[saymaListserv] Are businesspeople and corporations the "bad people" and an introduction by Free
freepolazzo at mindspring.com
Sat Mar 30 19:54:47 JEST 2002
Quaker economist Jack Powelson's most recent e mail letter, reproduced a
copy of an article entitled "Friends' Attitudes Toward Business in the
USA" by Friend Mark S. Cary. I believe that it is a very important part
of the truth about Friends' shadow (in Jungian terms) that needs to have
more light put on it. So here I am doing that.
A discussion around this concern, after worship some day, would help us to
know each other better.
This concern is one that is very important to Janet and me as we are both
"economic determinists". That is we recognize that most of the worlds
issues revolve around economics. That field of study is scorned my most
Friends. I see business as "micro, micro economics". In other words,
As a small businessperson I have always felt what is mentioned in the
article, reproduced below. The scorn and then the minds of F(f)riends
closing as I say things that run counter to "popular liberal Quaker
beliefs". I run into resistance to my reality from folks who have never
worked in the business world or have had limited experience in that
environment. I have the advantage of doing work which requires me to be
privy to many "secrets" about the businesses who's accounting, distribution
and manufacturing systems I am there to replace. If I don't discover the
truth about the way they function then the new one won't work. It's as
simple as that.
At FGC Gathering, AFSC meetings and FWCC conferences, it seems that
everyone needs an enemy, even Quakers. So we have picked business people
and corporations. I guess we are just like everyone else, except that we
can perhaps listen harder to the minority, even if they are not part of an
"affirmative action group" or an "oppressed class". That is my hope and
Does the Spirit only dwell in those who do "not for profit" work? At my
first FGC Gathering, on opening ceremonies, we 1000 plus Friends were asked
to stand if we worked in the "healing professions". As I remained seated, I
noticed maybe 20 other poor souls who were being labeled as "non healers"
simply by the work we did.
As an accountant, I have always translated "not for profit" to mean "tax
exempt". Without the "profit motive", all the "tax exempt" organizations I
have worked or volunteered for, seem to treat their workers and managers
and "owners" worse than the so called "oppressive and competitive
corporations" that I work for every day.
And competition is not necessarily a bad thing. Done fairly, it helps to
decide where scarce resources end up. People end up having choices. We may
not like their choices, but isn't it part of a Friends journey to not get
in the way of another's spiritual path? Have many Friends have talked with
business people and discovered what their Spiritual Journey is all
about? Would you really want to wait for a committee of all Americans to
reach unity, before deciding on which crop to plant this year? We'd all
starve, as did many in countries where committees smaller than that,
decided that they knew better than the farmers what needed to be grown.
The business people I work with are not plunderers and pirates, ala Enron.
Enron is news because it is the exception. More oversite will occur and
trust will be restored. That's what has made the USA, Northwest Europe and
Japan so productive in material terms. Otherwise we end up like the
Ferenghi on Star Trek. To learn more about this phenomena, I strongly
recommend Jack's Powelson's book, Centuries of Economic Endeavor : Parallel
Paths in Japan and Europe and Their Contrast With the Third World published
by the Univ. of Michigan Press.
Go to Jack's website for more insights from a very weighty and
knowledgeable and brave Friend, who speaks his mind from personal
Click on Jack Powelson for a list of books he has published. I believe
every Friends Library could benefit from his work. Sadly his workshop was
excluded from the 2002 FGC Gathering, in sprit of excellent reviews by his
previous workshop attenders, because it wasn't "Spiritual Enough". All
workshops dealing with economics seems to have been purged by the workshop
committee. Makes me so sad to see Friends appear afraid of the truth, when
it's different than what is common knowledge We still have an enormous
problem with avoiding conflict, that could contribute to the greater
understanding of the truth and how to be even better at peacemaking than we
Peace and Blessings,
Subject: The Classic Liberal Quaker, Letter No. 40
Friends' Attitudes Toward Business in the USA
by Mark S. Cary
515 Scott Lane, Wallingford, PA USA
Comments can be sent to markcary at att.net
Second Month 2002
Mark Cary has just sent me this report, which fits in so neatly with CLQ #39
and previous Letters on classic liberalism and Quakers, that I have decided to
send it as CLQ #40. It is published with his permission.
Sincerely your friend,
Unprogrammed liberal Friends today seem publicly almost uniformly
negative about most business activity. I have been to talks at the
Pendle Hill Conference Center (Wallingford, PA USA) where speakers
casually state that capitalism is the cause of all the injustice and
inequality in our world, where being employed by a large corporation
is treated as a badge of shame.
For example, Paul Rasor, who directs the Social Issues program at
Pendle Hill considers the "deep-seated ethic of competition that
underlies our economic system" to be "a form a cultural violence, it
is also a form of physical violence as well." Paul write that this
violence "has been accorded the status of a religion, demanding from
its devotees an absolute obedience to death." Certainly, with
language like this, the average business person might wonder about
their moral legitimacy.
These negative views of business are not limited to Friends. Laura
Nash and Scotty McLennan (Church on Sunday, Work on Monday) have found
that many liberal clergy share these negative views. Knowing little
about how business works, many clerics take a view that includes
simple protests and academic position papers full of "oughts."
Attitudes of the average "Quaker in the Street" are not as negative as
some of the more public Friends. We have two recent sources of data
here, both of which I conducted as a volunteer using my survey
research background. The first was a survey members and attenders at
three Meetings in Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (PYM) which was done to
learn more about outreach and diversity issues. The second was a
survey of people on the Pendle Hill mailing list who live outside the
Northeast and Middle Atlantic states. This survey was about Friends'
attitudes toward money.
Both studies show these Friends to be are mostly upper income people
with high levels of education, and thus good earning potential. In the
PYM study, 53% percentage have a graduate degree, with 79% percent
having a graduate degree in the Pendle Hill sample. Few, however, are
in business. Previous survey work suggests that most Friends are in
education or social services. Those in business rarely have management
responsibilities. Few Friends appear to be small business persons or
Friend are much more politically liberal than the general
population. As shown in the table below, 88% of the Quakers on the
Pendle Hill list and 65% of the PYM Quakers self-identified themselves
as liberal or extremely liberal, compared to only 15% of the general
US population. Thus, these Friends are 4 to 6 times more likely to be
liberal or extremely liberal than the US population. Few Quakers are
leaning conservative or conservative politically in these
samples. Compared to the US population, Quakers are definitely on the
"far left" of the political spectrum.
US Population(1998 GSS Survey)%
| PYM Quakers (Three Meetings)%
| | Non-Eastern Pendle Hill Quakers%
Extremely liberal 2 15 23
Liberal 13 50 65
Leaning liberal 13 12 8
Moderate 37 15 0
Conservative 16 5 3
Conservative 15 4 0
Conservative 3 0 0
Their attitudes toward business appear to be leftist, but with
considerable range. We only have data on these attitudes for the
Pendle Hill sample, but given their overall similarity in liberalness,
we might expect PYM to be roughly similar.
In the table below, we have divided the responses into "agree" meaning
"agree" or "strongly agree", "Neither agree nor disagree", and
"Disagree" meaning "Disagree or Strongly disagree."
Almost all these Friends agree that there is too great an income
disparity in America today, and most agree that they themselves have
enough money. Likewise, there is substantial agreement that spiritual
and emotional poverty is more important than material poverty and that
income does, in the end, come from business economic activity.
A number of issues split the respondents into thirds. About a third
think socialism is a better economic system than capitalism; about a
third disagree. About a third say they would agree to some taxation
scheme to level incomes across all Americans so that everyone would
have about the same income--a third disagree. Such a program would
require a much higher marginal tax rate than we have today. A third
agree that the WTO should require world-wide wage standards.
There is little support for free international trade as a solution to
In more conservative circles, the entrepreneur who develops new
methods of production or new products is seen as a creator of wealth,
a person who lifts all boats even if some gain
disproportionately. Most Friends disagree. Quaker entrepreneurs are
not likely to be held in high esteem.
Attitude Agree% Neither% Disagree%
There is too great a disparity
between the highest and lowest
income levels in this country 97 0 3
I have enough money; I do not
need more 76 9 15
Spiritual and emotional poverty
is a greater problem in the world
today than material poverty 57 26 17
Almost all income for government or
non-profit organizations comes, in
the end, from commercial and business
economic activity 52 35 13
Overall, socialism is a better
economic system than capitalism 36 32 33
The WTO should require world-wide
wage standards to that all workers
are paid equally for comparable work 35 40 25
Capitalism is the main cause of
problems in the world today 34 33 34
The government should use taxation
and other means to equalize income
so that every person has about the
same income 31 35 34
International free trade is the
best way to raise the world out
of poverty 17 33 51
We need people with the gift of
generating wealth, for we are all
raised from poverty by them 14 54 33
Pursuing a for profit career is
contrary to many Friends testimonies 11 36 52
Rich people are rich mostly because
they are greedy and grasping 9 24 68
Rich people are morally inferior to
poor people 2 20 78
Other Friends are more positive. In a talk given at the 1994
Consultation of Friends in Business at Earlham, John Punshon wrote
In recent years, convinced Friends like myself have come to be a
fairly large majority in the Society, and we wanted to join a
religious society that did good because we were already doing good
ourselves. But we do not work, as the old philanthropists did, with
their own money, but with taxpayers money. We are a sustained class
and not a sustaining class. The link between the production of wealth
which the community can use for socially productive purposes, and the
good ideas about what those purposes are, has been severed.
Far too often then I find Friends speaking in critical or
condescending ways about business, and it annoys me, because such
attitudes show no awareness of how Quaker history has developed, let
alone the importance of the vocation to economic life. Suppose there
is a cherry pie. It is easy enough to share it out, but who is going
to pick the cherries and go in the kitchen and actually make the pie?
The answer is the business community and Friends in business. I think
that it is sad that the prevailing opinion in the Society of Friends
seems to be more concerned with eating the pie than cooking it.
Richard Wood, then President of Earlham, and a philosophy professor,
makes a similar point. He contrasts the utilitarian approach to ethics
to the Kantian. Being concerned with the greatest good to the
greatest number, the utilitarians pay attention to the size of the
pie, even if it is not always distributed evenly. The Kantians can
tend to focus exclusively on fairness and distributive justice. Wood
believes that "Much Quaker hostility to business in recent decades
seems to me to lie in an uncritical adoption of largely Kantian views.
As Plato has Glaucon argue in The Republic, a society might be fair
but otherwise hardly worth human habitation."
Many Friends who live in "clean" professions like teaching, social
work, and the like, are living off a tax base drawn mostly from
business activity. In Punshon's terms, we are a "sustained class" and
not a "sustaining class." Even the Friends School teacher who
complained about capitalism admitted in her talk that their Friends
School could not exist without the money from these same
capitalists. While the work we do may well be useful, we are more like
the little fish that symbiotically clean the teeth of the big fish
than the big fish themselves. We want to divide the pie, leaving the
work of making it to others.
There are also social class and status distinctions that affect
business. Thorstein Veblen wrote of the leisure classes and their
distain for useful work. As we become more academic, we are holding
ourselves to be doing "high status" work rather than business
work--teaching, research, art, literature, pure research and
theory. But, someone has to run the local grocery store, manage the
garbage collection, and be a fireman or policeman. I think some of our
resistance to business is a matter of prestige--we are now wealthy
enough to indulge ourselves in the pursuit of "higher" things.
I personally believe that excluding the pro-business and more
politically conservative views from today's liberal Friends'
communities is a mistake. In doing so we become less diverse, our
political and religious dialogue becomes more one-sided, and Friends
become increasingly out of touch with the wider diversity of views in
As a Quaker who is in business, I feel increasingly isolated within my
faith community. Where do we turn for help?
There are some Quakers in business. The British Quakers and Business
Group has a web site at www.quakerbusiness.org that contains
literature and other resources. They have also published Good
Business: Ethics at Work which are advices and queries on personal
standards of conduct at work. Here in the USA, we do not have a
national Friends Business organization--and it appears that few would
be interested. However, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting does have a group
that meets from time to time. However, other religious persons have
thought deeply about these issues. Laura Nash and Scotty McLennan's
Church on Sunday, Work on Monday is the most detailed discussion of
the split between the church and person of religion in business. Their
books attempts to explain the view of each side to the other, and ends
each chapters with questions to consider. Michael Novak, a Catholic,
has also written a book called Business as a Calling, which summarizes
many of the pro-business views.
Given Friends history of success in business and the many businesses
that Friends founded, what happened to Friends in business? I'm not
sure that this has been researched, but I suspect that there has been
a gradual drift of more conservative and free enterprise oriented
Friends out of the Society and into religious denominations that are
more supportive. We have no quantitative data on whether this trend is
Mark S. Cary operates a survey research and data analysis business. He
was worked in the past for Research International USA (a company
within the WPP group, head-quartered in London), The Walt Disney
Company (the Chilton research division of the ABC Broadcasting
Company), Friends World Committee for Consultation, and was on the
psychology faculty at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. He
has also been adjunct faculty to the Wharton Global Consulting
Program. His web site is at www.caryresearch.com.
Nash, Laura, & McLennan, Scotty. (2001). Church on Sunday, Work on
Monday: The Challenge of Fusing Christian Values with Business
Life. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Novak, Michael. (1996). Business as a calling: Work and the Examined
Life. New York: The Free Press.
Punshon, John (1994). An Historical View of Friends and Business, in
Friends Consultation on Friends in Business. Richmond, IN: Earlham
School of Religion and Quaker Hill Conference Center.
Quakers and Business Group. (2000). Good Business: Ethics at
Work--Advices and queries on personal standards of conduct at
work. London: Quakers and Business Group.
Rasor, Paul. (2001). "Materialism, violence, and culture: The context
of our faith." Pendle Hill Monday night lecture. Wallingford, PA.
Wood, Richard J (1994). Virtues, Ethics, and Friends in Business, in
Friends Consultation on Friends in Business. Richmond, IN: Earlham
School of Religion and Quaker Hill Conference Center.
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