In-person Round Table: The Coronavirus – One Year On — April 8 at 9AM

Well, it’s been one year since corona viruses hit our shores and what have we learned? What role has capitalism played and what role government? Are vaccines private or public goods? What about the right to a good education? What has trillions added to our liquidity done to reduce the wealth gap between the top 10% and the rest of us?

Please join us at 9:00 am on Thursday, April 8 at Landmark Center for an in-person round table, sort of a return to normal, to bring collective wisdom to bear on these questions and more.

Cost to attend is $10 per person.

Due to the Center’s virus restrictions, we’re limited to 14 total attendees. Face masks and social distancing must also be observed.

To register, please email Jed at

Who Will Pay for Lunch? – 2

Yesterday, I sent you a short quip on application of the reality principle to economics and finance, what seems to me to be an ethical position of great integrity. Today, the Editorial Board of the Wall Street Journal added its own thinking about who will actually pay for “lunch” here in the U.S. I include excerpts from the editorial here:

Jerome Powell lobbied publicly for months for more fiscal spending in the name of spurring the economy. Congratulations to the Federal Reserve Chairman, who has succeeded in catching the fiscal bus. Now his wish is Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s command as the Fed has to finance the vast fiscal deficits to come.

That’s the context to consider as the Federal Open Market Committee meets this week amid rising interest rates and market inflation jitters. Fed officials have been telling the public there is nothing to worry about, that they have the tools to manage any rate or inflation breakout. But investors aren’t crazy to be watchful, no matter how blithely the Fed assures.

The sheer magnitude of the deficits to be financed is a rare experiment in U.S. fiscal history. Even before the $1.9 trillion spending bill passed, the Congressional Budget Office estimated the deficit as a share of GDP would be 10.3% in fiscal 2021. With the Pelosi-Schumer-Biden blowout, the deficit this fiscal year will now be in the neighborhood of 18% of GDP. That’s the highest by far since the four wartime years of 1942-1945.

That’s also a lot of Treasury bills, notes and bonds to sell. U.S. investors have historically been able to finance about 4%-5% of GDP. The appetite of foreign buyers will depend on relative interest rates, currency values and confidence in the U.S. economy. Treasury’s Feb. 25 auction of seven-year notes was a warning sign as low demand almost led to failure.

Treasury auctions since have been more robust, but there’s little doubt that the Fed will be a bulk purchaser of U.S. debt for years to come. The Fed is currently buying $120 billion a month of Treasurys and mortgage securities and (unlike in Europe) there is no limit on the amount it can buy.

The fortunate news is that the economy is about to zoom ahead as the pandemic and social distancing ease. This year could see the fastest GDP growth since 7.2% in 1984 and the economy is poised to make up all of the ground it lost during the pandemic as soon as this quarter. The main effect of the $1.9 trillion will be to rob growth from the future by giving consumers more money to spend now. The Fed will no doubt bask in this near-term happiness.

But eventually there is a price for everything in economics, notwithstanding the assurances of modern-monetary theory. The test for the Fed will come in future months as the economy recovers. The market may demand higher interest rates, even as the Fed will want to keep them low to finance continuing federal deficits. The political pressure from the Biden Treasury and Congress will be enormous to keep rates low as far as the eye can see.

One challenge will be maintaining a calm Treasury market. This probably means waiving again the Supplementary Leverage Ratio for banks, a measure of capital adequacy. The Fed waived the rule last April and the waiver expires March 31. Restoring it now would penalize banks for holding Treasurys as reserves. This is one way in which the government response to the pandemic will continue to block a return to normal monetary and regulatory policy.

Good luck to Chairman Powell and the FOMC in this brave new world in which politicians believe they can spend as much as they want without policy consequences. Mr. Powell won’t be able to say he warned us.

Who Will Pay for Lunch?

Today’s Wall Street Journal has a front-page article on the Biden Administration trying to find a way to pay for the $1.9 trillion infusion of liquidity into the American economy as transfer payments to many and then for the infusion of even more liquidity with spending on infrastructure, clean energy and education.

The article notes that the Biden team is caught between raising taxes or incurring more debt to pay for making their dreams become real.

In other words, Biden is eyeball to eyeball with reality and reality “sucks:” there is no free lunch.

Where spending is concerned, if you want to buy anything, then someone at some time – in the past, right now or in the future – has to create real wealth and you need to get a share of it. Money is only a claim to some part of real wealth. You can’t eat gold or paper money or build a house out of paper collateral debt obligations or digital options contracts.

This is an iron law of the cosmos. Something cannot come from nothing, except possibly the big bang. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, there was God before there was our created world.

Thus, the fundamental moral justification for capitalism is that it pays for lunch. More than that, it pays for more lunches (and even for leftovers to eat later) and for better lunches and leftovers than any other human system of mutual collaboration has done – ever.

Capitalism, to be sure, produces material, not spiritual goods. But to what end is the spirit in this life if you starve to death?

All lives in America will be better off (we presume) if the Biden Administration spends $1.9 trillion, but does not offer up one prayer of supplication.

And I note that in the New Testament, two of the most appreciated stories are of Christ miraculously feeding the multitude with loaves and fish and the Good Samaritan selflessly taking care of the robber’s victim lying by the side of the road. The New Testament also gives us the thought that by feeding the hungry, we also feed the divine. The spirit, thus, becomes part of the world through the use of wealth.

Reflections on the Visit of Pope Francis to Iraq

As we have reported, for the last two years, the Caux Round Table has facilitated a small study group seeking to learn more about covenants given to Christian communities by the Prophet Muhammad.  I would like to note in the context of our initiative the very auspicious visit of Pope Francis to Iraq last weekend.

I had hoped that some comment would be made during this remarkable, historic visit, holding up the Prophet’s covenants as a model for mutual respect and reciprocal appreciation.  While this did not transpire, very much in the spirit of the covenants, the Grand Ayatollah Sistani said, “You are part of us and we are part of you.”

His transcendent vision was written on public posters like this:


In the days leading up to the Pope’s visit, I was in contact with colleagues in our study network close to the Pope and others in contact with the close associates of the Ayatollah.  It is my sense from the tenor of my phone conversations and emails with them that our report on the covenants, which was shared with both leaders, quite possibly did help to reduce anxieties by providing an historical precedent for mutuality between Muslims and Christians and so contributed to confident expectations of good results from the visit and so to the goodwill and collegiality animating the historic meeting of these two spiritual leaders.

One of the organizers told me afterwards that the meeting resulted in a “new mentality and culture.”

I was particularly moved by the Pope’s decision to visit Ur – the birthplace of Abraham, the place from which he set forth on his life-long pilgrimage as inspired by God.  Personally, reminding us of the fidelity of Abraham, the Pope, with his presence there, brought into one heritage the three Abrahamic faiths, similar to the way of the Prophet Muhammad who, in his covenants, brought together, in mutual consort, both Christians and Muslims.

I was reflecting a day or so ago that could it be possible that a short visit by one man, a religious leader, to Iraq has done more to put out the fires of intolerance and violence than nearly two decades of American efforts to “win the war on terror” and “pacify” Iraq?

Then, I recalled the cynical quip of Stalin as reported by President Harry Truman (there are other versions as to when Stalin made his observation):

“I remember at Potsdam we got to discussing a matter in Eastern Poland and it was remarked by the Prime Minister of Great Britain that the Pope would not be happy over that arrangement of that Catholic end of Poland. And the Generalissimo, the Prime Minister of Russia, leaned on the table and he pulled his mustache like that (gesturing) and looked over at Mr. Churchill and said: ‘”Mr. Churchill, Mr. Prime Minister, how many divisions did you say the Pope had?’”

Please Join Us Online for Presentation of Our Annual Dayton Awards

The globally recognized 1994 Caux Round Table (CRT) ethical Principles for Business reflect the special legacy of Minnesota business leadership in seeking success through service to community and stakeholders. This remarkable legacy was epitomized by the Dayton Family – founders and owners of Dayton’s Department Store and Target Corporation, generous benefactors of the arts and community organizations.

To recognize the continuing importance of socially responsible leadership, the CRT annually recognizes executives who have distinguished themselves and their organizations in service to community.

Please join us online at 1:00 pm (CST) on Thursday, March 25 as we recognize Andrew Cecere, Chairman, President and CEO of U.S. Bancorp, for his determined engagement on behalf of the homeless to provide them with new facilities for shelter and meals.

The CRT will also recognize Don Samuels, CEO, MicroGrants, and Sondra Samuels, President and CEO, Northside Achievement Zone, for their perseverance in opening economic opportunities for citizens of north Minneapolis.

Thirdly, the CRT will commemorate the leadership of James Ford Bell, the Founder and CEO of what is now General Mills, after World War I in mobilizing Americans in agricultural enterprises to provide food for the hunger in Europe.


  • Welcome: Stephen Young, Global Executive Director, CRT
  • Presentation of Award to Andrew Cecere: Brad Anderson, Chairman, CRT; former CEO, Best Buy
  • Remarks: Andrew Cecere, Chairman, President and CEO, U.S. Bancorp
  • Remarks: Cardinal Peter Turkson
  • Presentation of Award to Don Samuels and Sondra Samuels: Brad Anderson, Chairman, CRT; former CEO, Best Buy
  • Remarks: Don Samuels, CEO, MicroGrants
  • Remarks: Sondra Samuels, President and CEO, Northside Achievement Zone
  • Remarks: Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild, Founding and Managing Partner, Inclusive Capitalism
  • Retrospective Award to James Ford Bell: Mark Ritchie, President, Global Minnesota, and Jeff Harmening, President and CEO, General Mills
  • Closing Remarks: Stephen Young, Global Executive Director, CRT

In particular, the Dayton Awards seek to dramatize leadership capacities of vision and prudence.

In 1994, at the initiative of several senior Minnesota business executives, the CRT published the first set of global ethical principles for business in Caux, Switzerland. Those principles then inspired the United Nations Global Compact. The CRT principles have informed the growing global movement for corporate social responsibility, which provides a road map for a more moral capitalism.

There are essential abilities required to lead – integrity, courage, compassion, respect and responsibility:

Integrity is being honest and having strong moral principles. Having integrity means you are true to yourself and would do nothing that demeans or dishonors you. Integrity makes you believable, as you know and act on your values.

Courage is strength in the face of adversity and upholding what is right, regardless of what others may think or do. Courage enables you to take a stand, honor commitments and guide the way. Courage is a necessary element of responsibility.

Compassion is having concern for another. It is feeling for and not feeling with the other. Compassion is concern of others in a more global sense.

Respect is a feeling of deep admiration for someone. Leaders ought to be respected and they ought to respect those with whom they work. Demonstrating this perspective is essential to motivate and inspire others.

Responsibility is acting on commitment, will, determination and obligation. Responsibility implies the satisfactory performance of duties, the adequate discharge of obligations and the trustworthy care for or disposition of possessions. It is being willing and able to act in a life-enhancing manner. Responsibility is expected of self, as well as from others.

To register, please click here.

Again, this online event will be taking place at 1:00 pm (CST) on Thursday, March 25.

Meghan Markle and Harry Windsor – The Emotional Cost of Holding Office

Many around the world today are still talking about the self-centered presentations on Sunday of Meghan Markle and her husband, Harry Windsor.

I was a bit taken aback after listening to them with the realization that the Caux Round Table Principles for Government set a standard for persons in their position as members of a royal family.

You can read my thoughts here.

Annual Brandl Program: Community Policing – the Way Forward for a Divided America – Friday, March 19

Law enforcement in America is controversial. Is it just? Is it little more than a repressive apparatus, subjecting the vulnerable and the afflicted to the norms of the ruling class in the cause of maintaining “white privilege?”

Police derives from the Greek word for city – “polis,” which came to embrace the idea of political community. In Latin, this became the ‘res publica,’ which gave rise to “republic.” Policing is part of building and maintaining community.

This was recognized by the founder of modern police forces, Sir Robert Peel. When launching the first police force, the London Metropolitan Police, Sir Robert issued ethical principles to direct the application of police power in the community. He insisted that the police are the community and the community the police.

What we must do both to enhance community and to police effectively depends on our insights into human nature – is our species congenitally good or evil or both at once? Human nature – good or bad – guides both members of the community and the sworn officers of every police force. What kind of character is needed for good policing in America today? What kind of character is needed for our citizens to be fair and just with one another?

Please join us for our annual Brandl Program, this year on “Community Policing – the Way Forward for a Divided America” over Zoom at 11:00 am on Friday, March 19th.

The panelists will include John Harrington, Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Matt Bostrom, former Sheriff of Ramsey County and Booker Hodges, Assistant Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

The program agenda is:

-Welcome: John Hinderaker, President, Center of the American Experiment

-Presentation of Speakers: Laura Bloomberg, Dean, Humphrey School of Public Affairs

-Remarks: John Harrington, Commissioner, Minnesota Department of Public Safety

-Response: Matt Bostrom, former Sheriff, Ramsey County, and Booker Hodges, Assistant Commissioner, Minnesota Department of Public Safety

-Q&A with Speakers: Kate Cimino, Executive Director, Citizens League

-Closing: Jane Leonard, President, Growth & Justice

The event is free and open to the public.

To register, please click here.

The program will conclude at noon.

The Brandl Program is sponsored by the Center of the American Experiment, Citizens League, Growth & Justice, Humphrey School of Public Affairs and the Caux Round Table for Moral Capitalism.

The Center Cannot Hold – 2

Recently, I sent to our network some observations on the collapse of the center in American culture and politics. A few days ago, a friend sent me the poll results found below, revealing the inconsistent narratives in which the two poles of American culture and politics have separately adopted.

I cannot vouch for any degree of credibility in these poll results, nor in the polling methodology used to obtain them. That inability is one of the afflictions, I think, we suffer from, living in this age of Twitter truths – nothing is really demonstrably true, that all we read might be empty-headed gossip or worse.

Nevertheless, the different opinions reported do track my personal experiences with friends on the right and on the left. Thus, I wanted to share with you this quite dramatic demonstration of how far apart many Americans are from one another.

In such a culture, what can possibly lift-up ethical discourse or promote the common good?