Is Business Inherently Good, Neutral, or Evil?

In these days of red states and blue states, polarizing cable news networks, and increasingly vitriolic rhetoric from both sides, I want to make a case that one of the problems that needs to be confronted is the demonizing of business in popular culture.

Words like “profit” rarely have a positive connotation. “Big Business” is a political tagline that liberals use to illustrate points, and never a phrase you’ll hear defended. The assumption is that being “big” makes a business crooked. There can’t be millions or billions of dollars of profit without somebody being greedy or oppressive.

To illustrate my point: name one benevolent businessman (who was still a businessman at the end of the film) in a movie. Now, name 5 crooked businessmen in films. Or, just go and search “Businessman” at Better yet, I’ll save you some time. Here’s the top 8 “partial matches” to accompany the word “businessman” at IMDB:

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So it looks like your options in film are either to be an evil businessman or to be an Asian businessman.  And you might even still be evil if you’re Asian.

I just finished a fascinating little book (via the Kindle app for my phone/computer) by Wayne Grudem called Business for the Glory of God: The Bible’s teaching on the Moral Goodness of Business. I cannot more highly recommend it.  It walks through the biblical underpinnings of business (without ignoring the potential in each category for corruption and sin).  It’s a quick read, but well worth your time.  In it, Dr. Grudem makes a compelling, concise case for not just moral neutrality when it comes to business, but the inherent moral goodness of business.

What do you think?  Is it possible to be a businessman or businesswoman who is morally upright?

3 Replies to “Is Business Inherently Good, Neutral, or Evil?”

  1. I think that business, just like literature is neutral. Its what people do with it. However, our polarizing culture says that if something is big, then it just HAS to be evil. Literature is much the same way, where would movies and TV be without Sherlock Holmes (CSI: Victorian Era)? Where would history be without Mein Kampf? One showcases good observational detective work, and one blames all the worlds problems on the Jews. Just because someone does something evil with something does not make that object evil. Its all in how we use it.

    1. I’d definitely recommend picking up the Grudem book, Diggs. He makes a pretty compelling case for not just neutrality, but goodness. Though I agree that in some ways it’s like literature (or music, or whatever. But Grudem would argue that even just for the sake of business in and of itself (as long as you aren’t using it for morally wrong reasons), business is morally good. Profit, competition, and money are, in and of themselves, morally good.

  2. Of course it’s possible to be a good businessman / business woman. You can even do so, and still be Asian! To me the problem is less about “business” as a concept, but more about biased media. Let me explain…you’re more likely to hear that a Jewish man stole 80 Billion dollars in a ponzy scheme. Of course that’s bad…but what about the guy who has a for profit business which serves the homeless community, provides meals, gives clothes and trains them to go back to work? They exist… however our culture is obsessed with Greed / Avarice to a far greater extent than compassion. You’re just not going to hear about it. How many hopeful students enroll in MBA programs with the plan of making money for their families and GIVING back to the communities from whence they came? I’d say quite a bit. I’m not so full of despair that I think if you desire to make money and have a multi million dollar for profit company, that automatically, you lied, cheated and stole to get there or are lying stealing and cheating to maintain having it. I just don’t buy it. I don’t think there’s any Biblical principle that states “Business is sin…thou shalt not participate in big business lest the liberals come into thine house and destroyeth thine reputation on MSNBC.” I guess it could be Deut…but I haven’t noticed it yet. You can have an honest “big” business and have scruples. I believe this.

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