Book Review – “Doing Virtuous Business” by Theodore Roosevelt Malloch
Conservatives love the business world; Liberals hate the business world… Conservatives hate the business world; Liberals love the business world. Both statements are truedepending on which side of the political spectrum you are personally standing.Business executives have been called ‘brilliant entrepreneurs’ ‘despicable despots,’ and everything in between. Truth be told we have a ‘love/hate’ relationship with the business world. We detest the slimy underbelly of the Gordon Gecko’s and their ‘greed is good’ mentality, while at the same time venerating those men of honor and integrity in the business world like Truett Cathy and Jon Huntsman Sr.
“It is not capitalism that is at fault, but the wrong sort of capitalism – free enterprise divorced from its moral and spiritual base.”
These words fromRoger Scrunton, Research Professor at the Institute for Psychological Sciencesat Blackfriars Hall, Oxford, sum up the whole of Theodore Roosevelt Malloch’smarvelous book, Doing Virtuous Business. Showing us the reader that a successful free economy is truly a spiritual achievement.
I’ll be totally honest here… from the beginning I was dreading reading this book why? Because I was afraid that it was going to be one of two things (1) one of those, “financial expose books, one that on the face of things demonizes the abuses of the capitalist system of business, while offering no real solutions to the issues that face us.(2) one of those “financial expose” type books that focuses on only the success stories of a select few entrepreneurs, who happen to be men of faith, presenting a “do it this way and you’ll be rich” system of business. I was pleased that I didn’t find either of those in this book.
What I did find was a renewed faith in the value capitalist form of business, and a renewed conviction that true and lasting financial success cannot be divorced from the foundation of faith and morals. Malloch launches into this idea by boldly stating that; “wealth can be created, and that it is most successfully created when we employ skills and talents given to us by God” (pg. 4) followed shortly by another equally bold statement; “Capitalism was able to prove it’s superiority because it alone preserves the gift of human freedom” (pg. 4 emphasis mine).
After laying the foundation Malloch moves into the deep waters of his work by having us consider the idea of Spiritual capital. He defines the term as “the fund of beliefs, examples, and commitments that are transmitted from generation to generation through a religious tradition.” He then expounds on that definition by sharing the experiences of two men, William Wilberforce, and Max Depree, showing us that ‘spiritual capital’ is built over time and that good business leaders recognize human diversity and utilize the gifts and talents of their employees. These ideas resist the overly simplistic idea of us being driven by a cost/benefit analysis.
We are next presented with a concept that for the most part has been totally divorced from most in American society, if not the world as a whole… Virtue! The author draws insight from Christian tradition and the giants of Greek philosophy, such as Socrates, who begins the section with these words; “I tell you that virtue is not given by money, but that from virtue comes money, and every other good, public as well a private.” (pg. 25) He then goes on to share what he considers to the be ‘virtues of business’ giving such attributes as Faith, Honesty, Gratitude, Patience, Humility, Respect, Generosity, and Discipline.
Malloch then centers his attention on three aspects essential to virtuous business; Faith, Hope, and Charity. Sharing insight from the lives of successful business men such as Tom Monaghan (Domino’s Pizza) and Norm Miller (Interstate Battery) In this section Malloch also points out that Jewish faith is exemplar in its attitude towards commerce, explaining why even in the light of great persecution (holocaust etc.) they have excelled in business. He then gives the reason why; “the Talmud holds that the first question to be asked of us at the Last Judgment will be, “were you honest in your business dealings?” (pg. 54)
Malloch then goes on to discuss the concept of hard virtues, such as courage and the one that gets all of us… PATIENCE! Showing that success doesn’t come from random luck but from being prepared and having the character needed to succeed. Malloch then follows up by presenting the other end of the spectrum; soft virtues, giving insight on such topics as justice, forgiveness, compassion, and gratitude. To illuminate the concept of forgiveness he shares the story of Nicholas van Hoogstraten, a greedy businessman who dealt treacherously with any supposed rivals. Such dealings landed him in prison, both physically and emotionally.
The book ends bringing the reading into the present day, discussing spiritual capital in our own very ‘skeptical’ age. Doing so by addressing the three primary skeptics of the idea of spiritual capital, the cynic, the Christian, (yes the Christian and the pragmatist. The end of the book is quite possibly my favorite part; Appendix 1 gives the reader a glimpse into the lives of many of those who do business ‘virtuously,’ it reads as a ‘who’s who’ of the business world. Showing us the reader that ‘good guy’s don’t always finish last.
The book was a great read, though I must admit that Malloch is often to ‘wordy’ in his writing. Often he could say what he needs to say using half the words. That for the most part is the only real ‘negative’ I found with the book. I would recommend it to anyone who has an interest in the business world.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their “booksneeze program.”
I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions and views expressed here are my own.
I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”