John Wesley – The First Moral Capitalist?

The other day, I ran across a sermon by the Methodist founder, John Wesley, on the use of money. Many years ago, when dean of a law school at a Methodist university, I had heard the university chaplain quote Wesley to the point of “Earn as much as you can; save as much as you can; give away as much as you can,” but had never been given the text of his sermon making that case.

So, when I read his sermon No. 50 on the use of money, I had two quick thoughts: 1) this is a classic statement of the Protestant ethic, which German sociologist, Max Weber, accepted as the formative drive behind modern capitalism and 2) his sermon was an early version of moral capitalism.

Wesley led a movement within the Church of England focusing not on churches and rituals, but on inner spiritual awakening. Wesley was an Arminian who generously believed God to be lovingly open-minded about people and prepared to welcome all who had deep and abiding faith into a heavenly hereafter.

Wesley was theologically comfortable, including moral concerns for others in our seeking out a living in this word. He did not juxtapose money against morality, but called on good and true Christians – actually on all people of all faiths – to use money with moral awareness.

This is the ideal of moral capitalism.

Today’s efforts to include stakeholders in business models, to find a purpose for companies and to care for the environment (ESG, sustainability, stakeholder capitalism, etc.) logically follow from Wesley’s advocacy of creating worldly wealth and then using it to better the world.

Wesley presumed with the Judeo-Christian Book of Genesis that God was sincere in judging his creation to be “good” and with Jesus that “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart.” (Luke 6:45)

You may read excerpts from Wesley’s sermon here.

Business Ethics and the New Business Model of Journalism

Recently, the new Executive Editor of the Washington Post wrote a letter to her customers describing her ethical aspirations for the “net impacts” of the Post on our culture and society.  What struck me about her statement is that she makes no mention of the traditional ethical standards which made journalism a learned “profession.”

Sally Buzbee wrote:

Dear Washington Post subscribers,

I couldn’t be more excited to serve as Executive Editor of the Washington Post.  I came here because of the respect I have for the institution and its people.  Over the last month, I’ve spent time meeting and learning from my new colleagues and it has been a pleasure putting faces to the names of the journalists we rely on for news that impacts our lives and everyday decisions. Their collective curiosity, vigor and passion for this important work is palpable and inspiring and it is a privilege to play a role in sharing their expertise with you.

I’ve spent my career pursuing the facts, seeking out stories of significance and holding the powerful to account.  To lead the biggest newsroom in the Washington Post’s history is an incredible honor for me.  But to also join the Washington Post at this moment in history feels like the beginning of a journey we are embarking on together.  The world is ever changing, yet our commitment to you and to the profession I love, is not.  We will continue to deliver the quality journalism that you have come to expect, reporting relevant and meaningful information and analysis in ways that are most accessible and convenient to you.

We’ll work daily to ensure the growing, diverse range of voices in our newsroom is heard and reflected and that we are diligently finding and telling the stories that spotlight the experiences of our diverse readers.

As you may have read, we’re expanding our global footprint, meaning you’ll have access to even more real-time coverage.  Establishing breaking-news hubs in Europe and Asia gives us the ability to cover live events as they are unfolding around the globe so you can depend on us for timely news reports at any hour, whether in Australia or on Capitol Hill.

We’re combining our legacy of deeply sourced, fact-based, investigative journalism with cutting-edge digital innovation, keeping us at the forefront of journalism’s future so that you are both informed and delighted.  You can look forward to more award-winning video and audio storytelling and insightful, beautiful and immersive graphic presentations.

The most important thing I want to share is that we’ll always have a relentless focus on you, our valued readers.  There is so much ahead.  I am thrilled to be part of the Washington Post’s future and hope you are, too.


Sally Buzbee
Executive Editor

The Society of Professionals Journalists (SPJ) has a code of ethics, which affirms these 4 moral objectives:

-Seek Truth and Report It

-Minimize Harm

-Act Independently

-Be Accountable and Transparent

To recognize that the arrival of the internet and social media has upended the business model for print newspapers and television networks, the Caux Round Table has considered what a contemporary code of ethics for journalists should include.

Here is the draft of such a code of ethics for journalists:

Business Principles for Ethical Journalism
Caux Round Table for Moral Capitalism

Principles:

1. Journalism is a quasi-public trust encumbered with fiduciary duties.  Journalism as a business provides a notable good of great merit for society.  News, information and well-argued opinion constitute a vital part of a society’s social capital.  Inaccurate news, false information and propaganda degrade a society’s capacity for finding common ground, mutual respect and tolerance.  The moral character of a society flourishes with responsible discourse to provide checks on extremism, stupidity and political authority.  Journalism is not entertainment.

2. Journalism as a business is community, not ownership, focused.  As a quasi-public trust, journalism does not seek to maximize financial returns for owners.  A business in journalism should be organized as a public-benefit corporation with its stock owned by philanthropic institutions.  Journalism companies must distinguish their rightful business model from the provision of that which is demeaning, dysfunctional, false, malicious, arbitrary and destructive of social capital.

3. The owners of companies providing journalism must support the creation of social capital.  Social capital – the reality of the social compact incubating justice, successful wealth creation and permitting the actualization of human dignity – is created over time by governments and civil society.  From the rule of law to physical infrastructures, from the quality of a society’s moral integrity and transparency of its decision-making to the depth and vitality of its culture, social capital demands investment of time, money, imagination and leadership.

4. Companies providing journalism will demand from their employees the highest standards of honesty, integrity and self-discipline in the craft of providing the highest quality news, information and well-argued opinion.

-These standards, as set forth in the SPJ code of ethics, are:

-Seek Truth and Report It

-Ethical journalism should be accurate and fair.  Journalists should be honest and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.

-Minimize Harm

-Ethical journalism treats sources, subjects, colleagues and members of the public as human beings deserving of respect.

-Act Independently

-The highest and primary obligation of ethical journalism is to serve the public.

-Be Accountable and Transparent

-Ethical journalism means taking responsibility for one’s work and explaining one’s decisions to the public.

5. A journalist shall be competent and act with reasonable diligence.  Competent reporting and advocacy require knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for public dissemination of the journalist’s work product.

A journalist shall not knowingly: (1) make a false statement of fact or fail to correct a false statement of material fact previously made to the public by the journalist; (2) fail to disclose to the public facts and authority known to the lawyer to be directly adverse to his or her published work; (3) offer evidentiary arguments that the journalist knows to be deceitful or a misrepresentation of substantial truth; or 4) allude to any matter that the journalist does not reasonably believe is relevant or that will not be supported by credible testimony and evidence.

What Are the Ethical Obligations of Teachers?

We were discussing recently among the staff who has responsibility to form moral persons who can have the intent and skills to bring about moral capitalism and moral government?

Simply put, the moral sense of each person is a product of the social capital provided to that individual and the human capital with which the individual is blessed or which that person accrues through their agency capabilities.

Encouraging the development of a robust moral sense has been the task of societies, I suppose, since our distant ancestors evolved from their less human forbearers. Great thinkers – Confucius, Aristotle, the Buddha, Adam Smith, Sigmund Freud – have given us advice on how to do this work of formation of character well.

Families are the point of departure for the formation of the moral sense, but we have evolved formal engagement of young minds with education and instruction.

Teachers, in many guises, not always as classroom instructors, are architects of the foundation for moral society, moral government and moral economics.

Teachers, then, have important social offices to fulfill; they have responsibilities, duties, to serve.

The Caux Round Table Principles for Government posit that public office is a public trust.

As public officials, teachers in public schools are trustees – they are stewards of power which are to be used for the good of the community and for the good of the students, not as a personal entitlement or sinecure, which draw more on rights of private property than they do of responsibilities for the public good.

Our fellows have made suggestions as to the content of a code of ethics for teachers, drawing on our Principles for Government.

You can review the proposed code here.

I would very much like to learn your thoughts.

Are Teachers Really Trustees for the Public Good?

America’s continuing crisis has brought the role of public school teachers and education to the forefront of cultural divisiveness. Many in education have come to believe that their duty is to educate students in the new norms of race consciousness to repair past injurious beliefs about themselves and others. Other Americans, mostly the less wealthy and with less prestigious educational credentials, are not supportive of this new educational agenda.

The conflict puts on the table for all societies the ethical responsibilities of teachers in public service.

As the approach of moral capitalism directs attention to the formation of robust social and human capitals, education is a most important capital input to successful wealth creation and social justice. Teachers, therefore, have important ethical responsibilities to their students; teachers are servant leaders in social capital formation.

In addition, the Caux Round Table Principles for Government provide ethical guidelines for those teachers working in public schools.

With a notable action last week by the National Education Association to advocate critical race theory in our public schools, I thought it timely to comment on the responsibilities of public school teachers as holders of a public office, which confers on them authority over students to be used as a public trust.

You may find my comment here.

Do Users of Social Media Need a Code of Ethics?

I ask your help with a new Caux Round Table initiative – crafting a code of ethics for users of social media.

Providing platforms for social media is a very lucrative business. The market capitalization of Facebook (including Instagram) is $1 trillion, Twitter is $55 billion and Alphabet (Google) is $1.7 trillion.

Every business, presumably, is subject to ethical consideration in its business model, its products and services and their impacts on stakeholders.

Social media is now notorious for having negative social impacts. It facilitates 1) the undermining of trust; 2) giving scope to interpersonal enmity; 3) destroying reputations; 4) polarizing politics; 5) undermining in the public square reason and thoughtful analysis by giving scope to raw emotions, cognitive biases and disorderly ignorance; 6) putting obstacles in the way of free speaking and thinking; 7) promoting low self-esteem in girls and young women; and 8) disseminating disinformation and “fake news” – to mention only a few of the dysfunctions aggravated by social media.

Are the business platforms responsible for these negative impacts or is it those who use social media wrongfully and unethically, thoughtlessly and cruelly, who should be more respectful of others?

Use of social media is a power in our hands, which can be weaponized or used thoughtfully and carefully. All uses of power by our kind raise ethical concerns over abuse and fairness.

There are no standards published and recommended for the responsible use of social media by consumers of this product. Therefore, the Caux Round Table has asked its fellows for advice and guidance in shaping such a code of ethics for users of social media.

I attach here for your review the current draft of such an ethical code.

Please send me at your earliest convenience your advice and suggestions for improving the current draft statement.

Caux Round Table Initiative on New Covenantal Pledges Between Christians and Muslims

You may recall that in February, I sent you a copy of our report on the covenants made by the Prophet Muhammad to respect and protect Christian communities.

After Pope Francis met with the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in May, the good offices of the Caux Round Table were sought to help draft a modern form of covenant in the spirit of the Prophet Muhammad’s promotion of mutuality and engagement between Christians and Muslims, such modern commitments of reciprocity between the communities to be considered for use in Iraq.

We asked for help from members of the study group which collaborated in drafting our report on the covenants of the Prophet. Their task was to reflect on what form a modern covenantal relationship between Christians and Muslims might take and what provisions might be most constructively included in such a document of mutual understanding.

Caux Round Table Chairman Emeritus, Lord Daniel Brennan, has presided over this new initiative.

The drafting team has proposed a “community compact” to be signed by individuals as a pledge of their good faith and goodwill in respectful engagement with other signatories and their community networks.

A copy of the proposed community compact has been forwarded to Pope Francis and the Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani for their information.

I attach here for you a copy of that proposed community compact. Please do send me your thoughts and advice on how this initiative could be successfully carried forward globally.

The Courts Should Listen to CRT in Antitrust Cases

Concerns for the abuse of market power by the tech platforms and Amazon are rising. But American antitrust law is behind the times, with its current framing of when market power becomes harmful, harking back to pre-internet days of yore.

Stakeholder capitalism should now provide guidance to courts on when to restrain the accumulation of power and its use by private companies, like Facebook, Google and Amazon.

Some additional thoughts can be found here.

The Chinese Communist Party at 100 and the Theocracy of Mozi

What is the Communist Party of China today on its 100th anniversary?

It has evolved since its founding from a proletarian party, part of an international workers movement, into a national, socialist party “building socialism in one country.”  Deng Xiaoping famously noted the essence of the Chinese Communist Party when he described its mission as achieving socialism “with Chinese characteristics.”

The Marxism of its formative years, brought to China in part by some who had studied in France like Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping, was domesticated and sinicized by Mao Zedong in the late 1930s using old Chinese ideological models of state and society.  These ideational formulations were first advanced by Mozi (471-391 BCE) to justify a system of morally and politically totalitarian imperial rule and were later expounded in the 1300s in more overly religious terms by White Lotus sects insisting on purifying culture and society to please Heaven.  Mao’s quasi-religious vision of the Party’s mission culminated in the Cultural Revolution.

National socialism was the branch of Marxism which grew out of the syndicalist labor organizations.  Under Mussolini and Hitler, this variant of socialism took the form of corporatism with culture, society and economic productive forces all under the coordinated direction of the Party.  These political programs imposing national discipline were marketed under the name of fascism.

As Hitler took the title “der Fuhrer,” similarly both Mao and his successor, Xi Jinping, were given the title of …. or “people’s leader.”

The “socialism with Chinese characteristics” promoted today by Xi and constituting the Chinese Communist Party’s program, at this time, recovers the recommendations for social justice advanced by Mozi.  Just like Thomas Hobbes in England, Mozi sought to bring order to human civilization.  His method, very similar to that proposed by Hobbes, was to subordinate all people under the direction of a ruler who looked to Heaven as a theocratic fountainhead of right.

Mozi’s vision of a theocracy, adopted and modified by other ancient Chinese thinkers such as Shang Yang, XunZi, Han Feizi and Li Ssu, was institutionalized as the Chinese imperial order with a lone Son of Heaven (Tian Zi) setting and enforcing rules and regulations for the Tian Xia or the “All-Under-Heaven” – literally everything and everyone on earth.

The establishment of such an order and its successive re-establishment by a new dynasty after the fall of a predecessor began in 221 BCE.  The remarkable Chinese imperial system has continued to this day.

One can see in today’s Communist Party of China the recreation of that imperial order of late Bronze Age/early Iron Age invention emerging as a new turning of the dynastic cycle of founding, rise, apogee, decline, collapse, anarchy and civil war and then a new founding with the cycle then repeating itself.

The many Chinese dynasties were: Qin, Han, Sui, T’ang, Sung, Yuan, Ming and Ching.

We can gain a very important insight into the paradigm chosen by Xi  for his party and country from a letter about his mother written recently by former Premier Wen Jiabao.  Wen’s letter holds up a different set of Chinese characteristics – a righteous humanism – for the Party and for China.

Former Premier Wen points to an alternate set of deeply experienced Chinese ideals, those championed by Confucius and Mencius and, in other important ways, by Daoism and Buddhism.  These philosophies expressly created Chinese “ethical characteristics,” placing a priority on individual virtue, on developing the humanness and righteousness (仁義) inherent in our moral sense as human persons and on having personal agency to live without state supervision.  These individualized ethical standards can be applied to culture, society, politics and the economy, as the Chinese have done for 2,000 years.

The book containing the teachings of Mencius begins as follows:

Mencius went to see King Hui of Liang.

The King asked: “Venerable Sir, since you have not counted it far to come here, a distance of one thousand li, may I presume that you are provided with counsels to profit (利) my Kingdom?”

Mencius replied: “Why must your Majesty use that word “profit?” What I am provided with, are counsels to benevolence and righteousness (仁義) and these are my only topics.”

If your Majesty say, “What is to be done to profit my kingdom?” the great officers will say, “What is to be done to profit our families?” and the inferior officers and the common people will say, “What is to be done to profit our persons?” Superiors and inferiors will try to snatch this profit the one from the other and the kingdom will be endangered.

Let your Majesty also say, “Benevolence and righteousness (仁義) and let these be your only themes.”

Why must you use that word – “profit?”                                (Mencius, Bk 1, Part 1, Chapter 1)

Premier Wen’s elevation of humanness and righteousness aligns his vision of China and essential Chineseness with the Caux Round Table (CRT) Principles for Business and Principles for Government, not to mention the cognate CRT principles for civil society organizations and ownership of wealth.

If the Chinese Communist Party would follow Mencius, rather than Mozi, the Chinese people would be happy and prosperous and the world would be safer and more prosperous.

Premier Wen’s letter can no longer be found on the internet.  All posts were removed in an act of, as we say in America, “cancel culture.”  However, I have provided excerpts from his filial letter, along with a commentary, so that you can access the morality and thoughts of Premier Wen for yourself.  The letter with commentary is here.