Questioning Our Economic Faith

Let me start by saying I don’t hate businesses. I teach small business, I work with them, and I am one myself. It just drives me nuts when business becomes the proverbial hammer for all of our worldly problems.

Business is just one sector of a wide range of human activities that serves society. And it must also, as any sane human being, obey the laws of the natural world.

We’re good at segregating our thoughts. It’s why we can both admire BP’s rapid and pioneering learning in figuring out how to cap the oil well while still be horrified by the damage we are capable of inflicting on the earth.

But we also get stuck in the smaller box and start believing it to be reality. We believe that life is about accumulating material goods or we assume that all things can be measured by a dollar value.

Our economic system is just such a box. In fact, it has officially become our religion. What does a religion do anyway? It tells us what is right and what is wrong. It tells us what is meaningful and what isn’t. It is in essence the standard by which all meaning is judged.

Our economy answers all those questions. Want to be happy? Go shopping. Need some meaning? Purchase a vacation package. See an opportunity? Then make money off of it.

Then reality hits. GDP is sky-rocketing while the oil spill spreads like a cancer across the Gulf. There is more money, but less happiness. The disparity between the wealthy and the poor has become a chasm. Isn’t it obvious that our faith is a little misplaced?

At least with most religions, there is some concern with what happens in the afterlife… some responsibility taken for the generations ahead of us. The economy today tells us not to worry much about that and worry instead about making or spending as much as you can in this lifetime. The future will magically work itself out.

It’s never easy to question the things that make up our identity, but question our faith we must.

Chris Hsiung
U Venture
Better Life… Better Business

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