Economy & Business

It Takes a Voluntary Village

Jeep Wranglers at the Chrysler Jeep Assembly plant in Toledo, Ohio, in 2018. (Rebecca Cook/Reuters )
How stakeholder capitalism undermines American values.

For human flourishing to occur, the old adage is true: It takes a village — families, communities, and nations. The form of the village, however, makes all the difference. Today, we have villages in many different forms from atheistic collectivist communities to Judeo-Christian communities. These villages run the gamut from statist to localist.

American corporations are a great example of the phenomenal overall human-flourishing benefits of liberty-based organizations. Yes, there are corrupt corporations, but well-functioning markets and democratic political systems will quickly remove these bad actors. The real counter-example of the vast human suffering based on enslavement in statist countries and compulsory engagement with state-owned enterprises should be evidence enough to discard the compulsory form of village. Unfortunately, there appears to be a concerted effort to move the United States rapidly away from localism toward statism.

The word corporation is derived from the Latin for “combine in one body.” The history of corporations runs through ancient Roman law and the early modern period, with shipping companies such as the Dutch East India Company. Once liability was limited for corporations in many countries around the mid 1800s, the modern framework of corporations was born.

One key feature of the modern corporation is the freedom to engage with it through financing, employment, or other arrangements. Like so many other activities in free societies, people are not required to affiliate with a company or purchase its products; they do so willingly. In the United States, the First Amendment bars Congress from “abridging . . . the right of the people peaceably to assemble. . . .” This right allows creators, innovators, financiers, and laborers to mutually and willingly assemble within the context of a corporation. From pandemic-thwarting vaccines to space-exploration efforts, corporations are a conduit for human ingenuity.

It is vital to perceive economic potential as it really is. In 1982, Warren T. Brookes wisely observed, “Our economic future is not now and never has been tied to the physical assets we now see, but to the vast untapped potential of creative thinking — the metaphysical process which can show us entirely new reserves and new and easier ways of doing things, extending value and increasing wealth without depleting our planet.” Human flourishing is best accomplished when creative people can freely assemble, often in the corporate framework.

Unlocking creative thinking is one key to human flourishing, and the voluntary village is the best approach. Oppressive statism and compulsory structures have long sapped human creativity. In the context of the heavy yoke of legalism, the Apostle Paul exhorts, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Biblical freedom lies at the very heart of the great American experiment and when compared with other experiments, particularly atheistic Marxism. The evidence is clear — freedom dominates bondage.

From improvements in product quality to innovations in services, the free market dominates due in part to unlocking the phenomenal pent-up creativity of innovators. Allowing creators to assemble in whatever voluntary arrangements they wish is a key to a healthy economy. Winston Churchill wisely observed, “Among our Socialist opponents there is great confusion. Some of them regard private enterprise as a predatory tiger to be shot. Others look on it as a cow they can milk. Only a handful see it for what it really is — the strong and willing horse that pulls the whole cart along.” Note that willing horses make for strong horses; hence, willing creators make amazing innovations that benefit many villages.

It is time for corporate leaders to abandon their efforts toward a global corporatocracy that stifles the very creativity that brought so much human flourishing over the past few centuries. Let us return to allowing the democratic political system to establish clean property rights and clear rule of law. Corporate leaders need to focus on rebuilding a culture of trust by primarily serving their shareholders through creative innovations that result in superior products at better prices. In this way, the voluntary village flourishes as well-managed corporations gain additional capital and repeat the innovation cycle. Let us therefore resist any effort to denigrate the First Amendment of the U. S. Constitution.

As Jürgen Habermas noted, Western civilization’s foundation is the direct legacy of the Judaic ethic of justice and the Christian ethic of love. Within this framework, if the First Amendment is preserved, then the human creativity unleashed will be unparalleled in human history, benefiting even the least in our voluntary villages.

Robert Brooks, Ph.D., CFA is the founding partner of Blue Creek Investment Partners, LLC and president of Financial Risk Management, LLC. He is on the Oversight Committee for 2ndVote and the Advisory Board for 2ndVote Advisers.

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