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Justice in an Unjust World

Business justice is not what most economics professors believe and teach. To the businessman, justice means something entirely different.

  • Ellsworth McIntyre,
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Business justice is not what most economics professors believe and teach. To the businessman, justice means something entirely different. Since I have been both an academic and a businessman during my lifetime, I know the opinion each of these has of the other. The businessman surprisingly admires the professor and thinks that the professor knows great and wonderful things hidden from ordinary businessmen. For this reason, businessmen seldom rear their children to join them in business. Their first choice for their children is a Ph.D. or similar credentials. It is only after the child demonstrates no scholarly aptitude that he is taken into the business by the disappointed parent. Consequently, the child is made thereafter to believe he has failed to live up to the expectations of his parents. Even if he becomes a millionaire, he believes he has been walled out forever from the great secrets within the hallowed halls of learning.

The academics, on the other hand, stand in amazement of the capitalistic system and envy the wealth of the businessman. The academics don't attribute the wealth of the businessman to intelligence. The academics think they could easily best their academic inferiors in business, but when and if the professor should try his hand at business, 99 percent or more of academics would fall flat on their faces. The proof of this lies in the answer to this question: how many institutions such as schools, hospitals, churches, or the government run by academics operate efficiently? Answer: almost none. The reason is obvious to anyone who pays attention to the Scriptures, for the Bible counsels, "Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called" (1 Cor. 7:20). In other words, by the blessing of God some men are equipped for a business career with the particular gifts necessary for success. These gifts are never bestowed by pointy-headed guys in academic robes.

The acquisition of these gifts originates outside history. There is no one-to-one relationship between a score on an intelligence test, teacher-made test, or the curriculum of a school that translates into a profit in the marketplace. The intelligence to create wealth is a gift from God no less than the mind necessary to earn a good grade on a report card.

It should therefore come as no surprise that there exist two different concepts of justice in the marketplace. Let me illustrate by the following true story what the businessman considers "just": When I was twenty-four years old, I had risen rapidly from the position of a rate clerk to sales manager of the Pittsburgh operation of an interstate trucking company. I was an unusual businessman in that I read a lot of academic works on economics and business. My head was full of theories about free-market capitalism. I had a heavy bias against trade unions and a contempt for the socialistic trend of the United States government. I imagined that the officers of my company shared these views. One day over lunch, I delivered a sermonette and capped off the dissertation with the following question: "Sir, before 1935, the trucking industry was not regulated, rates were not fixed by federal law, and certificates of licensure were not necessary to own and operate a trucking company. Wouldn't you like to go back to those days before the government messed up the free market in trucking?"

The gray-headed one raised his eyes toward heaven and with a profound look of disgust on his face, replied, "Mac, you are out of your mind. I was around in 1935. My father was in the trucking business when I was a teenager. The good old days were horrible. They were a nightmare. Any stupid fool with a truck could haul freight and undercut your rate any time he wanted. Things are much better now with everything regulated."

I could see that I was losing my brownie points as a wise young businessman, so I mumbled, "Oh, I see what you mean. Thank you for giving me the benefit of your experience." In a effort to repair my image, I said, "Sir, I have heard stories of how, in order to keep your company in business, you rode on the front fender of one of your trucks with a double-barreled shotgun under your arm to break picket lines. So I guess you don't feel the same way about government favoritism towards labor unions, do you?" I leaned back in my chair and with a contented smile on my face, I just knew that this time I would score points as a deep thinker. My boss's eyes went toward the ceiling again, and this time he coughed out an uproarious laugh, "Hell, no, Mac, you have been educated out of your right mind. You should read less and think more. The labor climate is much better today. In those days, every junior criminal from every local had his hand out. All kind of deals were made under the table. Today with Jimmy Hoffa in charge we only have one thief to contend with and everyone pays the same wages." Then he added the cruelest cut of all, "You got a lot to learn, kid." Lunch over, I evaluated what I had just learned.

What follows is the businessman's idea of fair play or justice:

First, predictable prices are better. If you can know in advance the price or at least the price range that your competitors must charge, it takes a lot of mystery out of projecting future costs and resulting profits. In a totally free market, prices can be quite different from what is posted. There can be rebates to large customers and higher prices to others, making long-range planning difficult and the carrying of long term debt risky. How much money can you borrow safely in a unregulated market?

Second, predictable wage rates are also favored. For all of the same reasons as above, any fixed situation is far more advantageous than a situation in a constant state of flux. For example, an older established company could be forced to lay off older workers in order to hire more vigorous younger workers at a lower wage and to stay competitive with younger start-up companies. If the wage rates are constant for both older, larger companies and startup companies, those older companies already in the market are protected from startup competition. How big can a company safely grow in such a business climate that is not regulated?

Third, licensing by the government controls who can enter any field, be it medicine, trucking, or plumbing. This is preferred and considered just by those businessmen already licensed and protected from startup competition. In other words, the less free the market the more just in the eyes of those already in the marketplace. Therefore, when academics preach that the government should do something about unsafe trucks, unsafe food, health and safety of workers, uniform wage rates, workmen's compensation, the businessman moans and complains on the one hand, but deep in his heart he doesn't really care about these things nearly as much as he does about any stupid jerk coming into his marketplace and stealing his customers. The businessman fears the free market infinitely more than he fears government regulations. If the socialist academic were as smart as he thinks he is and wanted to crush the businessman, he would get the government as far as possible from the marketplace, but instead unknowingly the academic has provided a business climate that every successful businessman knows how to use to his advantage. Every successful businessman is too wise to speak publicly about such things. You have to learn these things over lunch talking to the men who know, something like a rite of initiation into the mysteries of the craft.

Finally, the man who rises to great power in business will think more often than he reads. The trade secrets are not written in books, but in the things people say and don't say. The trade secrets are known by what people do and don't do. If you must get all of your ideas from print and if you cannot read people, then you are not bright enough to succeed in business. Better stick to an artificial world where things are much simpler. The churches and schools are places where naive men and women can be sheltered from the hard realities of life.

Look around you at today's business climate. Whom are the environmental regulations helping and whom are they hurting? It is the huge land developers who can afford the legal staff and the investment to work around the regulations who are helped. Millions can be made while enjoying government protection from the small developer who cannot afford the lengthy and costly process to obtain building permits, environmental surveys and such things. Therefore, the college professor (secretly a Marxist) imagines in his diseased, envious mind that he is hurting the big capitalist. He isn't; he is helping the big guy by restricting entry into the market.

Ah, the wages of envy is higher prices, poorer products, lower wages and eventual strangulation of the goose that lays the golden egg!

Don't get me wrong. When morality fails, evil must be restrained by guns. Both the businessman and the academic must be checked and balanced by law. Not the law we learned at the feet of our teachers, however, but a stronger moral fiber is needed to nourish a truly just marketplace.

Let me offer the solution to the above problem. We must teach (by we, I mean Christian Reconstructionists) our children to measure all things by the law-word of God. If and when we raise up enough people who will regulate themselves by God's law, our market can operate more freely and we can become more prosperous. The reason we need big government, big trade unions, regulated professions, and the rest is because we are an evil people who cannot live in a free market. We use both freedom and regulations to steal each other blind. The anchor that holds down the wealth that should be ours is our disobedience and envy. Given, however, enough students believing with all their hearts that the key to a golden age is to govern and be governed by God's law, much regulation from government could wither away. That promise that government will wither away was made by Karl Marx, but as we all know, under socialism and communism, government did not wither away but thrived like a malignant cancer.

Under the reign of Christ's law, the greatest good will come to the greatest number, and civil government will certainly wither. Then both the academic's and the businessman's concept of justice will be the same.

This is the long-term vision of Grace Community Schools. If we had about 10,000 schools educating preschool children to read and believe the Ten Commandments, in one to three generations we could see a different world — a world that is more just.

  • Ellsworth McIntyre
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