Generosity flows from capitalism
One of the bewildering developments in today’s public square is the vilifying of capitalism and the embrace of socialism. Darrow wrote about this recently in “Socialism vs. Capitalism.”
Many people are unaware of the link between capitalism and “Calvinism.” Christians sometimes fail to see any significant theological distinction between the two: “Aren’t these simply competing economic theories?” Even many Christ followers who believe in capitalism and eschew socialism, or visa-versa, have never examined the roots of each.
For a thorough treatment of that subject, look at one of the most powerful books I have ever read: The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, by Michael Novak. The author was hardly Calvinistic in his theology; in fact, he studied to be a Roman Catholic priest. But he traces the parallel development of Calvinism and capitalism and shows the influence of the former on the latter. (I’m referring to Calvinism as a worldview rather than Calvinistic theology. The former can be and often is embraced by many who do not identify with Calvinistic theology.)
You can read the book. Or you can see a modern-day example in the life of a friend of mine, Jim Goertz.
Jim is the owner of G&S Airport Conveyor. His company builds, installs and services airport conveyors all over North America as well as in several foreign countries. As Jim has applied a Judeo-Christian practice of capitalism, many people have benefitted: travelers, airports, airlines, workers, contractors, etc.
But for one group—employees, those benefits are more measurable. Here’s how Jim put it.
Generosity and capitalism go hand in hand
I get to work with some of the finest people on the planet. Every year when our books are done we stop and go through all our team members and see who has gone above and beyond their normal job duties. Some come to work, do what they have to, and go home. They are paid their hourly wages or their salary.
Those that go above and beyond get bonuses. We have been doing that for about 35 years. Sometimes the bonus exceeds their salary.
A few years ago we felt convicted by some of Larry Burkett’s teaching. He said that if your retirement as an owner is looked after, what are you doing for the ones who have helped you?
We implemented a 3% matching retirement savings plan for all employees, and 5% for all of our managers. In other words–if they will save 3% we give an additional 3% (or 5% for managers). We have arranged this through an insurance/investment company.
I also have 5 managers who have been with me between 15 and 20 years or more. They have faithfully worked and done whatever it took to make things happen. They did this willingly and without any expectations for many years.
A few years ago Cathy and I decided that for the next few years we would give 50% of our company income to missions/ministries. And 50% to our managers and the key people who make us successful.
I had a goal of giving each of them 2 million dollars which is the equivalent of what most people make in their lifetime.
Well we have reached that goal. I thought it would take 10 years but it was less than that. That is over now and we are back to bonuses based on merit.
Socialism does not preclude greed
In lean years, Jim sometimes went without his own salary in order to bless employees, and Christian ministries.
Of course, such generosity is not inherent in every capitalist model. Individuals vary in how they apply generosity. Few wealthy people have exercised this level of liberality. But Jim’s hard work and entrepreneurship–both markers of capitalism—have enabled his success, and his largesse.
Capitalism does not guarantee generosity. The opposite is also true: socialism does not preclude greed.
For one more supporting argument, watch the short clip below, in which economist Milton Friedman educates talk-show host Phil Donahue. (Go here if the video does not show.)
– Gary Brumbelow