Morality in Entrepreneurship: Reverend Robert A. Sirico
On Thursday, October 26, 2017, the Institute for Entrepreneurship (IFE) welcomed the Reverend Robert A. Sirico for the lecture “Entrepreneurship as a Moral Choice.” The Rev. Robert Alan Sirico is an American Roman Catholic priest, and the founder of the Acton Institute of Grand Rapids, Michigan. His writings on religious, political, economic, and social matters are published in a variety of publications, including: the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, the London Financial Times, the Washington Times, the Detroit News, and National Review. The lecture, hosted by the MGT 498 Strategic Management class, was part of the IFE Speaker Series.
In 1990, Reverend Sirico founded the Acton Institute, a think-tank that advocates for a free market economy framed within a Christian moral framework. During the lecture, Rev. Sirico made a case for free markets not only from an economic perspective, but also from a moral one. His argument relies on the extremely positive impact that free economies have had on the world. “A society which produces superfluity in profits is the exception in human history,” Sirico said, while “poverty has always been the norm.” The historical decrease in poverty rates, according to Sirico, is related to a surge in job opportunities which is a product of free market economy. This is the type of intervention that Reverend Sirico advocated for, as opposed to welfare: one allowing the recipient to create job opportunities both for him/herself and for the community at large. However, distancing himself from a “pure” free-market capitalist perspective, Rev. Sirico called for a moral imperative in entrepreneurship and business. A business needs to have a purpose, a moral goal overseeing profit maximization. “An ethical dimension that tells us what we ought to do,” he said. This might sometimes run counter to maximizing revenue, and result in the closing of the company. Or in the opening of one as a cover to save lives, as German industrialist Oscar Schindler did during WWII, said Sirico.
The way to find the purpose behind one’s business is to take a step back. “In the frantic race of doing something as fast as possible, we sometimes forget that we are human beings, not human doings,” said Sirico. Therefore, pondering on what one ought to do besides simply chasing revenue is essential. This, Sirico concluded, is the way to achieve morality in decision-making.
“I am glad that Father Sirico’s lecture helped me to realize the possibility of ethical business that does not necessarily mean losing profits or leading position. And this is a seed that Father Sirico planted in me, which will change my future path in the business,” said student Anastasiya Shmatina, who attended the lecture.