Saturday, September 16, 2006

On this day in:
1875 J. C. Penney, American business leader, was born. d. 2/12/1971
1893 Settlers took part in a land run in Oklahoma's ''Cherokee Strip.''
1940 President Roosevelt set up the first peacetime military draft in U.S. history
1972 ''The Bob Newhart Show'' premiered on CBS.

One small fragment of the Pope’s comments on the role of religion in the world today has been taken out of context and sensationalized. It is important to read the whole talk, or at least these concluding thoughts that underscore the main point of his University lecture, that all great religions share a common orientation, that they all recognize “there is more in heaven and earth than is dreamed of in your philosophy”:

In the Western world it is widely held that only positivistic reason and the forms of philosophy based on it are universally valid. Yet the world’s profoundly religious cultures see this exclusion of the divine from the universality of reason as an attack on their most profound convictions. A reason which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion into the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures. At the same time, as I have attempted to show, modern scientific reason with its intrinsically Platonic element bears within itself a question which points beyond itself and beyond the possibilities of its methodology.

Modern scientific reason quite simply has to accept the rational structure of matter and the correspondence between our spirit and the prevailing rational structures of nature as a given, on which its methodology has to be based. Yet the question why this has to be so is a real question, and one which has to be remanded by the natural sciences to other modes and planes of thought: to philosophy and theology.
For philosophy and, albeit in a different way, for theology, listening to the great experiences and insights of the religious traditions of humanity, and those of the Christian faith in particular, is a source of knowledge, and to ignore it would be an unacceptable restriction of our listening and responding.

Here I am reminded of something Socrates said to Phaedo. In their earlier conversations, many false philosophical opinions had been raised, and so Socrates says: “It would be easily understandable if someone became so annoyed at all these false notions that for the rest of his life he despised and mocked all talk about being - but in this way he would be deprived of the truth of existence and would suffer a great loss”.

The West has long been endangered by this aversion to the questions which underlie its rationality, and can only suffer great harm thereby. The courage to engage the whole breadth of reason, and not the denial of its grandeur – this is the program with which a theology grounded in Biblical faith enters into the debates of our time.


New York Times
Capitalism With a Heart

Compassionate conservatism has been an expensive bust in Washington. But an intriguing alternative is emerging around the country: compassionate capitalism.

Tycoons have traditionally discovered their inner saint only after exorcising the inner capitalist. Carnegie, Ford and Gates made their money and then gave it away. But Google’s young founders are already taking on poverty, disease and global warming, and they’re not just dispensing cash. They’ve set up their philanthropy as a for-profit organization.

To many liberals, this sounds dangerously oxymoronic. How can philanthropy be profitable? A robber baron is supposed to cleanse his hands by donating his lucre to a foundation run by enlightened beings untainted by commerce (except for the dividends going into their trust funds).

This new Google venture also makes conservatives suspicious. It sounds like the “corporate social responsibility” mantra used by executives trying to be hip — and impress young trophy wives’ friends — by financing politically correct boondoggles with shareholders’ money.

But to a new generation of entrepreneurs, there’s no conflict between capitalism and compassion. Google’s philanthropy is the logical extension of a doing-well-by-doing-good strategy followed by companies like Ben and Jerry’s, Starbucks and REI. The movement’s philosopher is John Mackey, the co-founder of Whole Foods.
Mackey is a passionate environmentalist, an advocate of animal rights, a promoter of sustainable development — and a self-proclaimed libertarian. Call him a bleeding-heart libertarian. He wants to spread the free-market gospel, but he sees an obstacle.

“Corporations are lifting billions of people out of poverty,” he says. “Why are they so hated?”

Mackey’s answer is that capitalism has a branding problem: its practitioners are experts at marketing everything except their own system. They justify corporate philanthropy, like donating to the United Way, not because it’s virtuous but because it buys public good will and thus contributes to the company’s bottom line. To hard-core free-marketeers, the corporation’s only mission is to generate profits for shareholders.

To Mackey, that’s too narrow a vision. He thinks that socially conscious companies like Whole Foods have flourished because their founders, employees and customers want a corporation to have grander goals than enriching shareholders. Mackey defines his company’s mission as improving the health and well-being of everyone on the planet. Before taking the company public, he told investors that he was going to devote 5 percent of the profits to philanthropy, so they can’t complain now that he’s robbing them.

Nor can Google’s shareholders, because its founders also warned investors of their philanthropic plans. As Katie Hafner reported in The Times, they’ve given $1 billion in seed money to, and set up the philanthropy as a for-profit organization so it can work with venture capitalists, start companies and use any profits to finance further endeavors. One of its first projects is developing a car that gets 100 miles per gallon.

It’s smart of Google’s founders to try using capitalist tools to save the planet; the market’s discipline should keep their philanthropy from backing too many lost causes. Still, whatever accomplishes, I’d bet that it will pale next to the social good accomplished by

The company’s founders may not have set out to help humanity with their search engine, but they have enriched countless lives by spreading ideas and connecting people. Maybe they’re also smart enough to come up with a way to save gasoline, but what do they know about cars that Toyota doesn’t?

If you read Adam Smith’s famous passage about the invisible hand causing capitalists to unwittingly serve the public interest, you might conclude that Google’s founders are better off investing their time and money in improving their core business. As Smith wrote, “I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good.”

But I don’t think Smith would have any problem with He also realized that humans are motivated by more than self-interest. He wrote a long book on moral sentiments. If compassionate capitalism is a more appealing brand, if Google and Whole Foods are using philanthropy to strengthen the invisible hand, even Smith would say they’re doing good.

The true entrepreneur, the grassroots capitalist, hears and then acts. Inspiration is converted into effective action.

Luke 6:46-49

Jesus said to the disciples, "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I tell you? I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, hears my words, and acts on them. That one is like a man building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when a flood arose, the river burst against that house but could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not act is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against it, immediately it fell, and great was the ruin of that house."

The process of doing just that is what we talk about at the IDEA Cafe Meetup:

I- Inspiration
D- Develop Alternatives (keep listening)
E- Evaluated Alternatives (discernment)
A- Act!

At each IDEA Cafe Meetup we hear successful entrepreneurs share their startup experience, and we do brainstorming. If you are starting a new project, a new business, a new career, or a new campaign, join us! We meet the 4th Friday of each month at Panera Bread, 13th & Grant, in Denver, and we hope to help other meetings get started in other cities. Attendance is limited to the first 12 to RSVP at, RSVP "no" to our next meeting to get an early invitation to future meetings.

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