The Importance of the Ethic of Trade

On Friday, March 13, RIF Institute president Marsha Familaro Enright spoke to business people and students about the unrecognized Ethic of Trade and the good that this ethic brings to the world.

Ms. Enright spoke about the deep good that business people create through their ethic of trade and yet, how little moral credit they get for it. She outlined key economic and ethical misconceptions that drive resentment towards business, wealth, and capitalism.

This talk was part of a new initiative of the Fundacion Para Responsibilidad Intellectual (FRI). The initiative has two parts: 1. To educate business people in Latin America about the ideas that shape culture and governments, and 2. To help those in business work to move their cultures and governments in the direction of reason, individualism, and freedom. Here are some of the highlights of the talk:

“Do the following values and virtues support human life?

  • Creativity
  • Hard work
  • Self reliance
  • Predicting the future and taking rational risks
  • Treating others with respect, as equals
  • Offering value to others
  • Interacting with others through persuasion, not force

These are essential virtues and characteristics needed by the business person to succeed. This is the Ethic of Trade. Through these virtues, business creates and produces wealth which elevates human life around the world.

Yet, for the most part, this ethic is not recognized as a morality, as an ideal, because when people live by it, each pursues his or her own self-interest. And according to the philosophy and ethics of many people, pursuing self-interest is, at most, necessary to stay alive, but not a pursuit of the good. Instead, the ethic of self-denial, of living only to serve others, is predominantly considered the highest morality.

However, in reality, the enlightened pursuit of self-interest is the cause of the most improvements in the world. Businesses and capitalism have created the conditions which have elevated the standard of living of most of the world.

All we need do is look at which places in the world flourish and which stagnate. South Korea versus North Korea; East and West Germany;  Hong Kong versus Communist China. All are stark demonstrations of the destruction wrought by the collectivist pursuit of self-denial versus the flourishing created by the individualist pursuit of self-interest.

This error about self-interest needs to be recognized and corrected in our cultures. Ethical business people deserve honor and respect for what they create and honestly earn, rather than resentment and envy.

Resentment against capitalism is strong in Latin America. And there is at least one valid cause of that resentment: special favors from the government extended to some, usually wealthy, established businesses. These favors make it difficult for new businesses to start, creating a growing gap between the haves and have-nots.

To the extent business people rely on special favors to acquire money, they are not living by the Ethic of Trade; they are not using persuasion alone to sell their goods, they are relying on the force of the government to keep out the competition.

To fully achieve the honor they deserve, business people should advocate free trade and a repeal of special favors, so that everyone has an equal opportunity to create and produce.

Then, instead of resentment towards wealth, more people would admire successful business people and develop the ambition to be like them.

Argentina was a thriving nation at one time; its economy was the tenth largest in the world in 1913. And, despite almost a century of fascism and populist governments, there is obvious wealth in the country today. A visitor can see the evidence in its architecture, infrastructure, vast numbers of polo clubs, large array of leather, jewelry, and furs for sale, and energetic people. Buenos Aires has huge and varied bookstores and an ongoing intellectual culture. Argentina has produced some of the great classical musicians and opera stars, including Daniel Barenboim and Marta Argerich. Its Teatre Colon is ranked the third best opera house in the world by National Geographic.

Yet, it has suffered tremendously as a result of destructive collectivist ideas and governmental policies. Recognizing the value and worthiness of its capitalistic enterprises is one step to restoring its former glory.”

Buenos Aires by night

Buenos Aires by night


This talk was hosted by Fiat Argentina CEO Cristiano Rattazzi in the top floor conference room of Fiat’s building in Buenos Aires. You can see the view from this room in the picture at the top of this page. The complete presentation will be published in the near future.

1 reply
  1. krissi
    krissi says:

    I kind of disagree with whats been laid out here. I am more in favor with the Venus Project in creating equality between people that is not based on wealth but is based on real tangible resources and opportunity. I disagree for one that a selfless (opposite of selfish) interest toward the world is what the issue is, i think a completely selfless way of life is not even plausible. Because people want what they care about, no one can spend years learning an art with in mind that it is all for another and then at the same time feel happy, fulfilled, and like there was true engagement and love. (See below)Yes capitalism is a selfish place as most know it. Especially someone like my self i am on the poverty side, and have felt more intellegent than most people in power and also more empathetic and compassionate. I know that here in the USA most big name companies are not in the interest of delivering a truly great product but are interested in making as much as they can with putting in as little as they can. So they dont give love or equal value to us. This being said i dont think that your ethic code lacks some fundamental ideas (as well as the Venus Project as it stands now in its early development.) because as you mentioned business successors should earn the respect and honor they deserve rather than hate and envy. Persuade, dont force. From an anthropological stand point lets look at the act of symbolic violence. Capitalism is not the answer to happiness, not opera houses, great restaurants, nothing material. Happiness come from the metaphysical. Which means we cut through the crap of persuasion to an audience to be coaxed along and get right down to reality, being real and honesty. You see its not that we do its why we do it. And capitalism in my opinion is losing interest in bringing human beings to their fullest and maximal potential place for growth- it seems to be about selling material things which are not opportunity based: compare a fashion clothing line to a massive and inclusive project to work out secrets held in magnetism. You cant sell an opportunity as they try to do with college. Opportunity is free and wonderful. Its a move, real movement and action, engagement, a connection to something real and unmistakable because real connections can not be faked. Not material things such as an opera house, fashion, or what have you, that capitalism insists we engage in. I disagree that the world is about profit, its about human beings being free and creative, opportunities available to excel, grow and learn with out having to persuade an audience we are good enough and then receive their financial aid support. Force comes from the anger and frustration to just get something done already. Enough of this being worthy in writing and by title, be worthy because we can see in each other an eagerness/sincerity and realness to do good in any given direction whether it be developing a technology, product, or learning a skill. Capitalism does not account for this and by symbolic violence the media and the way we are treated here in the USA is to make all of us believe we are to serve with out question, that its okay to feel stressed about bills, make up for it with food and medications, and flaunt what we have through material possessions to make us feel we’ve really achieved something for ourselves. Therefor the majority of people would not even imagine to demand something else because they have been conditioned to believe they are subject and at the whim of what happens, and with out having available emotional and self awareness in our education system as a fundamental tool for living and not a secret that takes a special kind of person to achieve it and understand it- they do not know what it means to want personal freedom. They just go along with whats there. The sad thing is now that people are the function of this crazy thing and its become more and more okay to take advantage of eachother, to manipulate and talk down to eachother, and to value material possession over intellectual and emotional connection as many of us here do not even know what that really is. The media misuses words that have profound meaning in experience, they interchange the words love with sex and mating and the process of population and lust/ego and beauty. Love is not something of an ego, is not when we think a person is sexually appealing, is not when we admire the beauty of another, is not the process of having many kids (although you can love kids) – love is the act of understanding, empathizing, accepting and enjoying. So in this way we can love what a writer writes or what a painter paints, love is connection. But its not admiration for something physical, its understanding and connecting to something metaphysical. This is a really important point that many do not know. Many people due to cultural need of the family unit have come to think of love as tolerance but not enjoyment. They tolerate things but they do not speak their true feelings and speak to have a better situation emotionally and therefor physically. They ignore their hearts and put up with what is, leading to mis-perceptions of life. If we are not honest, and feel that honesty, i think we have a block not just inside but outside too. Suddenly we become victims of life rather than being one with everything that happens: being in a position where they feel stable and understood. Firm. They love themselves enough to be stable and understanding of a changing environment rather than crying but never truly facing the changing situation. leading to a place where their perception of whats changing and how, is misunderstood because they are panicing and feel subject to it rather than one with it, thinking its not an opportunity but an obligation, a chore something they must do. And many do not know how to communicate with others and themselves, to be completely honest and on the same page in a situation. Think cell phone companies or a patient with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. These things lack real connection to the source. Lack real empathy and care and love for the best interest of both things. The person and the illness, the seeker and the giver. (There is more to mention but capitalism has come to be division and dishonesty between people. Lacking trust, but already enough persuasion through symbolic violence.) And please if any one reads this i am open for discussion on this because we all need to begin coming together not furthering apart


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