Monday, July 12, 2010

Are Capitalism and Faith Compatible?

If you are a preacher or pastor, or in any kind of way take your faith seriously, it won't be long until you run into the challenge of 'practical applications' for your belief system. Sooner or later there is the question of whether or not what you believe 'really works' or works in 'the real world'. When I was a pastor, I even had church officers who would say 'Rev. its good to have faith, but the Lord gave us common sense too!'

I'll admit it is a challenge. Which is why, whenever I find areas where people appear to be utilizing faith principles in areas that are traditionally thought to be in conflict. So when I was watching a segment of an episode of Religion and Ethics Newsweekly this story about Lincoln Electric in Cleveland, Ohio, caught my eye!

Here's an excerpt from the transcript of the show. Click here to see the entire segment.

[Phil Jones correspondent] JONES: Journalist Frank Koller has written a book about Lincoln Electric’s unusual management tradition.

KOLLER: Lincoln believes that it is not only possible to protect people as well as profits, but that in fact over the long term the best way to protect your profits is to protect people.

[John, CEO Lincoln Electric] STROPKI: When somebody loses their job, and they’re sitting at home every day, I think they lose a good part of their dignity that’s associated with that. In our system they come to work every day. Maybe they go home a little bit earlier, or maybe their paychecks are a little bit less, but they don’t lose their dignity.

JONES: In 1895, after being laid off from his manufacturing job, John Lincoln decided to start his own company. He later brought in his brother James to manage things. When the Depression hit, Lincoln Electric suffered along with everyone else. Desperate to keep their jobs, workers went to James with this proposal:

KOLLER: If we promise to work harder, and we in fact can improve the productivity of the company, will you share the benefits at the end of the year with us in a fair manner? And James Lincoln, actually, directly said yes.

JONES: The profit-sharing, which began in 1934, has continued to this day. The Lincoln brothers were encouraged to have high moral standards by their father, an itinerant minister.
DONALD HASTINGS (Former CEO, Lincoln Electric): He preached so much the Sermon on the Mount and the Golden Rule of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.

JONES: Over his career, J.F., as he was known, wrote frequently of his moral principles: “If we follow the philosophy of Christ…we shall have the proper answer to the problem of lay-offs. When we treat the worker as we would like to be treated, the answer is plain. Continuous employment is needed to secure the cooperation of the worker. It is also basically sound.”

STROPKI: The thing that I always talk about, and we’ve used this term before, is this brain drain that comes when you just let people go. We keep this young talent that we’ve worked so hard to bring into the organization. They know we’re not going to desert them in the bad cycle, and they become more and more committed as far as the company is concerned.

JONES: Under the guaranteed employment policy, no one at Lincoln has been laid off for economic reasons for more than 60 years.

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