Do you have to be good to do well? The relationship between virtue and worldly success is one that is often discussed at our Acton events. Parents and teachers try to inculcate good habits in their children and students, not only as an end in itself, but also in the hope that doing good in the spheres of character and morality will lead to doing well in the worlds of work, entrepreneurship, and commerce.
In this issue of Religion & Liberty, we take look at that question from various points of view. Our biblical feature examines the teaching about weights and measures in the Gospel. Being honest in measurement is the right thing to do in itself, but it also makes possible easy trade and free exchange; imagine the impossibility of having to verify that every package contains the indicated weight of flour, or sugar, or salt. Our “Double-Edged Sword” this issue comes from Rolf Geyling's submission to the Acton homiletics contest.
From the perspective of economics, not Scripture, we address some of these same questions with Professor Kenneth Arrow in our interview. For me, as a one time graduate economics student who read Professor Arrow's work, it was a thrill to interview him – and an honor for R&L to have a Nobel laureate in our pages. Professor Arrow shows how the existence of markets at all, let alone their efficient functioning, depends upon a fundamental honesty and trust amongst buyers and sellers. The market needs morality. And does the market encourage or discourage the morality it depends upon? I'll let you read Professor Arrow's answer for yourself.
Our own Michael Miller, Acton's director of programs, takes up the same question by revisiting an important book by Francis Fukuyama on the role of “social capital” in economic development. Fukuyama's book is not new, but his argument remains novel and important: Without trust, markets don't work well.
And finally, I might draw your attention to our review of John C. Maxwell's book There's No Such Thing as “Business” Ethics. Maxwell is one of the more popular authors in the field of business ethics which, judging by the number of new titles in the bookstores, is a booming market. He makes the argument that ethics in business is not terribly different from ordinary ethics in everyday life. Doing good is just plain good – for our souls, and for the economy.