Quakers and money

May 28, 2016 § 15 Comments

Just a little more than a hundred years ago, Quaker meetings were full of business people, and for a long time, Friends were one of the wealthiest communities in England. Many of us did pretty well here in the colonies, too. We really understood money then—we knew how to make it, we knew how to use it, and we were not ashamed of it, at least not in a way that made us weird about it, like we are now.

Today, at least in the liberal Quaker meetings I’m familiar with in the US, we are almost notoriously dysfunctional when it comes to money. Meetings often have a “faith-based” rather than reality-based attitude toward their budgets. Meeting finances are often anything but transparent. Meetings are often reticent to ask for money, or even to talk about it. Quaker institutions and Quaker meetings at all levels of organization are struggling for their lives financially. And Friends who own their own businesses or who work in or for corporations often find themselves being harassed, even though they often are very generous with their talents and treasure—liberal Quakers often have a prejudice against business people. Why? Why this 180-degree shift in culture?

One of the primary reasons I started writing my history of Quakers and Capitalism was to find an answer to this question. A few days ago, I returned to this question and a host of possible answers came to mind. They are just conjecture, but I am ready to share them and see what my readers think. Here are some possible reasons for why a movement of often-wealthy (sometimes exceedingly wealthy) business people became a movement of people who are uneasy with money and the people who make it:

  • Liberal economics replaces evangelical economics. Around the turn of the 20th century, David Lloyd George and the new Liberal Party in Great Britain openly credited the Quaker Seebohm Rowntree, brother of the key liberal Friend John Wilhelm Rowntree, with the foundational insight that poverty and other social ills were structural, not character-based, as the dominant political economics of the 19th century had claimed. Until about the middle of the twentieth century, political economics had two schools, both born around 1800—a liberal school born from the pens of Adam Smith and David Ricardo (who married a Quaker), and an evangelical school born from the pens of Thomas Malthus and Thomas Chalmers, both evangelical ministers. Evangelical economics dominated public policy throughout the 19th century, at least in Britain. That ended with Seebohm Rowntree. Rowntree’s book Poverty: A Town Life proved scientifically (using the first widely discussed statistical sociological survey in history) that poor people were not poor because of their character—drinking, gambling, sex (too many children), and other forms of wantonness—but rather, they mostly did have jobs and worked hard; they just weren’t being paid enough. This book—this idea—that poverty was structural gave birth to the Liberal Party in Great Britain and to the British welfare state. Liberal Quakerism, in the UK, at least, was joined at the hip with the belief that capitalism needed curbs on its behavior and the only gorilla in the room that was big enough to enforce those curbs and pick up the slack was the government.
  • The Great Depression. The Great Depression dealt a body-blow to evangelical political economic theory. “Evangelical” economics would not get back up on its feet until Ronald Reagan resurrected it. Herbert Hoover was an evangelical Friend and he brought an evangelical Quaker worldview to his thinking about the Great Depression—self-reliance, appeals to private people and organizations for philanthropy and to companies for ethical response to the crisis, and a reluctance to get the government involved. It was an abject failure. The New Deal was the liberal economic school at work and the welfare state came to America. Roosevelt even employed the concept and the very formula that Rowntree had developed for the “poverty line”—a measure of the cost of basic human needs as the basic metric for social welfare.
  • The death of the “Protestant ethic”. Most people think that Max Weber had Puritans in mind when he wrote The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, and this is partially true; but he talks about Quakers quite a bit, too, and we actually fit the mold better than the Puritans did. We weren’t Calvinist, so we didn’t see material success as a signifier of our election, but that is just a footnote in the story. The core of the Protestant ethic story is seeing one’s work in the world as a religious vocation, a calling (we would say leading) from God. This makes doing good imperative and doing well okay. This was the “spirit of capitalism”, and it drove Quaker business for two hundred years., until limited liability laws passed in both England and America in the 1890s led to the issue of public shares and the gradual dissolution of the great dynastic Quaker family businesses. By at least the end of the first world war, the spirit of capitalism was Mammon, not the Protestant ethic. Maybe before then. A lot of Quakers thought so already when London Yearly Meeting charged its Committee on War and the Social Order to investigate the Great War’s causes, in 1915. The report that the Committee returned in 1918 confirmed their suspicions—capitalism was partly to blame for the Great War and thus so were capitalists.
  • The theology of experience replaces the theology of atonement—and unleashes individualism. When Rufus Jones recast Quakerism as a mystical religion around the turn of the 20th century, and the liberal movement in Quakerism embraced the new “scientific” tools for Bible study at the same time, religious experience became the goal of (liberal) Quakerism and religious authority began to shift away from the Bible. Both threads had always been there; the past atonement of Christ on the cross was virtually irrelevant to early Friends, though they would never had said so—they were experiencing the living Christ directly and right now; salvation was happening within them in “real time”, making the event on the cross a kind of prefiguring, rather than the defining event in salvation history. And the Bible was a necessary source of relgious authority, but secondary to the experience of the Light. Throughout the 19th century, evangelicalism had driven this thread of direct experience partly underground, except to some extent in American Hicksite and Wilburite circles, but liberal Quakerism revived it. However, the emphasis on personal experience also undermined the authority of the meeting and gradually empowered the individual liberal Friend to do as he or she pleases. This feeling of entitlement is now one of the gods of liberal Quakerism.
  • The Vietnam War and the Sixties. Beginning in the 1960s, a wave of convincement brought a generation of people into the movement who were either social activists or ‘60s mystics, or both. I am part of that generation. We distrusted authority. Many of us had either fled or abandoned our original religious roots as either oppressive or spiritually empty, or both; we were post-Christian. A lot of us had also abandoned self discipline for a while; that had been fun for us, in ways even valuable, but it left us a bit self-indulgent. Many of us had picked up an anti-money prejudice in the 60s that we seem to have retained to some degree, even though most of us ended up in the middle class. After all, a lot of us had degrees and we were the last generation to benefit from higher education en masse without going broke in the process. We remember $0.29 gasoline and $150 apartment rents—the good life was sort of handed to us. Finally, we had built our spiritual lives around whatever we had picked up on our journeys, and, when we became convinced as Quakers, we grafted that onto a Quaker framework that was already becoming increasingly pliable, increasingly defined by values rather than content. And we didn’t really value money, even though we enjoyed it.
  • (Radically) declining wealth base. There are three paths to wealth: creating a successful business, landing one of those rare very high-paying jobs, and inheritance. The first and last have been the foundation of Quaker wealth for centuries. But nowadays, many, many Friends are somewhere in the middle class, with decent but not high-paying paying jobs, if they are lucky, with pensions and enough saved to maybe keep them in comfort as they live into their 80s and 90s, if they are really lucky. Maybe there will be a little left over for the kids when we die. However, for twenty years or more, our middle class status has been steadily eroding, as college, health care, and nursing home costs have skyrocketed. There just isn’t the wealth base left to maintain our meetings the way our forebears did, and we are less likely to leave big bequests. As an example: the Friends who supplied two-thirds of the capital funds that renovated New York Yearly Meeting’s youth retreat center a few years ago died—in just three or four years’ time! Two-thirds of a significant wealth base in the yearly meeting died in a handful of years! The wealth base that made the budgets of yesteryear possible is dying off.
  • Mixed marriages. I suspect that, over the past century, more and more convinced Friends have joined the movement without their spouses. When you have to divide your charitable contributions in half, or at least negotiate with a partner about it, chances are good that your meeting will get less than it would have if you had joined as a couple or if you were single.
  • Meaningless membership. I would add the fact that there’s really no reason to even make the minimal commitment to a meeting of becoming a member. What do you get out of it? The privilege of serving on Ministry and Worship Committee? We no longer treat membership as a covenant in which the member and the meeting have clear, mutual responsibilities for support. Oh, the member has responsibilities, financial support among them. But what skin does the meeting have in this game? All we seem to feel we need to provide is a space in which to hold meeting for worship every Sunday morning and a sense of community. We often don’t offer religious education to even our children, let alone the adults. We don’t offer programs or other support for the individual spiritual life, beyond meeting for worship. We often are rather less than effective at pastoral care, even worse at material care. Why join? And, if you’re only a partially-committed attender, why not give as a partially-committed attender?
  • Consumer culture religion. In a mass consumer economy, we pay for the things we want, and we seek the lowest price. This cultural ethos has invaded religious life, just as it has penetrated every other aspect of modern life. Most Friends come to meeting for something; they are less likely to consider what they come to meeting with. What do they come for? At the least, I think they come for an hour of peace and psychological refreshment and a sense of community. We often give them that. But what is it worth? Can it be had at a bargain? Could they get it elsewhere more cheaply? Probably not. But if they could, they just might leave. At least we have a corner on the collective silent worship market.

Well, these ideas just came flying out of my head as I wrote. What are my readers’ experiences? Why do we harass our business people? Why do we give so little? Why have Quaker meetings and institutions been cutting back on their budgets and yet still feel like they’re headed for the shoals? Why are we weird about money, when we used to be so good with it? Have I missed anything? Have I gone too far?

I would love to hear from you.

§ 15 Responses to Quakers and money

  • Greg Robie says:

    Thanks to motivated reasoning, CapitalismFail is the functional and unconstitutionally established religion of the United States of America. The sovereignty necessary to self-govern as a republic was abdicated to the banks through the unconstitutional Federal Reserve Act of 1913 and what has followed. The referenced kind of economy, where wealth is a matter of being responsible, does not exist. The Testimonies upon which Quakers base their sense of piety, are, systemically, impossible. To the degree these four assertions are correct, my first read of this essay suggests a significant disorientation concerning how to think about Quakers and money.

    It is correct, however, to observe that money is not talked about. Releasing me from membership, relative to the guidance set forth in the NYYM Book of Discipline, was truncated to avoid the conversation about money and wealth at the monthly meeting level. Talking about money is no easier at the yearly meeting level. Philadelphia Yearly Meeting united it’s funds a full generation after the physical union of the two yearly meetings. Friends Fiduciary Fund was the means by which this fiscal union was finally accomplished. The yearly meeting committee overseeing this institution has “the small committee” that manages integrity issues concerning investments for the yearly meeting. It, in turn, subcontracts this responsibility to an individual (at the time I research this, that person worked in an investment house in Chicago). That individual was charged with vetting potential investment decisions based on ethical concerns Friends have concerning their Testimonies. To qualify a company had to have a practice of those ethics that was above the average for its respective industry. At any given time, such is a line drawn on the flow of the river of greed-as-go[o]d. That river flows into the dead sea of CapitalismFail’s Anthropocene. I am challenged to see any integrity in this vetting process. Functionally, doesn’t pragmatism trump truth and a substanceless piety is affected

    And the piously privileged of the world have joined this [sh]arade. The establishment of the Friends Fiduciary Fund coincides with the rise of the oxymoron of socially responsible investing. Socially responsible investing has been (as of ~2007), and may still be, the fastest growing segment of the investing market. Every financial institution has developed its own suite of ‘socially responsible investing’ offerings. These funds are jointly managed in the overall investment strategies of these institutions. And that strategy is the aforementioned greed-as-god. It would seem that, at best, Quakers have, through pragmatism, led by slowing our trip down the broad, well-traveled road to perdition. And, of course, Friends have also been fleeced as FUM YMs experienced, and managed trust funds to loose most of the investment (NYYM’s Fund for Sufferings).

    FWIW, my former monthly meeting had a whole bunch of worthless O&W rail road bonds (coal transport) ‘saved’ in its strong box. This is even more insidious than the current abrupt climate change issues would suggest. The local power structure of that day could, and did, send the cops to ticket the trucking businesses that eventually made those bonds worthless…about 100 years ago. That number has a familiar ring!

    FWCC’s called meeting on the Peace Testimony at Guilford College in 2003 avoided this issue Quakers and money. The organizing committee could not come to unity on how to include it. In the Open Space Technology segment of that conference I facilitated a workshop on it titled “Talking About The Elephant”. It drew the largest attendance of any of that conference’s workshops (about 40, and disproportionately young Friends). The title was the phrase a Canadian Friend, who served on that steering committee, used to frame her report on the committee’s inability to structure a workshop on the subject. Pendle Hill hosted on conference on Quakers and money around the same time. My wife attended. Both experienced suggest Friends are primarily interested and feeling pious in their, at best, pragmatic greed.

    Which begs the question of integrity and Quakers. I recall you introducing Kirkpatrick Sales had a yearly meeting function at Graymore. Kirpatrick spun and unfamiliar story concerning Quaker integrity. The Iroquois Confederacy had done a preemptive ‘shock and awe’ of the Allegheny River Valley to eliminate a perceived threat. Because that valley was empty, and because Native Americans had learned that they could not compete against Europeans in warfare, they struck a deal the Quakers have spun completely differently than how it actually played out. Perhaps Friends have always been better at writing their history then walking their talk. Such would explain why Quakers don’t talk about money.

    But, returning to the opening four assertions and abrupt climate change. Back in January I asked what amount of crowd-sourced prize money would move Friends to have the integrity to lead 10 times a meeting’s membership or 10% of their community’s population (which ever is greater) in living a just (sustainable regarding carbon dioxide emissions) lifestyle. The silence that request experienced suggests that Friends will not be moved. Is this condition thanks to individualism, pragmatism, a love of DeadQuakerMoney enabled carbon fueled travel and hookups? Is the functional ‘religion’ of Liberal Friends, thanks to motivated reasoning, CapitalismFail?

    Since religion us one of those thugs you don’t talk about in mixed company, if Friends cannot/will not talk about money, is it because of religious-like feelings? If so can the Society ever be otherly religious? If not, this does not bode well for the ‘secular’/economically ‘religious’ republic. Sovereignty has been forfeited. Governance, like business meeting, is all constrained by (& paraphrasing Cargill) the stupid (i.e. non-rational) economic meme.

    Limited liability laws enabled the markets that destroyed the wealth earlier Friends amassed via the connectivity of the Society and an Atlantic Rim Culture in the “Quietiest Period”. Two hundred years later, property and freedom are perceived as the right to be irresponsible. This is both within and without the Society (though within the Society Friends can pretend that they are less irresponsible than half!). The ethos of CapitalismFail is apostate and/or its own religion. Its sense has pervaded everything, especially the cents/sense of the Meeting.

    The currency is coined debit making debt-slavery endemic and systemic. This undermines and limits what of the Testimonies can be effected, particularly integrity. Pragmatism becomes systemic. The corporate search for truth an exercise in accommodating individual perceptions. With peak conventional oil we have arrived at peak credit because the energy-equivalent slaves the conventional oil era has afforded us are going away. And any price placed on fossil carbon or restricting fossil carbon emissions will accelerate this loss. As things are structured economically, and particularly with The Paris Agreement, justice is impossible.

    But, with sufficient substanceless piety, isn’t this condition able to be a trusted as-go[o]d-as-it-gets?

    sNAILmALEnotHAIL …but pace’n myself



    • A provocative post, as usual, Greg. I couldn’t follow all of it. But I am really interested in two things: your sources for the history of Friends Fiduciary and any documents that came out of FWCC’s called meeting on the Peace Testimony at Guilford College in 2003.

      Of course, the final documents almost never reveal the negotiating that went into an event like this. You get a rare look at how this works in the proceedings of London Yearly Meeting’s proceedings for 1917, the year that the Committee on War and the Social Order came back to the YM with its first proposals for what became the Eight Principles of a Just Social Order. The draft was sent to the quarterly meetings and their responses range from total rejection to significantly more radical wording. The Eight Principles we got in 1918 were more clearly drafted and pretty good, but not as far-reaching as the original and not even close to some of the versions offered by the quarters.

      So I wonder whether any of my other readers know more about the convening and results of this consultation at Guilford in 2003. I Know I would be interested for the research on my book, and I suspect Karen Tibbals would be, too.

      • Greg Robie says:

        The info on Friends Fudicary Fund was sent me by the Executive Director of that time (~2005). It must have been a hard copy because a search of my emails is turning up nothing. My piling system and an aging memory precludes my even being able to guess where to look if it was a hard copy! I checked out the website and nothing there covers what I read.

        Concerning the FWCC conference on the Peace Testimony, there was a book published. Likely the YM office got a copy. My memory was that the Open Space Technology workshop reports were not included, but again, my memory ain’t what it used to be. I’ve looked through a number of book shelves for the copy that was sent me without any luck.

        If you want any clarification concerning my comment, feel free to ask. =)

  • Karen T says:

    Part 2: Steve, you have pointed to another seminal event in Quaker history- the War and Social Order Committee in London Yearly Meeting. This was created in 1915 at the urging of a fringe organization, the Socialist Quaker Society, who were Fabian Socialists. They had been working for many years to get the YM to pay attention to their point of view and had been marginalized. They saw the advent of the war as a way to get people on board. They used a quote from John Woolman (let us look for the origins of war in the every day lives) as a rallying cry to get people on board. Half the Committee was comprised of Socialist Quaker Society. The pinnacle of their work was the passage of the Eight Foundations of a True Social Order in 1918. Here are number 7 and 8.
    7. Mutual service should be the principle upon which life is organized. Service not private gain should be the motive of all work.
    8. The ownership of material things, such as land and capital, should be so regulated as best to minister to the need and development of man.
    This became a topic of the 1920 Conference of All Friends of which half the attendees were from the US. Included in the minutes (but with a note to say that this was a dissenting point of view) was the text of speech by a US Marxist calling for Quakers to lead the way in giving away all their worldly goods.

    PYM also created a Social Order committee in 1918 which continued for many years. However, back in England, the LYM War and Social Order Committee was laid down in 1928 in disillusionment because they felt that they did not have the backing of the whole of LYM, that they were still regarded as fringe and that nothing had changed.

    But something was changing. The Quaker Employers had met in 1918 and were trying to figure out how to enact changes in their business to reflect these new ideas. This is one of the main topics of my master’s thesis, so I won’t go into it, but let me just say they were unsuccessful I believe that their lack of success (and the accompanying shame at being unable to do so) was one factor behind the demise of the Quaker business person.

    • I started writing my book on Quakers and Capitalism because I ran across the proceedings of the Friends World Conference in London in 1920 by accient in the stacks of Pendle Hill’s library, and got really excited about the Eight Principles of a Just Social Order. And right next to that book was the proceedings of London Yearly Meeting 2918, with the report from the Committee on War and the Social Order, and the debate that followed. That was the starting point for this study for me.

      But I remember the history of that committee a littler differently. I thought LYM laid down the Committee on War and the Social Order, only to turn around and create a Committee on Industry and the Social Order, which went on to publish some great pamphlets. I thought that committee survived into the 1940s, being reconvened every ten years or so, still comprised of those radical Socialist Quakers at the core.

      I would love to know more about the connection between the demise of this thread of Quaker social activism and the transformation of Quaker business people from who we are to who we aren’t.

      • Karen T says:

        Steve, you are right that they did turn around and create another committee. I tried to trace the work of the new committee and didn’t find much, but I could have missed it. I stopped in the late 30s because I was discouraged. Most of the stuff I found related to the first committee. I did find the Quaker Employer group meeting every 10 years (1918, 1928, 1938 & 1948).
        The UK Quakers & Business group will be commemorating the 1918 meeting with a book on the history, done by a graduate student under Ben Pink Dandelion. We should do something here also

      • So maybe I’m thinking of the Quaker Employer Group, because I remember those dates ending in “8” and terminating in 1948. I can’t wait to see what the British research brings us. And yes, we should do the same here. I am retiring in a few weeks so I’ll see what I can find at Philadelphia YM’s library and at Swarthmore (now that I live in Philadelphia).

  • Karen T says:

    Steve, you have read some of the same things I have been studying and have captured many of the same threads. I’ll expand on a couple. Note that early Quakerism arose out of Puritanism, so that early Quakers had been Calvinistic. Indeed. Weber, has read Fox and Barclay, which influence the development of the Protestant Ethic thesis. Further, Weber uses as his “Calvinist” example Benjamin Franklin, because he was born into a Calvinist family, not realizing that Franklin was apprenticed to a Quaker printer and influenced by Philadelphia Quakers. Frederick Tolles, an early 20th century Quaker historian, has a section in his book Quakers & The Atlantic Culture which analyzes whether Weber’s thesis describes Quakers – and basically says yes, it does. So I totally agree with you about Quakers belonging in the Protestant Ethic, and which may have been the prime example of it.

  • John H Hall says:

    I wonder Steven whether you have considered the change (loss?) of Quaker discipline? How many of us put (at least here in the UK) our commitment to our meetings above everything else? I suspect that if there is a call, very few who attend meetings for worship will give up all and follow. Who amongst us think that financing our meetings should be the first call on our money? Is this the product of our lack of Quaker education?

    • Your comment reminds me of the story of the rich young man that appears in all the synoptic gospels, the rich fellow who asks Jesus, “What must I do to enter the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus answers by quoting the essentials of the law, and the fellow says, I do that. Then Jesus says, sell all you have and follow me. And the young man goes away very sad, because he can’t do it. In one of the gospels, Jesus follows the incident with the famous saying that it’s harder for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.

      But that was a call from Jesus himself to follow him, not a call from a meeting. Our meetings have not the status of Jesus. I don’t think they even should have the authority to ask us to to make them their first priority. I know I could not answer such a call, if my meeting ever made one. My family is my first priority and that’s the way it should be, I think. But a meeting doesn’t have to be our first priority to still be a high priority.

      To be honest, I am just like the rich young man myself—Jesus still makes that call, to give everything you have to minister to the poor, and I don’t do that; and I won’t. This is the main reason I do not call myself a Christian, because I do not have the commitment to the poor that Jesus called for.

      As for discipline, I started entering a paragraph on discipline in this blog entry, and then deleted it. Certainly, the word now has four letters in contemporary liberal Quaker culture. We are allergic to discipline. We have abandoned all of the structures that used to enforce discipline long ago. And we had good reason to do that when we did it—the old culture of eldership had become ossified and oppressive. But now we have no culture of eldership at all. And that IS a problem. We no longer give our meetings enough authority to deal with problems; we do not do a good enough job of protecting our worship and our fellowship from people who threaten them, or from the more insidious trends that might threaten them.

      I think we do need to re-invent a more sensitive, more modern, more progressive culture of eldership, one that is even better at nurturing the life of the spirit than it is at protecting it. But that is for another blog entry.

      • John H Hall says:

        I am afraid my post was perhaps not as clear as it should have been.
        By “call” I should have said concern which even now some Friends find to have an overwhelming demand on them. An example is the change to the way money was to be handled within Jonathan Dale’s family leading to a considerable reduction in the standard of living.
        “Beyond the Spirit of the Age: Quaker Social Responsibility at the End of the Twentieth Century”, Swarthmore Lecture (London: Quaker Home Service, 1996)
        While it has always been up to individual Friends as to how they react to a concern placed upon them, my perception is that it is our discipline that it be placed before the meetings with a view to the meetings advising on its recognition, acceptance and possible support.

        I am interested in your interpretation of the relation between meeting and Jesus. My understanding is that Quakerism is about continuing revelation. As George Fox wrote in his Journal, “I spake to him and the people the truth and the light which lett them see all that they had done, and of their teacher within them and how the lord was come to teach them himself, and oth the seed Christ in them; how they to mind that, and the promise that was the seed of God within them which is Christ … “ George Fox, Short Journal p. 15 Norman Penney, ed., “The Short Journal and Itinerary Journals of George Fox in Commemoration of the Tercentenary of His Birth (1624-1924)” (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1925).
        The assumption by Fox seems to me to be that the light within is Jesus and that by following it we are in fact accepting his instruction. Am I right in presuming that you think Quakerism has moved away from this and that modern Quakerism does not see the inner light as guidance from God (a term I use in its widest sense)?

      • No, I do think modern Friends think of the Inner Light as guidance from God. Exactly. Though, as you have done, I think most of us feel like we need to qualify what we mean by “God” in some way. I only meant to say that for many of us, “God” is no longer Jesus Christ, or even God the Father; or at least not necessarily Christ or the Father. I think the Light, or the Inner Light, has become a way to speak about God that is free of assumptions and associations with “God” that we no longer find work for us. The classic example is the way we say “hold in the light” now instead of “pray for”.

        One more note: I’ve not researched this myself, but I have heard knowledgeable Friends say that “continuing revelation” is also a modern (20th century) invention. Not that early Friends did not experience Christ as their teacher, as you quote above, fulfilling the promise in John 15, shortly after the passage that gives us our name:

        But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me . . .”

        But with the rise of liberal Quakerism, “continuing revelation”. gained a new emphasis. I think the main reason for this has been to justify the way we have abandoned the Bible as a source of religious authority.

  • Lucinda says:

    Thank you, Steve, for this education.

    I think we may now take on too much of Christ’s atonement on the cross ourselves, perhaps in part as a result of the lack of religious education and of grounding in the bible that you note, and become burdened with liberal guilt without a counterbalance in deep communion with each other and with God. We may frantically work to bring about the world that ought to be without noting the complexities inherent in that, including the many ways that business is good.

    New York Yearly Meeting has a Quakers in Business group that is working to develop a list of those in business and define some principles that make this list meaningful. If you are going to the FGC Gathering this year, they will meet with other interested folk just before the gathering. For more information, visit http://www.fgcquaker.org/connect/gathering/programs-and-events/pre-gathering/quakers-and-business.

  • treegestalt says:

    You’ve left out one most significant path to wealth: the legalized crime of financial manipulation. Normally one needs to first inherit the wealth to jump onto that path, but it is by far the most successful way within the current economic system, which is dominated by ‘capital gains’ — that is, by wholesale rents-received, inflated asset prices, insurance schemes, outright fraud ala _F.I.A.S.C.O._ and Bill Black’s _The Best Way to Rob a Bank Is to Own One_.

    That is, the path to finanical wealth has become almost entirely via (functionally) unearned income rather than the right-livelihood means (actual production & services) that in the past had in fact led some Quakers to great wealth.

    As a result, the entire economy (and anyone’s long-term security) has become increasingly unstable & precarious. Quakers overall have come down in the world, individually & collectively, though this has not penetrated their consciousness as strongly hereabouts as you describe.

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