The What Would John Templeton Say? website is holding a blog contest asking bloggers which of the economic vices John Templeton described is most responsible for the recent economic downturn and which of his economic virtues is most important to the economy’s rebound. This is my response.
Moral Relativism – The Root of All Vices
Envy, greed, pride, and intolerance have all contributed to the recent economic downturn. But to assign any one of those as most responsible is to ignore the root cause of them all. It is moral relativism that brought the economy to its knees. The lack of belief in an absolute truth – in a clear right and wrong – has deteriorated the business and personal ethics in our society.
You see, if there is no absolute truth, then there is nothing inherently “wrong” with envy, greed, pride, or intolerance. Envy without truth lets us blame others for our own mistakes and ignore our personal responsibilities. Greed without truth allows us to ignore what is best for others because we need only look out for ourselves. Pride without truth puffs up our ideas of who we are, what we know, and why we don’t need help. And intolerance without truth helps us ignore the observations and warnings of others. Without an absolute truth, we practice these vices without thought as to their consequences or our responsibility to others.
The absolute truth that comes to us from God, through the Bible and the revelation of Himself through Jesus Christ, teaches us that envy, greed, pride, and intolerance will destroy us. His truth teaches us that love, hope, contentment, diligence, humility, kindness, faithfulness, and self-control are the keys to success – in our personal lives and in society as a whole. Because of the prevalence of moral relativism, we reject such absolute truth and we have suffered the consequences.
Consumers driven by envy, discontentment, and greed bought houses they could not afford. Realtors, banks, and financial institutions driven by greed encouraged consumers along and extended credit where they should not have. All of us suffered from pride in denying our need for help or the possibility that we made major mistakes. And intolerance closed our minds to the voices who cried out with warnings against all these vices. These all played a part in the economic downturn, and they all stem from moral relativism.
Without God’s absolute truth, we neglect to consider the dangers of envy, greed, pride, and intolerance. We succumb to our desires and ignore responsibility. Until we learn that God’s Truth is absolute and absolutely right, we will continue to fall to these economic vices. This recent downturn is clear evidence for our need of Truth. But there is hope!
Integrity – The Key to Recovery
The key to a true rebound is integrity. Without integrity, no economy can exist. Integrity is essential to creating a trusting environment where people can work together, use their various gifts and talents, help each other, and rely on each other to keep their personal responsibilities. If we neglect integrity, we will not experience a lasting economic rebound.
Just as moral relativism is the root of the other economic vices, so is integrity the fountainhead of the other economic virtues of cooperation, creativity, charity, and adaptability. Integrity recognizes God’s absolute Truth and our responsibility to honor that Truth at all times. The connection from integrity to all other virtues is then easily formed.
Love leads to cooperation and charity. Love wants to work together to achieve the good of all people. Love looks to the needs of others – especially those who are the most helpless. Likewise, contentment and kindness develop generous giving in our lives to the advantage of all.
Diligence and faithfulness yield the creativity and hard work necessary for entrepreneurs to flourish. The drive to meet others’ needs and provide service have been the start of many businesses. And no business can survive without those as their primary motivation factors. Economic rebound will flourish under this creativity, and that creativity requires the diligence and faithfulness that result from integrity.
Finally, hope and self-control help us adapt to the situations we find ourselves in. If we do not find new ways to meet our needs, to contribute to society, and to learn from the past while looking to the future, we will not recover from this economic downturn. But the hope that comes from God’s Truth will encourage us and help us press on to a brighter future ruled by integrity instead of ignorance.
Moral relativism contributed in many ways to the fall of the economy. But integrity can contribute in many more ways to our recovery. The power of integrity – of holding to absolute truth and doing what is right – can overwhelm the destruction brought on by moral relativism. Through integrity we can conquer the obstacles we face by working together, finding solutions, meeting needs, and pressing forward. God’s Truth is the key to helping us do these things and will unlock our society’s potential to rebound from this setback with astounding success.
This post is an entry in the Spring 2010 blog contest sponsored by What Would John Templeton Say?. The site, which examines the philosophies of this legendary stock picker, has invited any blogger to respond to a series of posts on what Templeton called the ”Economic Virtues and Vices.” The contest is open to all and further information can be found here.