.

Here in Minnesota, after the death of George Floyd at the end of May, demands for defunding police forces in Minneapolis and St. Paul and insistence on more effective steps to reduce traditional inequalities of wealth among African Americans became immediate challenges in our home community.  To meet the challenge, the CRT applied its principles to design very practical responses to policing, building personal assets and re-framing how we, as Americans, should understand and talk with each other about “racism.”

However, all three responses can have global applications in 1) policing; 2) providing an on-ramp for inclusion of poor families in banking and investments; and 3) reducing mistrust and even enmity between ethnicities and religions.

Frankly, we have responded to injustices differently than others here have recommended.  Our analysis of the causes of inequality reflects our learning about how societies, cultures and economies intersect.  At the root of human efforts are values.  Values cannot be separated from the causes of human failures and successes.

Values alone cannot bring about success, nor are they solely responsible for the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.”  Circumstances, skills and qualifications, emotions – constructive and destructive – and personal dispositions combine to impact the outcomes we all experience. But skills, competencies, personal efforts and power and money cannot compensate for bad values.

We have applied a values approach to policing as first proposed by Sir Robert Peel in his Nine Principles of Policing of 1829, written to provide a moral compass for the first modern police force, the London Metropolitan Police.  We proposed that police officers should first be hired for character and then trained for competence.

Secondly, on building personal financial assets in African American communities, we have mobilized a team to deploy a FinTech Smartphone App so that youth and families can start their own individual investment accounts with investments as low as $5.00.  The values foundation for this program is the personal habit of savings and planning for the future.

Thirdly, in considering whether America is systemically racist, we prefer to elevate the value of individual, not collective, responsibility.  We believe that individuals of different backgrounds and life experiences can come to learn about others and appreciate how they view life through a process of translation and interpretation across cultures and perspectives.

In these ways, we seek very constructively to use the CRT methodology of applying the moral sense – wisdom and virtue – to decision-making and to shape the course of facticity.  By tapping into core realities of the human person and drawing on those powers in our actions, we believe good can be achieved.