Category: Business

1+1=2Note: This is the third post in a series on developing a Christian mind in business school. See also Part I and Part II.

As I mentioned in the last post, when in this series I talk about developing a Christian mind in b-school I’m referring primarily to learning how to think Christianly about things as they are symbolized, things as they are known, and things as they are communicated. That is, how to think Christianly about the three business arts taught in business school: quantification, orientation, and rhetoric.

Today I wanted to discuss the Christian view of quantification—things as they are symbolized. Before I can do that, though, I probably need to convince you that there even is such a thing as a “Christian view of quantification.” While we understand why we might need to think Christianly about management or ethics, quantification is primarily about numbers. Can there really be a Christian view of accounting, finance, quantitative analysis, etc., when numbers are religiously neutral?

I believe the answer is “yes” because I believe there is a distinctly Christian view of everything. (Yes, everything.)
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Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, January 11, 2017
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Note: This is the second in a series on developing a Christian mind in business school. You can find the intro post here.

When people ask me what business school was like, I’m tempted to say, “A lot like a medieval university.” Unfortunately, that comparison makes people think b-school is dark, musty, and full of monks—which is not quite what I mean.

In medieval universities, the three subjects that were considered the first three stages of learning were the trivium: grammar, logic, and rhetoric. Our use of those terms, however, fails to convey the broader meaning they had in earlier centuries. In her excellent book on the trivium (Latin for “the three-fold way”), Sister Miriam Joseph explains:

Grammar is concerned with the thing as-it-is-symbolized,
Logic is concerned with the thing as-it-is-known, and
Rhetoric is concerned with the thing as-it-is-communicated.

These three language arts, adds Sister Joseph, can be defined as they relate to reality and to each other. Similarly, while the arts learned in business school are very different from the classical trivium, every course can similarly be classified in a “three-fold way”:
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School of Business“Why are you going to business school?” my friend asked, with some concern, “It seems like such a waste of your time. Why not study history or philosophy or the Great Books or something you’d enjoy.”

It was a good question. I was committing myself to spending two years going to school full-time (while working full-time) to get a degree in a subject—business administration—in which I didn’t feel particularly passionate. But I felt that God was calling me to go to B-school. So I went.

Living in northern Virginia I was fortunate to have several excellent MBA programs to choose from so I applied to a local, private Catholic university. Although I’m an Evangelical (a Southern Baptist, to be exact), I figured attending a Catholic school would help teach me to integrate business with my faith. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

What I soon discovered was that in this “Catholic” school Christ could be found on the crucifix above the doorways but would be found nowhere in the curriculum. None of the professors ever expressed a specifically Christian viewpoint and some grew rather uncomfortable when I or my classmates would do so.

Just as in non-Christian colleges, the prevailing impression at this Catholic school was that secular neutrality was the only legitimate norm. The result was that expressing an opinion that resembled that of, say, a Catholic bishop, was often considered offensive. For instance, in a class on non-profit marketing the adjunct instructor was shocked when I expressed the opinion that Planned Parenthood was the epitome of corporate evil and was not, as she had assured us, a model for marketing excellence.

I suspect my experience is not uncommon. While there are still some schools that subscribe to the idea of Christian scholarship, they have become exceedingly rare. In most schools—particularly in most business schools—the assumption is that the topics of study are “religiously neutral.” What does God have to do with finance? What does Wall Street have to do with Jerusalem?
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Blog author: KHanby
Wednesday, November 30, 2016
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“An underlying theme in basic economics says, ‘offering a product for free can destroy the local economy’” writes Luis Miranda.  Miranda recently watched Poverty, Inc and since seeing the award winning Acton Institute documentary he has shared some of its lessons in an article at The Indian Economist.  He begins by explaining how often times aid can harm its recipient more than help them.

A farmer in Rwanda goes out of business because he cannot compete against an American church sending free eggs to feed starving Rwandans. A rice grower in Haiti stops growing rice because he is unable to compete against very cheap rice coming from rich farmers in the US who receive huge subsidies. A local cobbler goes out of business in Africa when TOMS shoes land up in the village and are distributed for free.

In all these cases, the donors had honest intentions. The American church wanted to feed starving people in Rwanda. The US government wanted to feed the disaster-stricken Haitians. Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS, genuinely wanted to help Africans who did not have proper footwear.

Miranda continues to share key takeaways from Poverty, Inc.  Next he shares how although aid can appear to be effective in the short term, it can create negative effects in the long term. (more…)

The Dodd-Frank Act became law in 2010, adding more regulation to a banking industry that was already heavily regulated.  The main purpose of this 2,300 page act was to give consumers protection against big profit seeking banks but the unintended consequences prove to be much greater.  The regulation was supposed to help the little guy but as Acton Director of Research Samuel Gregg writes at The Stream, it actually hurts the little guy.

President-elect Donald Trump claims that he wants to deregulate the financial industry but in order for this to happen successfully, we need to understand the argument for why such actions would be beneficial.  Gregg says this:

Consider, for instance, the costs associated with meeting the ever-growing demands of regulatory compliance. Such costs are more easily borne by large banks than smaller-sized institutions such as community banks. The result is that excessive regulation makes it harder for smaller banks to compete. That often puts access to capital out of reach for many people.

But perhaps the most harm which excessive financial regulation inflicts upon ordinary people concerns the ways in which such regulations can — and have — contributed to financial meltdowns. Such crises are far more likely to hurt those on the lower-side of the economic scale than the already-wealthy.

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Yesterday, Pope Francis hosted a private audience in his Apostolic Palace for a few hundred international entrepreneurs and business leaders. The members of the International Christian Union of Business Executives (UNIAPAC) had gathered inside the Vatican’s walls for two days of meetings for the “noble purpose of reflecting on the role of business persons as agents of economic and social inclusion.”

Pope Francis, not always an affirming supporter of free market capitalism, focused on some of his usual challenging caveats to business persons. While business is certainly noble and its success is a vital part of the promoting economic growth for the common good, fallen man should nevertheless be constantly wary of his weaknesses for material idolatry (especially money), selfishness (not showing solidarity), and unguarded concern for acts of corruption (intentional deceit), the latter of which Francis said was “the worst of social plagues.”

This holds true for “all human activity”, the pope reassured those present, and not just business activity. It is an anthropological-spiritual discipline that we must keep on the forefront of our daily decision making. In this way, we sharpen our prudence and hone our focus when treading uphill individual paths to holiness and salvation. By way of constant prayer and deep spiritual discernment, man can more likely make the best moral choices, even in the most cut-throat and difficult business situations.

But sometimes this is risky for the seeker and promoter of virtue.

papa-uniapac

Pope Francis addresses UNIAPAC Christian entrepreneurs and business executives at a private audience on November 17, 2016.

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Blog author: jsunde
Wednesday, October 26, 2016
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Does the work of a coffee buyer have an impact that stretches on into eternity? Does coffee tasting matter to God?

In a new video from Chapel Hill Bible Church, coffee taster and buyer Jeff McArthur shares how he came to see the deeper meaning of his work, both in the day-to-day trades and exchanges with his customers and community and in the relational ripple effects that reach on into the broader economic order.

“I feel like sometimes God has us in roles for reasons that we don’t immediately see,” McArthur says. “We’re helping to impact who goes into the café in the morning to get their coffee, but we’re also impacting the lives of those producing partners of ours as well.”

McArthur, who serves as Head Roaster for Counter Culture Coffee, outlines a range of areas in which simple, mundane tasks or responsibilities yield tremendous fruit, both material and spiritual. (more…)