What's Your Price?

The venture capitalist looked me straight in the eyes and uttered the words that every hungry entrepreneur wants to hear: "I can offer your company a real competitive edge." My partners and I were searching for seed capital to launch an Internet company. But we also needed talent—a network of experienced workers that would help us to execute our business plan successfully. So we were keen to learn how this particular investor was going to give us the vaunted "competitive edge."

"I run a sweatshop with more than 300 software engineers in Shanghai," he explained, absent any remorse at his choice of words, let alone his business practice. "We pay them a fraction of what we’d pay to build a technology system here in the United States," he added proudly.

Unbridled capitalism very well may be the most effective way to generate financial wealth. But a religious ethic does not accept that claim at face value. It takes the matter a step further: Generate wealth for whom?

When the spirit informs culture, our social goals to create wealth coincide with our ideals of human development. The process is a virtuous circle. Work is sanctified by its contribution to the well-being of others, especially the less fortunate. It helps the worker to achieve fulfillment, and fulfillment increases the wealth of all.

The following principles are a starting place for business workers to evaluate the values that drive their company, and a "measuring stick" for citizens in holding accountable their local businesses (which often are also global).

PRINCIPAL ONE: Company directors and management will consider their work force valuable team members, not merely hired labor.

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Sojourners Magazine January-February 2000
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