Wall St. and Business Wednesdays: On The Science Of Business (12/05/2002)
Ninos P. Malek has written a very interesting article, "Myths about Business," for the Ludwig Von Mises website. I agree and disagree with much in the well-written article but think it is one of the best articles that one could read to begin to tackle an awesome subject, one that goes well beyond the scope of what the vast majority of Americans have been taught in the public or private school system. That is because most of us were never taught anything about the subject of business or economics in elementary or secondary school. I personally never had such a class until my final year of high school.
What about you?
It is this ignorance produced by a lack of a foundational education that in my view contributes to not only poverty and inordinate debt among the masses but also the confusion and narrow debate that finds many intellectuals and those that study under them, divided into two economic camps. One of capitalism and the other of socialism - two establishment ideologies and models of political economy that actually help maintain the status quo. I am of the view that today's Socialism-Capitalism divide is very similar to the Republican-Democrat divide, in its ability to herd human beings into mindless categories, or "teams" of people, who blindly accept superficial attitudes and behaviors, from a ruling oligarchy.
Thinking of Socialist/Communist and Capitalist teams in terms of partisan politics helps to make a point about our misunderstanding of business, as a science, as well as the inability of the Black community to foster economic leadership in its sojourn in America. In an upcoming book that I am writing, I make the point that it is significant that Blacks in the Western hemisphere were in chattel slavery and just recently emancipated and Blacks in Africa were under colonialism or just recently beginning to establish independent states when the Western world was involved in its most serious intellectual discussions and political battles regarding the ideas of Karl Marx and Adam Smith - the two men most frequently credited as the patriarchs of the two most dominant economic systems of the last half-millenium - communism and capitalism respectively. By the time Blacks had struggled to a measure of freedom on both sides of the Atlantic the dominant Western economic debate had been solved. And any Black leader of consequence would be pressured, internally and externally, into an embrace - directly or indirectly - of a White-established "team" for whom to play. It played out most visibly in the Cold War.
In the United States of America, the most prominent political teams were the two major parties and the most prominent economic teams were the two major economic models. In fact, the two political parties and the two major economic systems serve the same purpose in managing power from the top of the power pyramid - one manages equilibrium in society and the other manages or better yet, absorbs disequilibrium. One appears self-righteous and callous at times, while the other masquerades sympathy and compassion. One supposedly best represents the interests of property holders and the other supposedly best represents the interests of those who don't own property. However, as blacks know very well, maybe better than any other people on earth, neither permits true quality of life, revolution and liberation in the collective sense.
The essence of the "why" of this reality is that both capitalism and communism or better yet, what Karl Marx and Adam Smith taught are extreme versions of a science. The science of business. In general terms, capitalism pursues the most extreme form of the materialistic side of business and communism pursues the most extreme form of the "spiritual" (although Marx supposedly rejected religion and human nature) side of business. Capitalism places the profit motive above all and Communism is the opposite, supposedly placing the egalitarian motive above all else.
My understanding of this yin and yang was deepened recently by a portion of an interview of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan conducted by Minister Jabril Muhammad on May 1st, 2002. The portion of the interview that I am focusing on, for now, ran in the October 8, 2002 edition of The Final Call newspaper; Volume 22 Number 1. I strongly recommend that the entire May 1st interview be read in its entirety in order to better understand the context in which this excerpt took place. What follows below is only part of Minister Farrakhan's answer to Brother Jabril's question. Please visit The Final Call online and www.writtentestimony.com to learn how you might obtain the entire interview.
Brother Jabril: "Brother Minister, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad said that there were three scientific fields of knowledge that the slave master did not want the slave to ever learn. What are those areas of knowledge and what has that ignorance produced in us as a people? How does knowledge of music, medicine, and color, help in overcoming that ignorance?
Minister Farrakhan: "The three sciences, as I recall, were: number 1) the science of business, 2) science of warfare, 3) the science of mating.
"In the word business is b-u-s-i, and the i is interchangeable with y, 'busy.'
"When a person is busy, they're active. So the science of business is the science of life activity. The life activity, that is dictated by the nature in which we're created, is that we must realize what God is giving to us; develop it through knowledge and use that with what God has already put here to become productive; to be producers.
"So the science of business is the knowledge of how to satisfy the natural needs of a human being in the manner that pleases God. Business, which takes, of course, into consideration the acquisition of wealth; the making of a product; the sale and distribution of what one makes; the creation of a means of satisfying necessities - food, clothing, shelter, trade, and commerce - all of this is really a science.
"When one does not know it, then we are subjected to the one who does know it. We become their servant, and, at worse, their slave. So if the enemy wanted to keep us as perpetual slaves, this then is a science that we were not to become familiar with because that would free us from the state of dependence that a slave existence determines..."
There is so much in this little answer, which is only "small" in word-count. To me, it represents a powerful crystallization of what both the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Minister have taught on the subject of economics and business. The Minister's answer pertaining to the science of business took my mind back to the very first time that I was blessed to meet him. Several years ago, in New York City, over dinner, with others present, Minister Farrakhan and I discussed Wall Street and the stock market at an important depth. In fact, the very first question that Minister Farrakhan ever directly asked me, in person, pertained to the stock market. Our exchange grew into a rich discussion that involved others who were present at the dinner table, on that day in August, 1995. Everyone contributed to a higher level of understanding of the subject, for me. I had never learned so much, over dinner - a scrumptious Muslim meal at that. I was the last to leave the dinner table that day (smile).
A thorough study of what the Minister Farrakhan has said and written about business and economics should be conducted by any serious student of politics and economics and the Black experience in America. Of course the contributions of other Black leaders like Booker T. Washington and especially Marcus Garvey should be analyzed as well. There is something very important to be extracted from the Minister's answer revolving around what the Honorable Elijah Muhammad said of the slave master never wanting the slave to know the science of business (and other sciences), if the Black electorate is to make the progress that God intends for us, the modern Children Of Israel (See Genesis 15: 13-15 in more than one translation of the Torah).
Last week a BlackElectorate.com viewer from North Carolina asked me a question, via e-mail. The viewer asked me what was the difference between capitalism and the science of business. The question, was inspired by something I had recently written about multi-platinum Hip-Hop artist Jay-Z and the estimated $300 million Roc-A-Fella business "empire." My answer, in part, was that capitalism was a flawed derivative (or grafting) of the science of business.
In the article written by Ninos Malek, you can see some of where capitalism falls short. Although Ninos Malek makes a brilliant defense of the best aspects and even the science contained within capitalism, the emphasis on profit reveals the disproportionate significance that the system places on financial capital. It negates and diminishes the reality that the greatest form of capital is human. In our special report on the United States of Africa, we explained how Adam Smith and capitalists minimize human capital in their penchant for placing the motive for financial profit above the full development of human beings. What we are saying and what Minister Louis Farrakhan is illuminating, is that the satisfaction of natural human needs and the perfect development of the human being along the lines of their unique talents, skills and interests, is an economic event. It is a Divine undertaking. It is the Science of Business and every science is based upon universal principles and a designed purpose, structure and function and man's understanding of said laws.
Adam Smith and capitalists, view the profit motive of an underdeveloped human being and the eventual (but partial) correction that takes place in the marketplace as the optimal system of economic activity. It isn't (slavery and the daily mismatch of human and financial capital prove this). The capitalist insufficiently considers just how economically destructive an unenlightened self-interest is. The profit motive, though an important aspect of business, is not a holy elixir.
And neither is communism, or what Marx taught which claims the pursuit and obtainment of the egalitarian aspects of the science of business, but falls short in the mechanics to deliver such.
The optimum economic system is one where human, financial, and physical capital are perfectly arranged and organized through trade. The mere pursuit of financial increase through such trade or through the trade of money as a commodity is limited in its ability to create wealth. The Holy Qur'an states this principle better than any book - economic and otherwise. Whether Muslim or not, students of economics should read Surah 2:275-276 from as many translations of the Holy Qur'an (and associated commentaries) that one can get their hands on. Be careful about how one understands the concept of "usury." There is more to it then the common definition.
More science of business, less capitalism and socialism...
Wednesday, March 22, 2006