The Dayton Flyers were the fan favorite in this year’s March Madness. Unranked, they upset three highly regarded teams by dictating the tempo of the game. That’s a strategy the faith community might want to consider.
The Dayton Flyers were the darlings of this year’s NCAA Basketball Tournament. Their mascot “the Flyers” says it all. They want to play the game as fast as possible. Dayton did it for three rounds, winning three successive games. They dictated the tempo and upset Ohio State (60-59), Syracuse (55-53), and Stanford (82-72).
Dictating tempo, or making an opponent play your game, is shrewd. It’s a strategy I see one side of the ‘capitalism controversy’ taking – the Progressive movement. Whether or not you agree with their agenda, you have to credit progressive leaders for making opponents play the game according to progressive dictates. We see this in the reception given Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Piketty, of the Paris School of Economics, believes free markets, by their nature, tend to enrich the owners of capital at the expense of people who own less of it. Capitalism creates unfair income disparities.
Piketty made the rounds in Washington two weeks ago, meeting with Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, giving a talk to President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers and lecturing at the International Monetary Fund. Then he flew to New York for an appearance at the United Nations, a sold-out public discussion with the Nobel laureates Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman, and meetings with media outlets ranging from The Harvard Business Review to New York Magazine to The Nation.
This is how progressives play the game. Progressivism is a 19th century movement seeking to redress income disparities associated with the Gilded Era. Capitalism and free markets were considered the culprits. The remedy is redistribution, taxing the rich and giving to the poor. Like Robin Hood, this requires a bit of coercion. Government, by its nature, is coercive. It also requires a bit of re-education. Academicians became the new “experts” on finance. Progressivism believes the network of politicians and professors yields a just society. It’s a small planetary system, revolving around Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Washington. That’s why Piketty visited Washington and New York.
This isn’t how the faith community ought to play the game. According to Jeremiah 29:7, faith and free market organizations ought to gauge success by the degree to which our leading financial institutions (think Goldman Sachs) look to the faith as a resource. Not Congress, which can’t even balance its own books. The faith community’s strategy ought to target genuine experts, those with the most hands-on experience (Gen.4:1). That would be a practitioner like Warren Buffett – less so a professor.
Don’t get me wrong. Politicians and professors have a role in culture-change. Progressives see them as most influential. Proponents of free markets generally don’t. They view media, marketing, business, the arts, and finance as more influential in forming our desires. To be fair, progressives are entirely consistent to play the game primarily with politicians and professors. But you have to ask why their opponents – those arguing for free markets – seem to be playing the same game.
I raise this question because I routinely ask leaders in the faith community for updates on their work. For those in the free markets field, I have yet to hear Well, it depends on whether Goldman Sachs is taking us seriously. These organizations don’t seem to be measuring the right things. I do hear about the number of papers published or how many attended a conference. I hear about having a presence in Washington. Professors and politicians – sounds like progressives are dictating the tempo.
I would urge those involved in the faith and free markets arena to play our game. The tempo is set by the telos – the end game, or what constitutes a “win.” In Jeremiah 29:7 we read, as the Babylonians flourish, so shall you. Translated, as our financial institutions – Goldman Sachs for instance – take the gospel seriously and flourish, so does the faith community. Think about it. If Goldman Sachs credited the church for its success, how many other financial institutions might turn to the faith? How many might emulate our strategy? I don’t know. But at least they’d be playing our game – and that would make it more likely that the faith community, like the Dayton Flyers, might pull a few upsets.
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