Can business be carried on unselfishly? It is unhappy that people are so ready to say no to that question without thinking. The mass of men appear to take it as an axiom that in order to do business in competitive conditions one has to be selfish or fail. And since Christianity is based on teachings of unselfishness, the idea is common that no successful business man can be a real Christian. Many doubt the genuineness of all business men who belong to a church. The burrowings of that suspicion work unfortunate results in a good many places, but the worst effect is on the men so doubted. Men in business, because they hear it said so often that they cannot be unselfish, take the declaration for true without thinking, and supposing themselves to be in the grip of necessity, harden their consciences to go on doing things they are at heart ashamed of and themselves consider inconsistent with religion. The dead weight of this tradition, abjectly surrendered to, is responsible for half the abuses in business. The captains of industry are not all so heartless that they prefer to have financial malpractice and human misery attaching to their enterprises, but the grip of commercial fatalism is so strong on them that they cannot dream of any use in trying to make things better. Such men, as much as any slaves that ever lived, need a bold, stout emancipation proclamation. Let it be spoken loudly, strongly, and far: Business can be unselfish. Competitive commerce does not have to be unchristian. It is not only possible but obligatory for men of Christian idealism in business to deliver trade and industry from the domination of self-seeking and unsocial motives.

July 15, 1911

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