Posted by: nickgerlich | July 1, 2008

Big and Rich

One of the most rewarding things to happen to a prof is when they witness their students getting it. Really getting it. And even though I faked right and ran left, the defense still followed me. I love it.

So it has been with great delight that I find my students seeing an apparent contradiction in my blogging: here I am, a career Marketing prof, telling people to (gasp) not spend all of their money, to buy used, and to save their hard-earned dough. Isn’t that like the devil telling you to come to Jesus?

Well, maybe. But let me explain.

Ron SiderNow let me make this clear first. I do not have all the answers, but I do know most of the questions. As my students know all too well from my exams, I can throw a lot of them. But there is some rhyming to my reasoning.

Many years ago I read Ron Sider’s Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger. No, this is not a religious sales pitch happening before your very eyes. This is just a changed man talking, one who in his younger days could not see beyond all the big dollar signs looming in the sales of Tomorrowland.

Not just another “you should feel guilty for all of this” diatribe, Sider showed me that with great freedom comes great responsibility. And within the context of two belief systems (capitalism and Christianity), the responsibilities are double. This is not to say that other religions cannot have similar value systems. I just learned that there is much more to Marketing than flag-waving on the way to the bank (and church).

No, I do not advocate socialism or any of those other isms that try to redistribute wealth through the strong arm of the government. Far from it. I firmly believe that the free market of ideas and commerce is the best way. But I also believe that just because you can do something, doesn’t always mean you should.

So here I stand at the crossroads of Unfettered Capitalism and Social Conscience. It is an intersection without a traffic signal or even a stop sign, and navigating through it can be tricky. But each of us must figure out how to get through it, knowing that if we go one way, traffic from the other may still collide with us.

As I have grown older (not old!), I have learned to respect my possessions, but not covet their replacements in a never-ending spiral of consumerism. I have learned I need not consume everything, and it is good to leave some for others (even expensive oil and its derivatives). And I have learned that it is good to give to those with less, and that I probably should be giving a lot more.

Feeling guilty about being so richly blessed? Nope. Just happy to no longer be in the rat race of materialism. The rats were winning.

Dr “Or Am I Just All Wet?” Gerlich


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