by PETER GRACE
AUCKLAND — Young Catholics in business can help strengthen morality in the world by “loving thy neighbour”, according to retired engineer, businessman and company director Peter Menzies.
Mr Menzies was the speaker at the April 9 meeting of Catholic Young Professionals in Auckland. Mr Menzies’ talk was titled “How Christianity can save capitalism”.
He set the scene by talking about individual and corporate greed and dishonesty, as well as government intrusion into areas of morality.
Then he talked about how the answer was, in essence, “Love thy neighbour”.
“So what’s wrong with capitalism, with the free market, at the moment?” he asked.
The Global Financial Crisis of 2007 arose more from powerful banking groups selling valueless mortgages, he said. Beneath that was dishonesty.
Likewise, the Libor (London InterBank Operating Rate) scandal arose when British banks colluded to make dishonest profits.
New Zealand was fortunate to escape, Mr Menzies said, although we had the bad practice here of paying bank staff to lend money. Globalisation had led to a lot of transfer of wealth and knowledge, and to huge sums paid to people sitting at the top of organisations.
“Directors won’t stand their ground and demand that remuneration be much flatter.”
In addition, we have seen inappropriate government intrusion into areas of moral norms. Mr Menzies reminded his audience of what Mother Teresa said about abortion — that it is the source of violence in the Western world.
“But when she said that, I thought, ‘That’s a big call, Mother, and I will have to think about it’.”
But, he said, imagine a young woman finding herself pregnant with an unwanted baby. In such cases, he said, almost all women know they are carrying a baby. The baby’s father tells the young woman the
baby will ruin things for her. “So he knows it’s not just
tissue.” And the wider circle of parents and friends
in many cases encourage abortion.
“They all know it’s a baby.” They know they are taking part “in murder”.
“And what does that do to the rest of their lives, to their respect for human beings, to the unborn. And that’s what Mother Teresa meant,” Mr Menzies said.
Likewise, Western society pushes artificial contraception — even though it presents risks to women’s health, including cancer — when there is natural family planning, which respects the natural processes of a woman’s body. It is also very successful in helping
infertile women to conceive.
“Yet government will not even talk about offering this through the health service.”
And government intrusion into people’s private lives encourages lifestyles rather than a basic benefit.
“We have got beneficiaries travelling and we have developed an entitlement attitude . . . .”
Mr Menzies suggested his listeners, as active Christians, could help change these problems.
Each of us, he said, is a unique person God created out of love. And in embodying each one, he created in us a desire to return that love back to God.
“We can guarantee when you are dealing with people, within all of them there’s a deep-seated desire to love God, to be good.”
That is the approach he used in running organisations and trusting people, he said.
Because if an organisation is run based on trust, and staff are given the opportunity to do good, spectacular results can follow. “Jesus said, ‘Love thy neighbour’.”
The other thing to understand, Mr Menzies said, is that the Ten
Commandments are not a list of “Don’ts”. They are “Don’t hurt
For example, “Honour your father and mother”. If we don’t do
that, we are going to hurt ourselves. “So where does all of this take you in working in enterprises and management?” he asked.
“Modern business management focuses on one thing that really
matters, and that’s to capture the skills and hearts of employees.”
But if we look at government balance sheets, we won’t find anything
on them to do with what that kind of thing.
The “Love thy neighbour” culture is fundamental. “You know how to
capture these personal, essential attributes of people. Show your
neighbour how to love. . . . Have great confidence that they want to
Successful organisations are about taking a big chunk of Christianity and putting it in their group.
“And you have got to get involved in the group, and that’s the big
As managers, Mr Menzies said, the key is to get staff to think about
better ways to do things.
“It’s transformational, and it’s Christianity. Think about the customer, give the customer a better product. So this is the challenge you have got.” It’s all about serving, he said, and that includes chief executive officers. A good CEO is a servant.
“Think about how much of it is Christianity . . .
it’s your suppliers, it’s the marketplace you are serving — and love thy neighbour.”
What about the Government overreaching and intruding and rewriting moral norms?
“If you are selling into a community that has solid family structures, good values . . . it’s a lot easier, so it’s got to be important to you. And the children who are coming out of that community to work in your organisation, you should want to come as wellrounded individuals to contribute to your team.”
Conversely, if society has many dysfunctional families and unstable marriages, “a big part of your workforce will be affected, so you have got to interested”.
Consider Japan, he said, the most indebted nation on Earth. Japan’s domestic economy is very inefficient and the nation has a shrinking population.
“Every year there are hundreds and thousands of less Japanese. And they don’t let people in. And so here they are pouring billions of dollars still, and stimulating an inefficient economy.”
The elephant in the room, Mr Menzies said, is abortion. “Young Japanese women don’t want children.” There is no business in the world that caters for fewer customers. “No one in the government in Japan will talk about abortion, will talk about the loss of population. So they have got this enormous debt . . . and shrinking
base to pay for it.”
Similarly, the elephant in the room in Western Europe is abortion,
and they don’t want to talk about it.
Korea has woken up to what is going on and is paying people to
have children. “They have completely changed around. Russia
under Putin has suddenly realised that they have got to populate or
Abortion has destroyed many countries, Mr Menzies said. “And
you are going to be in these businesses, and you have the opportunity to talk about it. . . . You can start a conversation about growing our population.”
A secondary benefit of a growing population is that nations with
full employment can have lower tax rates.
“You will generate wealth so much more if you aren’t pouring
money into welfare programmes that really aren’t highly successful.”
Social welfare under the state has an inherent difficulty, even
though it’s well intended. It can support the lifestyle of someone
who is taking “my” money. “There’s no love there. It’s purely a mechanical relationship.” Beneficiaries are trapped in their lives and need help.
He had had quite a bit to do with charitable organisations over
the years, Mr Menzies said. And he had learned that if you are
paying money into not-for-profit organisations, you always look to see if there are volunteers there. “If you don’t have this, you won’t succeed.”
Again it comes back to the motivation, of “loving thy neighbour”.
“Business has the means to get the best out of people.” In Britain, the idea of business taking control of welfare in their country is getting taken up by committed people and growing rapidly.
“You have got to reform the market by reforming the society you live in . . . and it’s based on the understanding that everybody wants to do good.”
Years ago he was on a project digging a tunnel.“Tunnels are very dangerous, and you have got people who get a rhythm going.” There are three shifts, but the three shifts develop competition as to who
digs the most in their shift.
“There comes a time when you can’t stop [it] because the competition between the shifts is so intense and the guys do it because they want to be the best.” That happens even though, by and large,
they don’tget paid more as a result.
“I exhort you to go out and to impress the world. It’s true. People want to do good. People want to be trusted and you can help them get there.”
by PETER GRACE