The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: "God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get." But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, "God have mercy on me, a sinner." I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." — Luke 18: 10-14. 

A good question one might ask oneself is: When I thank God on Thanksgiving, what exactly am I thanking God for? Pride is the most insidious flaw in our nature, and many of us have not learned to identify it and control it. The reason I bring this up is that many people are obsessed with morality when it comes to business and economics. 

Early on in the 1800s the Church had this notion that anyone who went into business was by nature ruthless and materialist, and therefore, like a spoiled child, business had to be reminded constantly, if not forced by the state, to be moral. A conversation with a student last week reminded me that this attitude is alive and well in Catholic circles. I even had an undergraduate professor who was convinced that business people were evil until they entered politics. Then they became saintly. Hence, it made sense to him that government had to ride business, because government was essentially better morally, even if it were composed of former businessmen. 

But why this obsession with morality? I argue that business people are no more or less fallen creatures than any other human beings. In fact, studies have shown that business people and those in the military are the most frequent churchgoers in our society. Well, I think there are a couple of reasons for this obsession that can be readily divulged. Firstly, there is the ideological component, which I just wrote about above. Then there is the neglect to realize that people in business, as well as in every other field, are not infallible. They, like all of us, make mistakes: they miscalculate; they fail to predict changes in the market or the economy; like most of us they seek security, as when they push governments to impose tariffs or to give them bailouts. We all have done similar things in our life. Why do we expect that business people be perfect? We aren't! 

Lastly, and this takes us back to the quotation given in the beginning of this essay, I think it is possible that Catholics get infected with a holier-than-thou attitude (as displayed by the Pharisee the Gospel passage quoted above). This happens from envy (whether detectable or undetected) of those who are more financially successful, work harder, or have original ideas and are reimbursed for those ideas. In this case, Catholics who are not in business might feel justified in looking down on Catholics in business, and thus feel better about themselves. Think of your childhood. We all knew kids who did this, or remember doing this ourselves. If a kid got rewarded for doing something cool, there was always someone there who would ridicule that kid, or minimize what he or she did. They could never feel happy for the one rewarded. 

This can also be a result of not adequately admitting that we are sinners, which can give us license to project our sinfulness onto others. The big targets, like business people, are the most available, since it couldn't be government people, because the ideology says that sinfulness in a politician is an aberration.

The remedy for this problem has been given by Our Lord—don't judge another person. It is perfectly alright morally to play Monday-morning-quarterback and say, "Well he should have done such-and-so," but to sit there in all one's glory and say that these people are just immoral is unacceptable. 

So what are you really thankful for? Think about it. St. Paul writes: "What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?" Perhaps we should all court the blessings given to each of us, and refrain from counting the faults of others.



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