We often struggle with the abstraction of ethics and morals, compassion and responsibility. They are not tangible assets, though they have tangible impacts. They are, are they not, like Adam Smith’s “invisible hand,” which we can’t touch, but which process can give us our daily bread.
At the Caux Round Table, we more and more feel an obligation to point out and even attempt to “measure” intangibles, like social capital and human capital, as essential to a moral capitalism.
So, I was struck recently when reading this account in a report on the fighting in Ukraine: “Sergo’s story, and many others that I heard like it, illustrates the real reasons for Ukraine’s success, which go far deeper than the critical U.S. supply of long-range, precision weapons or the shoddiness of the Russian army. The Ukrainians know why they are fighting; theirs is an existential war for survival. … “We are smaller than Russia and don’t have so much artillery or manpower, but we have social capital,” said Yehor Soboliev.
Jesus said something about the value of the intangible, of the spirit: “Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21)
The Dao De Jing notes that: “We make a bowl from a lump of clay; it is the empty space within the vessel that makes it useful. Thus, while the tangible is of selfish advantage, it is the intangible that creates that usefulness.”