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Confucius a Capitalist?

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When a country is well governed, poverty and a mean condition are things to be ashamed of. When a country is ill governed, riches and honor are things to be ashamed of.Confucius

Confucius
Confucius
On the CNBC Squawk Box program, Michael Schuman, a Time Magazine writer, explains how the ideas of the Chinese philosopher Confucius “could be influencing Asia’s economic rise and why American CEOs may benefit by understanding the history behind the philosophy.”

In a commentary on the segment, Newsbusters said it was “surprising that NBC promoted the video given the network’s history of criticizing capitalism and small government.” The conservative media watchdog group pointed to the views of disgraced anchor Brian Williams:

Suspended Nightly News anchor Brian Williams also demonstrated a liberal bias on numerous topics, including on economic issues. Williams has criticized the wealthy, been baffled by opposition to Obamacare and critical of not hiking the minimum wage. Just as many in the news media attacked former governor and presidential candidate Mitt Romney over his taxes, Williams used them to hit Romney for having “unfathomable wealth.”

On Jan. 25, 2012, Williams said that “in releasing his taxes, he reveals what most Americans will regard as unimaginable wealth.” He also went on to challenge Romney’s support for low capital gains tax rates.

Is Confucianism the great hope for China’s future growth? In a 2008 article in the Wall Street Journal titled “Want More Growth in China? Have Faith,” writer Rob Moll pointed to the work of Peter Zhao, a Communist Party member and adviser to the Chinese Central Committee, who was onto something more familiar in the West:

Mr. Zhao is among a group of Chinese intellectuals who look to the West to find the key to economic success. Mr. Zhao in particular believes that Christianity and the ethical system based upon its teachings are the reason that Western countries dominate the global economy. “The strong U.S. economy is just on the surface,” he says. “The backbone is the moral foundation.”

Without a unifying moral system enforced by common values, Mr. Zhao argues, there can be no real trust between people. Without faith among business partners and between management and shareholders, only the threat of the law can keep people honest. “There are problems of corruption emerging. . . . There is concern about whether China’s market economy will ever become a sound market economy.”

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John Couretas is Editor-at-Large for the Acton Institute.