Golden Rule does not mesh with capitalism

Mar 1st, 2010 | By | Category: Commentary, Opinions

by Evan Pennington

Public schools in Texas may be required to teach “ethical capitalism” during economics class if an idea bandied about by conservative Christian and self-declared historian David Barton goes through.

Judging by this latest economic debacle in the U.S., Barton has concluded that capitalism is only sustainable when it comes handcuffed to the Golden Rule – treat others as you would like to be treated.

This set off my oxymoron-o-meter. Lately I’ve imagined the Golden Rule to be more like a Jesus-Wesley Snipes hybrid that comes along every so often to stab capitalism in the heart with a wooden bailout (or blow its brains out with a sawed-off guilt-trip).

Can capitalism and the Golden Rule coexist? I’m far more inclined to say “no.”

When economic times are good, prosperity abounds and unemployment is licking the dust, who the hell wouldn’t abide by the Golden Rule? I mean, why not?

As long as my pension (I don’t actually have one) is safe and sound, gas prices are low, and Bernie Madoff can lather up with Ben Franklins every night, what’s there to worry about?

I’ll gladly treat you the way I would like to be treated, so long as the game of Life treats me good first.

If there’s one thing that the latest fallout from Wall Street has shown me, it’s that when the rubber meets the road and times aren’t so great, self-interest wins out in the end.

True, the Golden Rule was still celebrated in corporate brothels such as Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase; however the good will stopped at the board room door with Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein and four other board members each receiving around $9 million in bonuses for 2009. I can just feel the warm fuzzies from here.

Honestly, I suppose I’m no less guilty in the end than Goldman Sucks—er, Sachs.

When bills are piling up and payday is still two weeks away, you probably won’t see me just dying to write checks to the Salvation Army.

Even churches (and a few televangelists, believe it or not) around the country have been cutting coupons and scraping the bottom of the barrel due to a sudden drop in the giving habits of their congregations.

On the other hand, when this economic crisis turns around, unemployment rates go back down, and my boss feels better about giving me a raise,

I’d probably give my left thumb to the Salvation Army in a fit of joy.

This is also the part in the story when Bernie Madoff writes a mushy, heartfelt memoir from his prison cot talking about an impoverished childhood and just how wrong he was to be such a jerk-head with other people’s money.

When times are good, people tend to be good too, no matter where on the socio-economic jungle gym you happen to sit.

Recent events may suggest slightly otherwise, I admit.

The outpouring of money and other forms of relief from the American people to assist a disaster-stricken Haiti has moved and inspired me, while proving that although many of us may be under the financial gun, we can still recognize needs greater than our own and give what we do have to help.

You see, people make these ethical decisions.

People decide to abide by the Golden Rule all the time.

Simply re-branding American capitalism in school curricula will surely do very little to inspire altruism, much less force us to make charitable decisions when the going does get rough.

Adding the Golden Rule into the equation would make a lot of things sound just dandy.

Ethical unemployment, anyone?

How about some ethical textbook prices?

Ethical Republicans (just kidding)?

Ethical war?

Ethical capitalism is just as ridiculous as any of these, and adding it to a few school books in Texas won’t make it any less of a fantasy, no matter how badly Barton and his cronies would like it to be.

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