Free Markets, Faith and the Future

Many financial experts are predicting the greatest Bull Market in human history is about to end.  I agree, but the reasons are not technical, they are common sense.

The total value of the two major US stock exchanges is $26,000,000,000,000.  This means people have invested $26 trillion in businesses whose overall purpose is to provide the goods and services that improve the quality of life of American citizens.   We have the financial means to fund the American Dream for our children, but are falling short.

Sadly, the majority of young Americans are losing faith in the free-market system.  In many cases they see big business as the enemy to healthy food, affordable quality in healthcare, climate change, modern education and community.  This is a troubling sign for the stock market and America.

The good news is that it is not too late for those of us have benefited from Bull Market to invest our capital and time in solving the issues of our children’s future.

CS Lewis said “the history of the world is not just about bad people doing bad things. It is also about good people trying to do good things, but it just doesn’t turn out as good as expected.”  This quote certainly applied to the Silicon Valley business career I left in 2005.

Then my life changed.

In 2006, a friend asked if I wanted to buy some land outside his childhood village. I had not given any thought to investing in Romania, but I loved the beautiful scenery, clean air and taste of the locally grown tomatoes. I began a long, slow journey that reshaped my perspective on the future of the world I am leaving my children.

Ten years later, after speaking a conference about ‘the perfect place to raise our children’ we are developing on the land we acquired in Romania, a retired CEO (Craig) asked if he could join the team of Americans working on the project. He said “I have always believed that Christian business leaders working together can change the world”.

I now see the wisdom in Craig’s word’s.  Wisdom that may important to preserve the free market system that we believe in.

At 45, I finally found a simple explanation for what it meant to be a Christian.  CS Lewis stated on BBC radio in 1942, “Christianity is the simply a process of having your natural-self transformed into your Christ-filled self. It is spiritual exchange that happens deep within us and most of us do not make much progress in our present lives. But those that do go further in this transformation are stronger, quieter, happier and more alive”.

For business leaders like me, this transformation often happens in our 50’s, after we recognize that what we are chasing does not satisfy and we have the time to examine ourselves and the world around us. When the transformation happens, it is easily recognizable as our pride, greed and selfishness is replaced with purpose, kindness, and devotion to others.

Last month a friend sent me a copy of David Brooks new book Second Mountain. I was struck by the authors statement that American culture has a ‘catastrophic crisis of individuality’. In essence, we have become so prosperous that we don’t need other people.

Over the past decade I have had the pleasure of working with a number of successful American business men and women in some ambitious private investments to raise the standard of living in Romania. We were drawn to the beautiful “green” landscape where people still enjoyed soil, water and air free of the chemicals which saturate our modern ecosystems.  We also valued Romania as a critical American ally on the eastern flank of Europe.

Together we are accomplishing things we could have never done alone.

We are experiencing what the Bible calls the Body of Christ. Metaphorically, we are each a small part in a complex project far bigger and better than anything we could imagine. And we are knit together by respect and love for one another. We don’t say love, but it shows.

We are all investing our money and time. As the Bible says, our heart is where our money is.

We are making a long-term commitment to our investment because we understand that the secret to change is patience and perseverance. Empirical data from our prior lives validates the fact the largest value creation in transformative businesses comes in the 15th to 20th year.

Through the eyes of each other, we see ourselves as we are. Each supremely talented in a few respects and limited in many other respects.  We almost never talk about our prior careers, because there is no one to impress. What impresses us now is what God can do with a group of humbled, creative, successful, and hardworking leaders that work together to share the joy in focusing our business skills on helping others.

For the first time in my life, I feel like I am co-creating with God.  Creating out of chaos and nothing.  Uniting the two things God loves most: His creation and His people.  People from every nation, tribe and tongue.

Someone summarized the history of Christianity like this:

Christianity began in Palestine as a Relationship
Then moved to Greece and became a Philosophy
Afterwards it moved onto Rome and became an Institution
Then onto Europe where it became a Culture
Finally, it settled into America where is has become an Enterprise.

What if Christianity in the 21st century was associated with business leaders working together to invest the capital God has provided them to solve the challenges shaping our children’s future ?

That would be a victory for free markets, the world and God.

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